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Smith brings grit to Wings' draft class

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Givani Smith was all smiles Saturday morning, and why not, the Red Wings made the Guelph power forward the 46th overall pick in this weekend's NHL draft. (Photo by Getty Images)

BUFFALO, N.Y. – For Red Wings fans who want to see their team get a little more nasty, their first second-round pick should make them quite happy.

The Wings took forward Givani Smith from Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League with the 46th overall selection.

Don't be fooled by the wide, draft-day grin and snazzy bow tie.

"I play a mean game," Smith said. "I like being on the forecheck, getting in guys' face, playing hard, score goals and finish checks.

"I just like to play with an edge out there. It's been working for me so I'm going to keep doing it."

The Red Line Report's draft guide said Smith is "so abrasive he would've grated on Mother Teresa" and "super aggressive agitator is like a splinter you just can't get out."

Tyler Wright, the Wings' director of amateur scouting, said what Smith has is something the Wings were missing.

"He makes life miserable for anybody, actually makes life miserable for a lot of his own teammates because he's starting stuff all the time," Wright said. "If he's not helping out on the score sheet or he's not figuring in offensively, he's making their other best players really be aware of what's going on on the ice. He's a big frame he's a big kid, strong, powerful kid, so it was an area of need that we thought through the organization and that's why we had him so high on our list."

It's no surprise that Smith says he models his game after Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

"The way he just plays his game out there, he's a force on the ice and he's scoring goals right in front of the net and that's where I'm going to score goals," Smith said. "He's a good skater, likes to finish checks. He's not scared to fight and that's something I admire about Wayne."

There are things that Smith knows he needs to work on to reach the top level.

"To get to the NHL, I just think it's my acceleration," Smith said. "I'm working on it this summer so I should be really good for next season."

Smith said he met the Wings both during the season and at the combine.

"I thought the interview went pretty well," Smith said. "Getting called by the Detroit Red Wings is amazing. I'm just excited right now."

Smith is already familiar with the Wings organization as he has friends in the system.

"They drafted a couple of guys that I'm pretty friendly with, like Tyler Bertuzzi," Smith said. "I used to play with him on the Guelph Storm, (Zach) Nastasiak. They're big guys that like to play the game hard and compete well every single night. I'm really excited to be a good fit here in Detroit."

Smith finished with 23 goals and 19 assists in 65 games for an unimpressive Guelph team.

Bill Stewart resigned as coach last December and the team eventually hired Jarrod Skalde to replace him, which seemed to help Smith.

"It benefited me a lot having Jarrod Skalde as coach," Smith said. "He put me out there for a lot of situations on the ice, I got to learn and grow more as a player."

Wright said Smith is expected to return to Guelph next season.

"They're in a rebuilding year so he's going to have a lot of opportunity to develop," Wright said. "They made a coaching change. Jerrod Skalde is a former NHL player so he's going to get good coaching, he's going to get a big role and a good chance to play."

Smith also benefited from having an older brother who plays hockey. Gemel Smith was drafted in 2012 by the Dallas Stars in the fourth round.

"The biggest tips he gave me is always play the way you played hockey, don't change your style of play," Smith said. "Me being a power forward, competing every night, playing hard every single night."

Off the ice, Smith said he's a laid-back kid who enjoys listening to hip-hop, especially Toronto native Drake, and hanging out with his friends.

But according to his pre-draft bio, you should keep all raccoons away from him.

"I just think they're scary," Smith said, laughing. "I don't like them."

There were no raccoons lurking near First Niagara Center during the NHL draft but Smith had reinforcements anyway.

"I brought the whole fam(ily) with me," Smith said. "I got my cousins, my brothers, my grandma, my aunt, my billets, all the people that helped me out when I was younger playing hockey. They all came and supported me so it means a lot that they came here."

"All of them, they really helped me get to this point. I really owe them a lot."

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