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A Q&A with Brendan Smith

by Christy Hammond / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – As one of two first round picks in attendance at Detroit’s week-long development camp, Brendan Smith led the fellow prospects both on the ice with drills and off the ice with advice. The defenseman was drafted 27th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by Detroit and returned to Joe Louis Arena this summer for his third development camp.

Following Friday’s on-ice workout, Smith took the time to answer questions for Here is a transcript:

Question: How is camp going this year?

Smith: “Two years through it so it’s pretty much all the same. I guess some of the guys were looking up to me so I’m trying to show them things. I mean it’s a fun camp and we’ve got more kids this year so it’s going to be a little more competitive, which is better for everyone I think so I’m excited about it and we’ve got Jiri Fischer running a lot of stuff.”

Q: Your brother got drafted this year. Has he been picking your brain a lot about what to expect in these types of things?

Smith: “Oh yeah, for sure. He was all nervous about it and I went down to the draft and I saw him. He didn’t know what to expect, but it was just a great feeling. He just asked me a few things and I gave him some tips here and there so I’ll share him some of my mind.”

Q: Just talk about your development and how far away you are from the organization.

Smith: “The development has been great. I have Mike Eaves, coach Patrick, and coach Osiecki, who has been great. He has helped me so much defensively and my pivots and everything like that which I have to work on. What I’ve been learning is great and Detroit has been talking to me and they say everything that I’ve been learning is on track to play so I guess it depends on how I do this year and if it’s not the right time, next year. We’ll see, but it really depends on how I can perform. If I can really buckle down and do what the coaches are telling me to do because I know it’s the right thing and if I can really step up, probably next year.”

Q: What have they told you that you need to work on?

Smith: “Just become a complete defensive player. They know I have offensive abilities. They’re still wondering if I can play a good defensive position in the NHL so I guess that’s what everyone is trying to look for and if I can deliver, the sooner the better, but we’ll see how everything goes.”

Q: What’s coach Eaves like to play for in the league?

Smith: “He’s unbelievable. I guess it’s like guys that are looking up to their coaches in the NHL because I look up to him. He was an All-American at Wisconsin and everything. I know what he’s telling me is right because everybody is telling me all of the same things so just looking up to him and trying to feed off of him and pick his brain. That’s just the biggest thing. It’s a great feeling, knowing you have a coach like that.”

Q: It must be great to have a coach who has been through this and made it.

Smith: “We also have coach Osiecki, who also played so you know that they have already been through it and they’ve played many years in the NHL so you just kind of pick their brain I guess. It’s huge that way and I know I’m getting taught the right things.”

Q: You’ve dealt with some injury troubles over the past couple of years. How frustrating has that been as you try to grow and develop?

“It’s definitely really frustrating, just some fluke accidents – actually both of them. I mean you just have to look past it and keep working out. I got to keep getting bigger and the more I work in the weight room, it’s probably going to diminish those injuries. That’s what I’m looking for and going to try to keep getting better. I want to have a full season this year so just keep trying to hit the weights and get bigger so I can not get injured next year.”

Q: Have they told you about the plan like going all four years or you could go out early?

Smith: “I think this year is huge actually. Junior year is, for a lot of players in the NCAA, a real big year to see. It either tells them that you’re ready or you’re not and have you have to go back for the next year. In my mind, I’m just going to try to deliver as best as I can this year and just try to put everything on the line and see how I do. If it is time, then it’s time but I guess we’ll have to decide that by the end of the year.”

Q: What has your college experience been like both on and off the ice?

Smith: “It’s so big. My first year was too hard to take in. I’m going to have to say it really took me two years to try to grasp everything. It’s just been unbelievable. I’m so happy and my parents were thrilled that I did that decision because it’s been the right decision for me at least. It’s given me a few years to develop physically and definitely on the ice because I’ve got great coaches. Things that I didn’t learn in juniors that I’m learning now so I think it’s been the right choice. Just thinking about Madison, it’s huge so I couldn’t even take it in in one year, but it’s awesome. I’m still learning things as a junior so I’m excited to get back there. I’ve been taking classes over the summer so it’s been fun.”

Q: How often are you in contact with the Wings, especially Jiri Fischer?

