Wings' Smith ready to elevate his impact

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Defenseman Brendan Smith, left, keeps the puck away from the other players during practice.

Detroit — His skating is splendid.

When Brendan Smith winds up and takes flight, it seems like he could easily help drive a team. Especially one looking for more offense, and more offense generated by the defensemen, like the Red Wings.

Last season, Smith took a good stride forward in his development, playing more solidly in his defensive role, jumping more often and more effectively into the offense, playing occasionally in the top pairing, making fewer mistakes.

It was the sort of year a young NHL defenseman has when he is suddenly no longer a young NHL defenseman.

At age, 27, entering his sixth season with the Red Wings, the 6-foot-2, 211-pound native of Mimico, Ontario says he feels poised for a bigger role and more impact.

“I think coaches are going to give me a little bit more of an opportunity and I just need to grasp that,” Smith said. “I feel I’ll get more opportunity to play bigger minutes. Hopefully, I’ll have that chance where my jersey’s in the locker room at all times.

“I think I played really well last year, when I was in, and I just want to kind of (pick up) where I left off: making good, first outlet passes and kind of maybe contributing offensively.”

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Jumping up into the play and joining the rush are tasks made easier by Smith’s speed and strong skating.

The risks are clear. But experience can help reduce them.

“I guess that’s the thin line, where you’ve got to figure out when to jump and when not to,” he said. “Players all around the league have trouble with that, even the best players in the world.

“It’s something I think I’ve gotten a lot better with. But you’ve got to balance it.

“You’ve got to know what time is on the clock, when to jump, is it a safe play to do it.

“I think maturity, times playing, learning opponents, all of these little things come into that aspect, and you get a better read, a better feel for it.”

Smith says he is excited about the potential opportunity to play with Danny DeKeyser. But Jeff Blashill has made it clear that the current defensive pairings are subject to change.

Such stability could lead to better play, and more offense, from Smith.

“He’s going to make me better, because he’s just so good himself,” Smith said. “He simplifies the game and he’s an easy person to play with.

“So, I’m real excited about that. I don’t know how long that will last.”

Hronek starting strong

Nine years younger than Smith, another potential puck-moving defenseman, Filip Hronek, already is assigned to the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League.

According to the Spirit, he already is impressing his new coach.

The 18-year-old Czech, a second-round pick in June, played against the Ottawa 67's on Saturday, 24 hours after skating for the Red Wings against the Bruins in Joe Louis Arena.

“He left last night, got up early and was one of the first guys here for morning skate,” said coach Spencer Carbery after the game, according to a news release. “Plays tonight, and all he wants to do is win.

“That right there lets you know he’s going to be successful.”

Hronek assisted on a goal in the second period and later blocked two shots as the lone defenseman back on a two-on-one break.

“Here, it is a physical game,” Hronek said, according to the release. “It’s a small rink and it’s very fast. In Czech, it’s a little slower.”

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