Brendan Smith is learning that lower risk will lead to higher rewards.
The 23-year-old has long been known as a risk-taking offensive defenseman, but he’s spent his second season in the American Hockey League improving his timing for when to take those risks and when not to.
With three NHL games already under his belt, those gains could win him a full-time job with the Red Wings as early as next season.
“He’s really tried to focus himself a lot more on the defensive side of the game to improve and prepare himself for the opportunities he’ll get in the future,” said Griffins head coach Curt Fraser. “He’s come a long way since last year and the next time he gets called up, he’ll be ready to go.”
The 6-foot-2, 198-pound native of Mimico, Ont., leads all Grand Rapids defensemen and is 11th in the AHL with nine goals and 20 assists for 29 points in 44 games. His plus-5 rating is second to Doug Janik among the team’s blueliners.
He’s just three points away from last season’s 63-game point total and he’s been picking up steam lately, with four goals, eight assists and a plus-5 rating in his past 12 games.
Smith will be ranked the 16th best NHL prospect by the upcoming Future Watch edition of The Hockey News. In the most recent THN, an NHL executive called Smith “a poor-man’s Keith Yandle.”
“He’s a gifted offensive player and he lives right on the edge,” Fraser said. “If it’s 3-3 going into the third, he’s got a chance to win you the game, but where he had to improve was getting away from taking too many high-risk chances. He’s working hard at it and it’s starting to slowly come around. Hopefully by the end of the season, all those turnovers and giveaways from trying to make really good plays will disappear.”
Smith, a former college star with the Wisconsin Badgers, was drafted in the first round, 27th overall, in 2007.
NOTES: Production hasn’t come easily for right-winger Philippe Hudon (Victoriaville, QMJHL) since leaving college to play major junior last fall. But he plays a third-line role on a strong team and has showcased excellent upper-body strength and a willingness to throw his weight around, as well as an extremely heavy shot. He’ll need to work on his skating and develop a quicker release to take a step forward … Defenseman Sebastien Piche (Grand Rapids, AHL) was dealt to Tampa Bay on Tuesday as part of the Kyle Quincey acquisition. Piche was a free-agent signee who the Red Wings didn’t have much room for with more than a half-dozen solid defense prospects in addition to Smith … Defenseman Alexei Marchenko (CSKA Moscow, Minor Hockey League) has returned from a knee injury at Russia’s top junior level and has two goals and four assists in five games … Forward Marek Tvrdon (Vancouver, WHL) was suspended for three games for a spearing incident … Defenseman Max Nicastro (Boston University, NCAA) has been suspended by his team after being arrested this week. For details, visit ESPN.com. A third-round pick in 2008, Nicastro showed potential in the United States Hockey League after being drafted and was a Hockey East all-rookie selectionin 2009-10, but his development has slowed over the past two seasons. He had also reportedly been suspended one game for skipping classes earlier this season.
Following is this week’s statistical report.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Coetzee, Willie||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||44||9||9||18||15||-3||102|
|Ferraro, Landon||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||39||6||7||13||34||-6||53|
|Nyquist, Gustav||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||46||16||31||47||16||+2||125|
|Tatar, Tomas||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||50||13||23||36||33||+4||151|
|Andersson, Joakim||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||47||13||16||29||68||+5||96|
|Aubry, Louis-Marc||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||36||4||8||12||19||-4||62|
|Callahan, Mitchell||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||35||5||3||8||73||-2||48|
|Ehrhardt, Travis||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||15||0||2||2||15||+1||21|
|Lashoff, Brian||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||50||7||6||13||25||-9||72|
|Pare, Francis||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||49||8||18||26||14||-11||116|
|Parkes, Trevor||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||35||2||6||8||17||+1||58|
|Raedeke, Brent||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||44||7||6||13||22||-1||69|
|Smith, Brendan||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||44||9||20||29||68||+5||89|
|Pyett, Logan||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||47||2||17||19||44||-2||114|
|Nestrasil, Andrej||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||11||2||1||3||2||-1||17|
|Fournier, Gleason||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||3||1||1||2||2||0||1|
|Nedomlel, Richard||Swift Current||JR||WHL||61||7||32||39||67||-33||N/A|
|Sproul, Ryan||Sault Ste. Marie||JR||OHL||50||14||25||39||47||+14||N/A|
|Jurco, Tomas||Saint John||JR||QMJHL||43||28||36||64||35||+41||166|
|Jensen, Nick||St. Cloud State||COL||NCAA||32||5||20||25||2||+10||62|
|Nicastro, Max||Boston U.||COL||NCAA||27||3||6||9||32||-2||41|
|Sheahan, Riley||Notre Dame||COL||NCAA||31||9||15||24||20||+1||105|
|Marchenko, Alexei||CSKA Moscow||EUR||KHL||4||0||0||0||2||-3||2|
|Marchenko, Alexei||CSKA Moscow||EUR-JR||MHL||5||2||4||6||10||+2||7|
GOALIES: REGULAR SEASON REPORT
|Pearce, Jordan||Grand Rapids||AHL||17||3||7||1||1||3.53||.874|
|McCollum, Thomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||15||6||8||0||0||3.59||.883|