– Brendan Smith
has been to the Red Wing’ annual development camp enough now that he feels comfortable in trading stalls in the team’s locker room at Joe Louis Arena.
At his fourth summer camp with the Wings, Smith, who was a Hobey Baker Award finalist last season at the University of Wisconsin, is using Nicklas Lidstrom
’s locker room stall this week.
“I think I’ve been in that locker with Lidstrom the last two years, and it kind of shakes me up every time,” Smith said. “I kind of expect it now, but it’s scary every time. I jump into the locker room and try to switch with a few other players.
“But no, maybe it’s just a fluke, but I think I just have to try to fill in to that type of shoes anyways,” Smith said of his locker assignment year after year. “Obviously I want to be playing in this locker room, so the more I can do here and show who I am, the better off I’ll be.”
It wasn’t a fluke; the Wings’ equipment managers put Smith there on purpose. Hopefully for Wings’ fans, it’s an insight into the future.
Next season, Smith will likely play in Grand Rapids with the Wings’ AHL affiliate, though there is an outside chance that he could make the big club. The nation’s leading scorer among defenseman last season, Smith recently signed a three-year deal with the Wings to forgo his senior collegiate season.
“I just want to play here so bad,” Smith said. “The more I can work out off ice and on ice, it’s going to help me that much more.”
Griffins coach Curt Fraser, who is helping run this week’s development camp, said he thinks Smith can challenge for a Wings’ roster spot during training camp in September.
“I just want to see if I can get to know this kid, see some good things out of him this week,” Fraser said. “Obviously we all know him, but when you get him on your team, it's a lot different. We want to get this kid up to speed as fast as possible, and get him ready for Detroit. It always helps when you get to play a year in the minors, but this kid's got some high-end skill, and he's coming off a very good year. Hopefully when he goes to Detroit's camp this year, he pushes guys for a job. And in the near future, I hope he gets one.”
The one thing Fraser discussed at length was Smith’s quick release on shots from the blue line.
“We were just talking about shooting the puck today; a lot of the kids have trouble,” Fraser said. “Like, it's such a difference from Grand Rapids at the American League level, where they shoot the puck, pass, receive, to where it is at the NHL level. And you look at a kid like Smith, and he does everything much more like the NHL. He shoots to score, he shoots the puck hard, and he moves it firmly. So a lot of good things Brendan did this morning.”
If Smith cracks the Wings’ lineup, he will have the opportunity to learn from the man whose locker stall he is occupying this week. That thought hasn’t escaped the young defenseman.
“He’s a master,” Smith said of Lidstrom. “You look around, and he’s the best. Just to have that chance to learn from him, if that’s the way it’s going to happen, that would be awesome. It’s best to learn from the best, and that’s the person I want to learn from. I was excited to see that he re-signed, and hopefully I can give everything I’ve got with the guy I’ve looked up to for a very long time.”
Smith plans to take advantage of possibly his last development camp.
This is my fourth year,” Smith said. “I’ve had three years of going at this. It’s all been different styles. The first year there wasn’t too many players, and every year we kept getting more. Now we have this whole two-team kind of thing, which is kind of competitive, and I’m excited about it. It will be enjoyable, and I’ll try to take my three years and be kind of a leader and show what is expected at this camp.”