Right wing Givani Smith was drafted by the Red Wings in the second round, 46th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-foot-2, 209-pound Toronto native, is one of four Red Wings prospects writing for our Taking Flight blog series, which chronicles the players' ups and downs as they work their way to becoming Red Wings. Smith currently plays for Detroit's AHL affiliate the Grand Rapids Griffins. Here is his fourth entry of 'Powering Forward.'
Powering Forward - Entry 4
by Givani Smith
As my first regular season as a pro is nearing an end, I wanted to tell everyone about some of the people that have really helped me transition from junior hockey into the pro game.
My first year as a pro has been an adjustment for me, but I'm fortunate to have a couple players, Derek Hulak and David Pope, living in the same apartment building as me. We're pretty good friends on the team so we always kind of hang out now and get dinners together and we go to movies, do some fun things to take away that time while you're away from the rink.
It's nice to have those guys, Derek and David. Derek, he's familiar with my family, he played with my brother Gemel in Texas. They were roommates in Texas and they both were rookies, so it was kind of cool. We always joke around that Derek came here, now he's helping me out. We're really good buddies, we're always together, and Derek and Gemel are really good friends so we kind of joke around that he's like, babysitting the Smiths.
Actually all my teammates have guided me along this year, we're a pretty tight group, especially when we're on the road. When we're on the road, we're always together. We always eat in big groups and on the bus every day together, doing team events and team functions. So it brings us all together, builds that camaraderie as opposed to when we're at home.
That's the other thing. On the road, we're kind of our own, we don't always have fans that come up to Texas or wherever to watch us play, so we kind of just cheer each other on and be the support that we need to block shots or build encouragement, do the little things to pump each other up after a tough shift. Things like that keep the team together and it really showed when we were in Texas a few weekends ago.
My coaches have all been really good with me all year. I am thankful the coaches have really been patient with me, allowing me to develop at my own pace. I've learned a lot, still learning every single day, being taught new things. Assistant coach Brad Tapper, he's just been helping me. If I'm doing video with him, he's always explaining to me, he goes over my shifts, tells me things I need to improve on in the D-zone, how I can get better at doing that. So I listen to what he has to say and it's just been paying off. Doing video really helps.
For me, the biggest part that I noticed was being in the right position. If the puck's coming from the point, I got to be there net-front, off to the side, ready for a rebound or just screening the goalie or just being in the right position for a D-zone battle or offensive zone battle. You have to be in the right position for the puck to come out to you, just finding open ice and getting open for myself to make plays or for my teammates to create plays.
This year has been - what word to explain it - I would say it's been a learning curve. When I first started out here, I was pretty raw, my skills needed some fine tuning, and just learning more of the defensive side of the game. Just being a professional hockey player, learning what I had to learn. For me now after having the whole Christmas time with my family, which allowed me to go home a little bit and see my brothers and my parents to now, it's like I feel like I belong. I feel like I'm ready to play at the next level.
Hopefully I'm showing it now because I'm really showing improvements with myself that I've noticed and I'm happy with where I'm going. As we're coming down to the playoffs here, which is my favorite time of the year, I'm just going to take the opportunity to show the Red Wings and show the Griffins what I can do for the team and what I can showcase for myself and also help the team win.
I'm a playoff player. I live for the playoffs. Probably the finest time of the year. So for me now, I've been getting told that I've been playing well so I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. When playoff time comes, I'm going to be ready.
I get asked if I'm disappointed when a teammate is called up to the Red Wings over me. First, I couldn't be happier for a guy when he gets the call-up. We all want to play in the NHL and we all know what it takes to get there and when my teammate gets called up, I know he's fulfilling a dream. How can you not be happy for him?
What's going on up in Detroit with guys getting sick and injured, the Red Wings mostly call up the vets and guys who have been on the Griffins for a couple of years now. What that does, it creates space for us, it's more minutes up on the ice to take there. It's always an opportunity for me to get an extra two minutes or an extra three minutes here and there, and I have to take advantage of that while you can because we don't have a set roster for the playoffs. We still need some guys to help us out, coming down from Detroit after their season. So it should be interesting what's going to happen. I'm just going to focus on myself and keep playing the way I can play and make sure I can secure my spot on the playoff roster.
I also want to thank Shawn Horcoff and Dan Cleary for all their help this season. I'm sure they'll be around after the Red Wings season comes to a close, they're going to be around a lot more. It's been really good working with those two guys, 10-plus years professional so anything they've got to say to me, I just take it and I listen to them and pay attention because they know what's best for me.
Being a professional hockey player is a full-time commitment, but if it wasn't for the people I've told you about, my journey could have been over before it began. I may be just one player, but behind me there are so many that have sacrificed or offered me their time and guidance. I appreciate each and every one of them. I won't let them down, because they have never let me down.
In 58 games this season with the Griffins, Smith has six goals, six assists, is plus-2 and has been assessed 71 penalty minutes.