2010 Prospect Camp Review
2 Brendan Smith
Pluses: Sigh. Too many to list. Smith is most definitely a solid 6í2Ē and has room to put muscle onto an gangly 190-lb. frame. He definitely needs to put on some weight and work on his upper-body strength, but his lower-body strength is reflected in his absolutely splendid skating stride. Smith has an upright skating stride that just gobbles up ice because his core and lower legs are exceedingly strong and he glides along the ice like a forward, mostly because he grew up playing as a forward. He doesnít lose half a step when he gets the puck, heís capable of bursts of speed to allow himself to cover up for his mistakes, he can pinch and actually beat his forwards to the net at times, and his abilities to skate sideways/laterally and change direction in a heartbeat are elite.
Smith has fantastic vision and can either find teammates on the rush with seeing-eye passes that almost always hit the tape or allow the receiver to skate into the pass at full speed, or he can carry the puck up the ice himself, lugging it with authority, confidence, and the kind of presence that makes opposing players back off so that he can generate space for his teammates to work with. His vision, sense of urgency in every pass he makes, deftness and plain old savvyÖHeís an NHL passer already.
The same can be said of his hard, low shot, which he unleashes on a very sneaky basis. He can truly thread the needle toward the net to generate rebounds down low, he can execute shot-passes efficiently, he knows how to chip the puck out of trouble even if heís only got one hand on his stick and his snap and wrist shots are almost as hard as his slap shot.
The fact that heís extremely vocal on the ice helps as he lets players know where they should be to accept his passes, tip in shots, help him clear the zone or get themselves out of jams. His enthusiasm and on-ice leadership are not to be underestimated as he also talks to his teammates early and often on the bench, making sure to give them pats and taps to sometimes congratulate and sometimes console them.
He also has an extremely underrated physical bite to his game, offering efficient and ever-so-subtly-nasty hacks, whacks, cross-checks, and bodychecks that not only seal his opponents to the boards or take them out of action, but also leave them sore and wary of heading toward Smith with their head down. Heís not exactly Niklas Kronwall, but he does offer a Brad Stuart-like efficiency and physical presence.
Minuses: See: his incredible level of talent, which sometimes goes to his head. When Smith simply coasts on his talent, or plays like a hot dog, trying to show off or make the play that would best suit his ego, the passes flutter off his stick blade, shots go wide, and his game loses focus, allowing players to slip by on the rush and allowing opponents to jab rebounds into the net because heís given them too much time and space. Smithís been able to get away with mailing it in at times at the college levelóthough his coaches at Wisconsin, including Mike Eaves and Mark Osiecki, deserve major credit for benching him a few times when Smith just ďwasnít intoĒ playing on certain nightsóand as ridiculously talented as he is, he wonít be able to get away with playing when heís interested in doing so at the AHL or NHL levels.
Thatís where the concerns regarding his off-ice incidents with alcohol come in. Smith is a genuinely nice young man whoís gregarious and outgoing, but when he assumes that his hockey stardom equals entitlement, you get the kind of behavior that is at least explainable when youíre a college student, but is not acceptable in any way, shape, or form if youíre a member of the Detroit Red Wingsí organization. Iím sure that Jiri Fischer and the Wingsí management will make sure that heís committed to growing up both on and off the ice as a Griffin, but they might have their work cut out for them at times.
Potential ďupsideĒ: If he keeps his head on straight, he could very well become a 10-goal, 50-point-producing NHL defenseman, an elite first-pair player who could run the power play, helm the penalty-killing unit, mash his opponents and become a superb leader. If he tries to half-arse it or only gives 100% effort when heís interested, and if he doesnít continue to get bigger and stronger in the gym, his sure-fire stint in the NHL will be a short one and a stint marked by ďwhat ifís.Ē