TRAVERSE CITY — This is Brendan Smith's year.
The 2007 first-round pick is expected to make Detroit's top six defensemen and start the season in a Red Wings sweater.
"This is his year," assistant general manager Jim Nill said. "We need Brendan Smith to be ready. And he is ready. He played very well last year."
When the Detroit Red Wings missed out on marquee free agent Ryan Suter, it was a mixed bag for Smith.
"I was talking to my dad about that," Smith said, smiling. "It's kind of nice for myself. It'll probably let me jump into that position and get a little more ice time. Obviously, he's a stud of a defenseman, so I'd love to have him with the Red Wings organization. Everyone in Michigan knows we want to win. That's why we play the game, and he'd have helped us do that. But I think we have the 'D' corps back there to do it. Personally, I think (Niklas) Kronwall is one of the best defensemen (in the league). He's underrated. I'm going to try to follow suit by watching him on and off the ice."
With the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart requesting and being granted a trade to San Jose, Smith finds himself in prime position take one of those vacancies.
The Wings are left with Kronwall, Jonathan Ericcson, Ian White and Kyle Quincey (who is a restricted free agent) as NHL-proven blueliners. Smith and Jakub Kindl are among the contenders for the other two spots in the top six. Kindl has played in 106 NHL games in the last three seasons, producing three goals, 17 points and a -1 rating — not the kind of numbers the organization was hoping for from the young offensive-minded defender, who was also a former No. 1 draft pick.
In 14 games with Detroit last season, Smith posted a goal, six assists, 17 hits and eight blocked shots.
"I was pretty happy with how I played," Smith said. "And hopefully I can take that into this camp and hopefully this next full season.
"I've been talking to the coaches and Ken Holland and Jim Nill — and they're expecting a lot out of me. And so am I. The big thing for something like this is to show I have been working out a lot. I've put on some weight, but still kept my speed. I think the biggest thing for me here at this camp is to show some leadership. "
Smith is head and shoulders above the other Red Wings prospects on defense, with Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet and Nick Jensen the next likely candidates at this point.
The Ontario native had a brief three-game call-up in November, then received the call for good on Feb. 27 when Mike Commodore was traded to Tampa Bay. In his second game after the trade, Smith scored his first NHL goal in a 6-0 win over Minnesota — the same team that snapped up Suter and Zach Parise.
Smith made his NHL debut in a 5-2 loss to San Jose. He was -2 in 19 minutes in that contest, but rebounded the rest of the way to finish the season with a +3 rating. He also picked up assists in each of the next two games.
"That was a lot of fun," Smith said. "The cliche answer is that it's a dream come true, but it really is. My first game, I played against San Jose and I had some nerves going. I look at San Jose, and their starting lineup is Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, and I'm almost shaking in my boots there. You're adrenaline starts taking over and you're not nervous after that, but the experience was awesome. I got introduced and it was really exciting. My parents were there. It was quite a thrill."
After being selected 27th overall by Detroit in 2007, Smith has attended camps in Traverse City every year, mostly the prospects and actual Red Wings training camp. But with the developmental camp moving north last year, the 23-year-old is the old man in camp.
"I know a few places to go," Smith said. "A few of the places I have to keep the boys away, probably the casino. We have the two teams, but I'd rather have everybody together a catch the beach and enjoy Traverse City. It's such a beautiful town. A lot of guys asked me if I'm upset at coming back, because this is my sixth time. I told them, 'No, any chance you get to come to Traverse City is awesome.' We'll get out on the water, and Chris (Chelios) has his boards, so we'll do some paddleboarding. We're looking to get some tee times, because we've heard there's some great golf."
Red Wings have need for defensemen
TRAVERSE CITY — This is Brendan Smith's year.
Prep Roundup: Titans sweep Gaylord in BNC opener
From staff reports TRAVERSE CITY -- Paul Soma and Chase Cavric pitched Traverse City West to a 2-1 and 6-3 Big North Conference sweep of Gaylord on Wednesday that opened league play. Soma tossed a three-hit complete game in the opener, striking out fContinued ...
Shays reflect on Keflezighi's 'stellar race' in Boston Marathon
Soon after Meb Keflezighi won Monday's Boston Marathon, Stephan Shay sent out a congratulatory note to his friend. "Meb! Unbelievably stellar race!" he tweeted. Just below that post was a 2004 picture showing Stephan, his older brother Ryan, KeflezigContinued ...
Traverse City Alliance to open new rugby field on Friday
TRAVERSE CITY -- Expect to see a little extra energy when Christian Gallagher and the rest of the TC Alliance rugby team take the field on Friday to face Grand Rapids Catholic Central. Not only will it be the Alliance's home opener, but it also willContinued ...
Sports in Brief: 04/24/2014
Kids free fishing event canceled; Longboarding event coming to Onekama; 3 area shooters honored by BCAM.Continued ...