Smith: “Jiri Fischer I’m in contact with a great deal. He talks to me a lot and comes to watch a lot of games so he’s always giving me tips. The first year it was more of watching and kind of analyzing. He gave me feedback, but not as much and last year there was lots of feedback on everything. I guess it’s just going to keep coming, progressing, and this year I feel is going to be a big year so he’s going to be there a lot, trying to give me tips and helping me out. He knows the game so well. If that fluke accident for him didn’t happen, he’d still be playing and be a top defenseman. I’m just going to try to pick his brain. I have a lot of people to pick brains from so I’m going to do it and try to better my career.”

Q: What’s the best advice he’s given you?

Smith: “Jiri Fischer? All of it. He’s so intelligent. I guess the biggest thing right now is off-ice stuff that he knows like he’s very intelligent about. He’s going to help me get stronger and bigger. That’s the biggest thing I think right now. On-ice it’s all about the pivots and stuff that I’ve got to work on defensively so I’m learning the best stuff from a lot of different worlds so I’m going to try and keep doing it.”

Q: What led you attend Wisconsin?

Smith: “I was going to a University; we had already decided that. So I decided to go to Wisconsin. There were a few teams that were interested and I liked the most – Michigan, Miami, Wisconsin and BU. It came down to coaches, campus, like all of the above. I thought a place that I could develop the most would be Wisconsin. I chose Wisconsin and it’s worked out for me so I guess I’ve been lucky to choose that way.”

Q: What made you decide to go to college?

Smith: “The OHL was a big thing in my area, but my family is really big on school and everything. I always wanted an education plus I needed to get bigger so the more time the better I felt and I wanted to get an education out of it as well.

Q: What were the injuries you’ve suffered over the past two years?

Smith: “Last year I broke my wrist and that put me out for a few games. Then earlier, I hurt my lower back so that’s my two injuries.”

Q: Jim Nill compared your game to Niklas Kronwall. Do you think that’s an accurate assessment? Why or why not?

Smith: “I guess it can be an accurate assessment. Niklas Kronwall is so good so I can’t really compare myself to him, but I guess I can compare some aspects. He’s so good defensively and he can jump up on the rush really well so I guess there’s a few things that there are similarities. If I can try to take some things from his game, I think that will help my game so much more.”

Q: I think it’s interesting that he’s had some injury troubles in his career and then he finally had a healthy season and it was a breakout year. Do you kind of hope that it’s the same thing for you?

Smith: “I totally hope it’s the exact same thing. I haven’t had a full season. In my first two years I was off to really good starts and then kind of got hurt and really didn’t get it back until the playoffs. Hopefully it’ll be a breakout year for me and I’ll stay healthy.”

Q: When did you start playing hockey and then when did you decide that you wanted to play in the NHL and had a shot?

Smith: “I guess both at the same time. At four, I wanted to hold the Stanley Cup and play in the NHL. Toronto was like my hometown and it was the team that I was always cheering for so back then was when I wanted to play. The funny thing was that my little brother’s favorite team was always Detroit so it was a little rivalry because it’s a close town, like the Original 6. That was cool. Right from the get-go when I was young. Once I got onto skates, I just loved it and wanted to play and hold the Cup.”

Q: Were you able to attend a lot of NHL games? Who was your favorite player growing up?

Smith: “I got to attend a few Leaf games here and there, one or two, maybe three times a year. I’ve seen Detroit play a few times so that’s been cool, but that was later on. Growing up, my favorite player was Bobby Orr but recently I guess my favorite player – I kind of like Brian Campbell and Nicklas Lidstrom. If I can put both of those players into one you have an unbelievable player so I try to take little things from both. You’ve got Lidstrom who is probably the best defenseman. Just defensively, he’s so well-rounded and then you’ve got Brian Campbell who is really good offensively.”

Q: Since you’ve been drafted, what’s been your biggest pinch-me moment with the Wings?

Smith: “The biggest one was the draft obviously. It was huge. I can barely remember it because it was such a – my heart dropped, I couldn’t breathe, and was like are you kidding me? It was so sweet and having Stevie Yzerman announce my name. Just looking up on the stage, there was Ken Holland, Jim Nill, Scotty Bowman. I was just like, ‘Oh my God, what am I getting myself into?’ That was probably one of the greatest moments, if not in my life. It was pretty nerve-wracking going up and meeting those guys because they are pretty high-named people.”

Christy Hammond is an intern in the Red Wings' New Media & Publishing Department at Joe Louis Arena.

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