With a few injuries and a trade, Brendan Smith is taking the NHL by storm quicker than Detroit fans had originally expected.
Smith had impressed fans and staff alike earlier this season when he filled in for Ian White, who was suffering from a broken jaw after blocking a shot.
After playing in just three games in November, Smith had two points, but he was inevitably sent back down the the Red Wings' AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins.
When Detroit traded for Kyle Quincey two weeks later, Smith's outlook on seeing ice time in Detroit this season got even worse.
And then in the course of one day, everything changed for Smith. On the day of the trade deadline, extra defender Mike Commodore was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, while Nicklas Lidstrom and Kyle Quincey were listed as day-to-day.
Just before that, Jonathan Ericsson had broken his wrist in a game against the Colorado Avalanche, opening yet another spot.
Smith was immediately called up and has played in three more games with the Red Wings. Just when it seemed like his services would no longer be needed, Jakub Kindl came down with an injury in Sunday's game against Chicago, opening the door for Smith's opportunity.
The talented young prospect has already proved plenty in the few games that he's been back with the Red Wings. He's been solid defensively for Detroit and scored his first NHL goal in Detroit's home game against the Minnesota Wild on Friday.
And then, of course, there's the video above. Smith didn't take much of a liking to Chicago prospect Andrew Shaw hacking at Joey MacDonald, and after two quick punches from Shaw, Smith quickly went on the attack.
The fight means a lot for Smith as he's up in Detroit. While he's not billed as an enforcer or a fighter, he's proved that he's willing to stand up for his teammates. When you connect that with his solid defensive play and impressive offensive numbers this season, he's certainly making himself indispensable for Detroit.
Ericsson is still projected to be out of action for another month, but when he gets back, he and Kindl could find themselves fighting with Smith for a roster spot.
Certainly Smith is going to be a good NHL player; he's projected to be a top-line defender and a frequent All-Star game participant. The question is just whether or not he's ready to play at the NHL level over players such as Kindl and Ericsson.
He's certainly making his case.
Jordan Matthews is a Featured Columnist for the Detroit Red Wings and the NHL. For more coverage, you can read his articles here:
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