TRAVERSE CITY — When the Detroit Red Wings Development Camp started up Thursday, not many of the names were ones that were very recognizable to all but the most hardcore Red Wings fans.
The name that probably is among the most noticeable to fans is Brendan Smith.
Detroit's 2007 first-round pick is on the verge of making the Detroit Red Wings, and it looked even better there for awhile after blueliner Brian Rafalski announced his retirement and the Wings decided not to bring back Ruslan Salei.
Then Detroit went out in the opening days of free agency and added veterans Mike Commodore and Ian White.
"I wouldn't say I'm discouraged," Smith said. "I see it as more of a challenge. If things are given to you too easy, it's not fun."
"Obviously that's going to make it a tougher decision with Kenny (Holland) and the staff. I'm here to work for a job. The same thing happened last year when they signed (Ruslan) Salei. I'll just show what I've got and if they think I'm ready, they're going to give me a shot. And if not, they'll send me back (to Grand Rapids) for a year and I can get better."
In Grand Rapids last year, he adjusted from a 42-game college schedule to an 82-game grind. Dealing with some injuries, he played in only 63, but rang up 12 goals and 20 assists.
"He had a great rookie year in the American Hockey League," said Holland, Detroit's general manager. "We signed Ian White. We signed Mike Commodore. With Jakub Kindl, we're obviously deep on defense. We've going to give him every opportunity to force his way onto the team."
It doesn't hurt that his coach from the Griffins, Curt Fraser, is running the camp, which runs until Thursday and costs $5 daily for fans to watch practice and on-ice sessions.