The Ducks have had enough faith in Devante Smith-Pelly to not only give him a spot in the opening night roster but to so far slot him at winger on an increasingly intriguing third forward line. The 19-year-old who played his last three junior seasons in Mississauga of the OHL has meshed well with two linemates – Andrew Cogliano and Andrew Gordon – who are also playing their first regular season games in a Ducks uniform. (For lack of a better term right now, let’s call it the New Guy Line.) The three combined on Anaheim’s only goal in the 2-1 shootout victory over the Rangers last Saturday in Stockholm, with Smith-Pelly’s hustle springing loose a puck that Gordon was able to toss in front to a crashing Cogliano.
Although he was drafted by the Ducks in 2010 and went through his first training camp later that year as an 18-year-old, it occurred to me that I really haven’t had much contact with the likeable Smith-Pelly other than a quick handshake. So after practice today at Honda Center, with Smith-Pelly’s first regular season NHL home opener a day away, I re-introduced myself.
He responded with, "Hey, I’m Devante," which really wasn’t necessary.
We sat down for a quick chat about how things are going in Anaheim (and Europe, for that matter) so far.
You said recently that even though you were a longshot to make the team out of camp last year as an 18-year-old, you were disappointed when you were sent back to juniors.
Yeah, anytime you come into camp, your goal is to make the team. It was pretty unrealistic for me to play at 18, but when I was sent back, I was pretty disappointed. I wanted to make sure I had a good season and make sure I put myself in position to make the team the following year.
What’s different this year from last year?
I think it’s me just being a year older, a little more mature, a little bigger and stronger. I just know what to expect. Last year I came in here and kind of maybe dipped my toe in, rather than going full in. This year I knew what to expect, what the coaches expected of me. All I had to worry about was that kind of stuff instead of everything else.
As was the case with Cam Fowler last year, Smith-Pelly is too young to be sent to the AHL, so if he is sent down, it would be to his junior team and the Ducks would lose him for the rest of the season. If the Ducks release him before his 10th NHL game, this season wouldn’t count against the Ducks as a first full season of his contract.
How much do you think about that 10-game mark?
I talked to Bob Murray yesterday and he said the 9-game mark or 10-game mark doesn’t really matter. It’s not really me looking at the 9-game mark to impress. If I want to stay here the whole year, I’m going to have to play well the whole year. It was good for him to kind of make sure I knew that rather than me kind of assuming that I could play well in those nine games and then have to shut it down.
Do you feel pretty comfortable playing with Cogliano and Gordon so far?
We’ve been together a little while now and we’re starting to click and create some chemistry. It was a little hard at the start with Gordon being a right winger, and a couple times he came over to my side. We’ve worked that stuff out, and we’re three guys who click together and our styles complement each other. Hopefully we can continue this.
What’s your living situation right now?
Right now I’m just at the hotel down the street. It’s alright. I have no roommate, just kind of hanging out. I bought an Xbox a little while ago and I’ve been doing that.
I’m a PS3 guy.
Nah, Xbox is better. I play NHL, Madden.
Are you in the current NHL game? I think you are.
Well, I don’t have the online in the hotel, so I can’t download the new roster. I should probably figure that out though.
What else have you been doing?
I’m just doing my own thing in my room, texting Mace (Maxime Macenauer) or Gordon or anyone else who’s there, Mac (Brandon McMillan) or Guenin. We’re all there. We go for dinner or hang out, but mostly I’m in my room just relaxing and doing my own thing.
How messy is that room?
It was a lot messier before we went to Finland, but the maid cleaned it up when we were gone. I haven’t really unpacked yet. I just kind of left all my stuff in my suitcase. Right now it’s looking pretty clean.
At least with hotel life you have a maid and room service.
Oh yeah. I’ve probably had room service 20 days straight now, so I’m definitely taking advantage of that.
How is Orange County different from Mississuaga?
The biggest difference is it’s October and it’s not freezing here. It’s just a suburb of Toronto, a decent-sized community about 20 minutes from Toronto. It’s a lot like I guess Anaheim or Newport Beach without the beach part. The main difference is definitely the weather. Yesterday was so hot, it was probably the hottest day since I’ve been here. I talked to my mom last night and she said it was freezing back home. I don’t miss that at all.
Have you been down to the beach at all?
We’ve been a couple times. Mostly since we came back from Finland it’s been guys trying to get back to the routine. Guys get back from the rink and we make a plan to go do something and everybody just kind of falls asleep. Right now we’re just kind of relaxing.
What was the coolest thing about Finland?
I’d have to say being on Teemu’s boat and going to Sauna Island. It was amazing. I never even imagined anything like that. His boat is amazing.
Is there a point where you’re standing on Teemu Selanne’s yacht, headed to an island in Finland and wondering, What the heck am I doing here?
[Laughs] Yeah. There were a couple of times where I just thought to myself, I never, ever thought I’d be able to do these things. It was all pretty cool.
And of the two of us, the one who said, "Thanks a lot. I appreciate it" when we were done talking? That was Smith-Pelly.