Red Wings draft pick Givani Smith says he plays a physical game. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
Buffalo – You want to know what it’s like to be an NHL draft pick?
All you had to do was look at the smile and joy on Givani Smith’s face.
“It’s surreal,” said Smith, with a beaming grin. “I’m just taking it all in.”
Smith, a left wing, was the Red Wings’ first pick Saturday, the 46th overall selection (second round) in the draft.
What stands out about Smith?
“He’s a big, strong kid, powerful kid, who plays nasty,” said Tyler Wright, the Red Wings’ amateur scouting director. “That’s an innate instinct. You either have it or you don’t have it. You can’t develop it. He loves it and relishes that role.”
Smith, a left-handed shot, isn’t bashful about the physical part of the game, as his 146 penalty minutes last season playing for Guelph (Ontario League) attests. He also scored 23 goals.
“A power forward guy who likes to score goals and finish checks, and play with an edge,” said Smith, giving a scouting report on himself. “I play a mean game. I like to go in on the forecheck and get in guys’ faces.
“(I like being) physical, I’m a big frame (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) and I throw my body around and wear the defense down and create space on the ice.
“I’m going to keep doing it.”
Smith, a native of Thornhill, Ontario, says he models his game after Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds.
“The way he plays the game, he’s a force on the ice, scores goals in front of the net and that’s where I like to score goals,” Smith said. “He’s a good skater, likes to finish checks and he’s not scared to fight. That’s what I admire.”
Smith’s older brother Gemel is a prospect in the Dallas Stars organization, having been drafted 2012.
“Now I’m going through it,” Smith said. “It’s amazing.”
With their second pick in the second-round, the Red Wings selected Czech Republic defenseman Filip Hronek.
A 6-foot, 163-pound 18-year-old, Hronek mostly played against older players last season in the Czech Republic but displayed an ability to move the puck.
Hronek understands and speaks little English, but understood the thrill of being an NHL draft pick.
“It’s crazy,” Hronek said. “I like the Detroit Red Wings – Niklas Kronwall, Dylan Larkin, Petr Mrazek.”
The organization liked Hronek’s approach.
“Very competitive,” said Hakan Andersson, director of European scouting. “Real good character, almost captain-like, more so than we normally see in a lot of European players.”
Andersson hopes the Red Wings unearthed some gems in the late rounds from Sweden.
In the fourth round they selected Alfons Malmstrom, a towering defenseman who can move the puck.
“He’s a big defenseman, mobile, and still growing (physically),” Andersson said. “He’s closing in on 6-foot-4. Mean, blocks shots, and does everything you want to hear about a guy like that.”
Goalie Filip Larsson was selected in round six after an injury-riddled junior season.
“The problem with injuries, when that happens your draft year, you tend to fall out of peoples’ minds a little bit,” Andersson said. “We hired a goalie coach in Sweden and he’s extremely excited about him. He thinks (Larsson) is a natural goalie talent.”
The real interesting prospect is Mattias Elfstrom, a 6-foot-3, 194-pound wing the Red Wings got in the seventh round – but was, said Andersson, in their top 10 European list.
“A big forward with a lot of skill and hockey sense,” Andersson said. “I was pushing to pick him in the earlier rounds. It worked out real well for us.”
RED WINGS DRAFT PICKS
Round: 1 (No. 20 overall)
Height / weight: 6-1 / 175
Last season: Chilliwick (British Columbia Junior League), 56 games, 12 goals, 28 assists
Scouting report: Exceptional skater, sound on both ends of the rink, many scouting services project Cholowski to be a second-pair defenseman for many years in the NHL. Doesn’t get himself into trouble on the ice. Needs to get physically stronger and continue to improve defensively.
Round: 2 (No. 46 overall)
Position: Left wing
Height / weight: 6-2 / 200
Last season: Guelph (Ontario League), 65 games, 23 goals, 19 assists
Scouting report: Smith plays with an edge, as he had 146 penalty minutes while playing for a weak Guelph team. Will definitely protect his teammates. Likes to go to the net and is difficult to move out of there.
Round: 2 (No. 53 overall)
Height / weight: 6-0 / 163
Last season: Hradec (Czech Republic), 40 games, 0 goals, 4 assists
Scouting report: On the small side physically, but a tremendous puck mover and skater who played against 20-year-olds in the Czech Republic. Red Wings love his character, say it’s “captain-like.” Despite his lack of size, isn’t afraid to play physically.
Round: 4 (No. 107 overall)
Height / weight: 6-2 / 190
Last season: Orebro HK (Sweden) 41 games, 2 goals, 6 assists
Scouting report: Good size (and still growing) and mobility while playing in the Swedish junior ranks. Plays with a mean streak, blocks shots, and competes hard. Organization loves his competitiveness.
Round: 5 (No. 137 overall)
Height / weight: 6-2 / 187
Last season: Erie (Ontario League), 67 games, 9 goals, 18 assists
Scouting report: Smooth-skating defenseman with good offensive instincts – but is also responsible defensively and can play in all situations. Doesn’t make many mistakes and can play big minutes.
Round: 6 (No. 167 overall)
Height / weight: 6-2 / 185
Last season: Djurgarden (Sweden), 19 games, 3.86 GAA, .872 save percentage
Scouting report: Didn’t have a great season in juniors last season but remained one of the higher-ranked European goalies available. Worth taking a gamble at this spot in the draft.
Round: 7 (No. 197 overall)
Position: Left wing
Height / weight: 6-3 / 194
Last season: Malmo Juniors (Sweden), 43 games, 11 goals, 20 assists
Scouting report: A project, but there’s definitely some raw ability there, and he has size and speed. Red Wings had him among the top 10 players coming out of Europe but he dropped to this point of draft.