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Smith turns into guidance counselor at Wings camp

By Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News

Traverse City — Maybe it’s because all 11 draft picks from the 2017 NHL Draft class are here, players who two weeks ago weren’t even officially in the NHL.

But because of that, the Red Wings’ development camp has a particularly youthful feel to it and forward Givani Smith is almost an old man in comparison.

A 2016 second-round pick, Smith is in his second development camp and has almost taken more of a mentor role during the five-day camp.

“I’m older,” said Smith, 19, with a slight smile. “We have 11 new draft picks, all new guys, younger guys. Without guys like (Tyler) Bertuzzi and (Zach) Nastasiuk (both Grand Rapids Griffins) in here, it kind of feels a little different.

“I kind of feel like an older guy in here — but it’s only my second camp.”

Any young prospect arriving to this camp comes in a little wide-eyed. It’s a camp run by an NHL organization, with pro coaching staffs and front office personnel all over the rink.

If any recent draft picks have questions, Smith is ready to provide guidance.

“I know what it was like last year, coming in and not knowing what to expect,” Smith said. “It’s nice to have someone here to talk to, someone you’re comfortable with.”

Smith spent the entire AHL playoffs with the Grand Rapids Griffins, practicing daily and soaking in the pro playoffs atmosphere.

“Real good,” Smith said of the entire experience. “It was a long run, and I was there, so it was good to see playoff hockey and see how it is.

“Everyone is finishing checks, hitting hard. It was a totally different game than junior (hockey). It was nice to go there and see it, watch it.”

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