Track Roundup: West's Roush sets school record
From staff reports GAYLORD -- Tommy Roush set another school record as Traverse City West knocked off Big North Conference foes Cadillac and Gaylord in a double dual meet. West defeated Cadillac 95.5-76.5 and Gaylord 97-60. Roush -- who broke the shoContinued ...
- Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Lake overcomes cramps to finish Boston
Cramps didn’t stop Gary Lake from finishing his final Boston Marathon. The 67-year-old from Honor fought through a painful final eight miles to finish in just over five hours.Continued ...
Prep Sports Roundup: Late rallies propel Christian to sweep
Jacob Rorick squeezed in Cam Beemer with the game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth as Traverse City Christian edged McBain Northern Michigan Christian 7-6 in the first of two games. (Plus more)Continued ...
- Today in Sports: 04/23/2014
- Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Kiel records top Boston time out of area runners
Kyle Kiel’s Boston Marathon time was over 35 minutes improved from last year’s. Gary Lake’s was infinitely better.Continued ...
Prep Sports Roundup: TCW 11th; Scott ties for 1st
Alex Scott shot a 74 to tie for first overall as he led the Traverse City West boys golf team to an 11th-place finish Monday at the East Lansing Invitational at Walnut Hills. (Plus more)Continued ...
Sports in Brief: TC Roller Derby teams split
The teams of Traverse City Roller Derby participated as part of a tripl header of roller derby action at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek on Saturday. (Plus more)Continued ...
College Notes: Otwell wins 1,500 meters at Jesse Owens Classic
Michigan State redshirt senior Julia Otwell (Traverse City Central) won the 1,500-meter run Friday in the Jesse Owens Track Classic at Ohio State. (Plus more)Continued ...
- Today in Sports: 04/22/2014
- Monday, April 21, 2014
Dennis Chase: Lions should take guesswork out of draft
With the NFL draft approaching, Detroit’s been teasing its long-suffering fan base by bringing in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, receiver Sammy Watkins and outside linebacker Khalil Mack for meet-and-greets.Continued ...
Bowling Scores: 04/21/2014
Local bowling scores from Lucky Jack's:Continued ...
- Today in Sports: 04/21/2014
- Sunday, April 20, 2014
Unbeaten Titans roll past Central, 6-1
Trailing 1-0 early, the Titans responded with six unanswered goals over the final 58 minutes to beat crosstown rival Traverse City Central 6-1 in a Big North Conference soccer match at the Coast Guard field.Continued ...
Spanski to sign with Detroit Mercy
Brett Spanski can make a little history and be a trailblazer at the same time Wednesday.Continued ...
Prep Sports Roundup: TC Thunder romps at Thirlby Field
The Traverse City Thunder opened the lacrosse season Saturday with an 11-1 win over Muskegon Reeths-Puffer and a 12-3 decision over Sault Ste, Marie. (Plus more)Continued ...
- Saturday, April 19, 2014
Trojans dominate track invitational
From staff reports MUSKEGON -- It was a good Friday for Traverse City Central sophomore Anthony Berry. Berry was part of three records as the Trojans easily won the 15-team Rocket Invitational at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer with 228.5 points. "No questionContinued ...
Traverse City Hounds rally to beat Jersey Shore, 6-3
LAS VEGAS -- Traverse City closed out the UHU national tournament with a flurry, rallying with five third-period goals to knock off the Jersey Shore Wildcats 6-3. Things didn't look as rosy in the first two periods. The Hounds did take a 1-0 lead onContinued ...
- Friday, April 18, 2014
Hounds on verge of elimination in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS -- Traverse City's penalty killing unit wasn't its usual self Thursday, allowing three power-play goals in a 6-2 UHU national tournament loss to the Soo Firehawks. In the regular season, the Hounds' penalty killers gave up a net three goalsContinued ...
Bob Gwizdz: Perfect day on the Manistee River
WELLSTON -- Tired of waiting for the St. Joseph River to clear up -- and having postponed our annual St. Patrick's Day (or thereabouts) steelhead sojourn already into April -- Jim Romine made the call: We were going to the Manistee River instead. AndContinued ...
DNR seeks solution to Vasa dispute
TRAVERSE CITY -- Fat tire bikers and cross country skiers are hoping for some sort of resolution to a brewing controversy on April 28. The two user groups have struggled to coexist in the first year since TART opened the Vasa trail to fat bikes as aContinued ...
- Thursday, April 17, 2014
Globetrotters entertain full house at Central
Twins Ezra and Cosmo Franseth were not only able to see the Harlem Globetrotters up close and personal from the front row for their birthday. They also were able to see their parents get involved in the act.Continued ...
- Prep Roundup: Titans sweep Gaylord in BNC opener