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 is in his second professional season and has split time between playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit's AHL affiliate, and the Red Wings. Here is his 10th entry of 'Powering Forward'.
Powering Forward - Entry 10
by Givani Smith
When it became official the AHL was going to officially cancel the season, nothing really changed for me. Like everyone else, I have been in quarantine for the last several weeks and I am trying to maintain some sort of a daily routine while keeping informed about the latest news and procedures concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.
In my last blog entry, I was still in Grand Rapids waiting to see how things would unfold. I stayed in GR for about a week and a half, just getting everything organized before I made the move to go back home to Toronto. Once I got back home, it was just nice to see my friends and family again.
My week and a half in Grand Rapids, it was kind of like a very cautious thing. We weren't sure what was going on, the staff wasn't sure what was going on, but eventually they just told us that we should go home, get away from the rink, just go home and isolate at your house. As weeks went on and days went on, they put out a plan to do social distancing and they set up online exit meetings with the players.
It was actually kind of like two exit meetings. In one meeting there was the Detroit staff and management, and also player development was on the phone call. I thought it was a good exit meeting. We touched on my season this year and where I came from last year and my ups and downs that I went through and how strong I finished off last year and carried that towards the summertime. From the prospect tournament to training camp to exhibition games and to me getting games in the National League, I was just climbing up the chart, just touched on that and things that I will have to work on to be an everyday player in the National League. They really stressed when I do have the puck and I'm in front of the net, that's a great chance to score goals. I've always been told to go to the net growing up and stand at the net if I want to score goals. That's something I've been doing most of my career and something I'm going to keep doing. From Detroit's standpoint, they gave me a bigger picture of what I need to do, what I'm really good at and they just want me to keep doing that to become the best player I can be.
Thinking about it now, the highlight I took from that meeting was I just need to be more consistent with my physical play and keep that consistency every shift, every game, every period. Because when I am more physical, that puts me into the game more, gets me more engaged, and it helps the team out more. Being physical also creates an uneasy intensity for the opposing team, they're always double-checking what's happening on the ice and who is on the ice.
My other meeting was with Griffins coach Ben Simon. It was more of a conversation between us. Ben was really happy for me; he's been there for my entire journey - from almost being sent down to the East Coast League my first year to getting NHL games my second year. With me and Benny's relationship, it's a lot of tough love. He's a coach that knew I had more to offer, knew I had more to give, and he would stay on me. I appreciate that because he really cared about trying to get me better, to the next level. And the talk we had was he was just happy about my progression and we also talked about being safe and hoping to get through this thing shortly.
While I have been back in Canada, I've been staying with my brother, Gemel, who played some games this season for the Tampa Bay Lightning but spent most of the year in Syracuse playing for the Crunch, the Lightning's AHL team. We're really close and with us both being hockey players, it's nice to have someone to work out with, since there's nothing else to do except work out so we're constantly just trying to stay in shape and just trying to keep our muscle mass. Now that it's May, we're fortunate enough to have a gym that we can use so we've been doing that. Just a lot of like, friendly brotherly battles. We play a lot of video games, have some fun here and there, hang out with our really close family, cousins, they come down and see us.
So, my experience in quarantine, so far for me it's been good. My family has been healthy, no one has lost the battle of coronavirus and everything's been good. I've been able to see my family more, my brothers, my nieces, and it's just been a good feeling to be with everyone again.
I am disappointed the AHL season has been canceled because like I wrote about in my last blog entry, our team was beginning to jell at the right time. We were starting to win some big games toward the end and we did win our last game of the year! We were really starting to come together as a team, our D was playing good, our goalie was playing great, our forwards were playing good, too, which really helped. Sadly, we kind of got unlucky with this pandemic, but life goes on.
Right now I am just following my summer plan. Once they open up the border in hopefully late May or June, I'll be able to cross over and head back to Michigan in July and August and train back in Detroit as I get ready for another big training camp. It's time to show the team what I've got. My goal is to make the Wings out of camp. How do I do that? I think by following my own game plan. I set a game plan, what I want to achieve, how I'm going to achieve it and I just have to follow my plan and like I said, be my best hockey player, be the best me I can be. If I do that, I like my chances.
As important as it is for me to achieve my lifelong goal of being an everyday player in the NHL, I cannot ignore the big picture, which obviously is this world pandemic. First and foremost, I'm just concerned about my family, my grandparents and especially my mom because she's a frontline worker, she works at a retirement home so she goes into work every single day, helping out sick and elderly people. So I really focus just on that and hoping everybody stays safe. Besides that, this has also been a time I can really do some self-healing. From the season I just played where I was called up to Detroit and was sent back down to GR, then going back up again and going back down again, it kind of takes a toll on you so I'm just trying to get back to a good spot and just feel good again. Take a step aside from hockey and keep in contact with my family, my uncles, my dad, my aunts, I'm just trying to be the good son and grandson and uncle that I am.
During tough times like these, a lot of people in your family and almost all of your friends, you don't see them every single day so they go kind of unnoticed. What I have tried to do is to say hello to someone or surprise a great relative with a phone call, just check in on them, see how they're doing, make them smile, it can go a really long way. If you're on the street, just hold the door open for someone, I know it's kind of tough with social distancing, but everyone's kind of scared and timid right now. The world needs to see more acts of kindness to go along with being responsible. COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our lives, but it will never diminish our spirit of decency and being there for each other.
Smith played in 37 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins this season. He had nine goals, 10 assists, was minus-6 and he was assessed 75 penalty minutes.
In 21 games this season for the Red Wings, Smith had two goals, one assist, was a minus-2 and was assessed nine penalty minutes.