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Smith-Pelly can make an impact in multiple ways

by Bill Hoppe /
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- Devante Smith-Pelly's thick frame can be spotted anywhere inside an arena. At 6-foot and 211 pounds, the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors right wing often is one of the strongest and most intimidating players on the ice.

Beware of the 18-year-old at all times. He can thump with authority.

Early in the Majors' 2-1 triumph Sunday against the Kootenay Ice, the host team's first win at the MasterCard Memorial Cup, Smith-Pelly knocked 6-foot-3, 187-pound defenseman Joey Leach, a Calgary Flames prospect, down on his back.

"He was a pretty strong guy," Smith-Pelly said. "He kind of winded me a bit. I got a lot of him on that one."

Majors center Justin Shugg, a Carolina Hurricanes prospect, believes Smith-Pelly "definitely scares people."

"He's built like a brick," Shugg said. "You look at his back and it's ginormous. You could park a car on there. He's very strong."

That size and strength help Smith-Pelly showcase some equally intimidating offensive skills. A second-round pick (No. 42) by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2010 Entry Draft, Smith-Pelly possesses incredible lower-body strength, supreme instincts and a quick, accurate shot.

As Smith-Pelly proved on Rob Flick's game-winning goal with 8:09 left in the game, he also can be an adroit passer. He fed Flick perfectly just outside the Ice zone, and the Chicago Blackhawks draft pick roared by defenseman Hayden Rintoul in the right circle and beat goalie Nathan Lieuwen in close.

"I just kind of laid it out for him (Flick) and let him do the rest," Smith-Pelly said.

"He made a great play on my tape," said Flick, "and I had a little bit of room to take it to the net."

Still, Smith-Pelly is known for scoring goals. His 15 goals tied Owen Sound's Robby Mignardi for the OHL playoff lead as he led the Majors to the league final, where they lost in overtime in Game 7. 

Smith-Pelly's dominant postseason followed a strong regular season in which he totaled 36 goals, 66 points and a plus-49 rating. He doesn't expect his goal-scoring prowess will translate to the NHL, though. To survive at the next level, he believes he must use his big body to disturb and become a pest.

"I'm not a big guy who's going to fight heavyweights," Smith-Pelly said. "I'm also not a guy who's going to go out and score 40 goals. That's going to be my role if I want to make that team next year, to go out there, third-, fourth-line role, finish my checks, worry about my (defense) and get under the other team's skin."

Clearly, Smith-Pelly has been listening to Majors coach Dave Cameron.

"He is that unique skill that he can play the power (game) and he's got good enough instinct that he can play the finesse game in junior," Cameron said. "What I'm trying to teach him is that in the National Hockey League he's got to be the power guy.

"He doesn't have the finesse skill set that would allow him to play that way in the National Hockey League. He has it here in junior, so I'm trying to convince him that his money's going to be the power game."

Smith-Pelly signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Ducks in December, and could receive a long look at training camp in September. At his first training camp this past September, he skated in one preseason game, and found himself on a line with Bobby Ryan, a perennial 30-goal scorer.

"I was really grateful for the opportunity they gave me," Smith-Pelly said. "Not only a guy like Bobby Ryan, but anytime you get to play with anybody that's a regular in the NHL it's an honor and it's a great experience."

Smith-Pelly, who compares his style to Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown, wants to crack the NHL next season.

"Whether it be a nine-game tryout and I get sent back right away, I'm going to try this summer to try to go and make that team," Smith-Pelly said. "If I get sent back, it's not a big deal. It's something that happens to 95 percent of guys my age anyways."

Cameron thinks Smith-Pelly's goal is a realistic one.

"With his skill set, I think a year or two at most," Cameron said of Smith-Pelly's road to the NHL. "It's going to come down to what's the need in Anaheim. It's going to come down to if he figures out the elite fitness. The skill set will come.

"Once he combines that (fitness) into his game, he's going to be a hell of a hockey player for a long time."

At the junior level, most players talk about packing on pounds so they can get an NHL body. Smith-Pelly, however, is looking to shed some weight.

"I can maybe even trim down a little bit -- maybe two, three pounds," Smith-Pelly said. "But I think I've got the lower-body strength, stuff like that. Obviously, I need to get a little bit stronger. I think I've pretty well grown into the body. I'm just going to try to add on to that."

That's a scary thought.

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