By Aaron Bell
When the Anaheim Ducks announced that Devante Smith-Pelly was going to be released to Team Canada to play in the World Junior Championships this Christmas, his former Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors’ teammate Joseph Cramarossa used a Twitter message to warn the competition about what they’d be up against.
“Some advice for every country participating #keepyourheadup #boom,” Cramarossa Tweeted.
Those hash tags contained some pretty good advice.
Smith-Pelly, who helped the Majors earn a trip to the OHL Championship Series and a berth in the final game of the MasterCard Memorial Cup last spring, uses every ounce of his six-foot, 211 pound frame to punish the opposition physically. And he plans to keep doing that during the next two weeks with Team Canada.
“I’m here to bring a little bit of energy,” Smith-Pelly said after Canada’s 3-1 win over Finland in Monday’s pre-tournament exhibition game. “I’m just trying to back the D off and create space for (linemates Mark) Scheifele and (Tanner) Pearson to create plays. I thought our line did a pretty good job and we got some chances.”
In 26 games with the Ducks this season, the 19-year-old Scarborough native has three goals and five points to go along with 10 penalty minutes. He knows that with his NHL experience, he will be part of the leadership group for this year’s squad, that includes seven 18-year-olds.
“It starts with us (veterans),” Smith-Pelly said. “We have a lot of expectations for ourselves and the team. We’ve got to make sure that we’re on every night and it started tonight. Hopefully we can continue that.”
Smith-Pelly was a key part of Canada’s win over Finland. He laid out several big hits that put the Finns back on their heels for parts of the game.
“You kind of see him after big hits like that looking over his shoulder,” said Canada forward Jaden Schwartz. “It gets the bench going and it’s fun to see.”
Canadian coach Don Hay said that Smith-Pelly was one of the Canadian players that helped determine the pace of the game.
“It took us a while to get adjusted to the pace of the game and the tempo,” Hay said. “I thought that once we were able to adjust on a couple of things we were able to get better. Some of our players led the way physically – Smith-Pelly was really good that way.
“It’s always encouraging when your older players can take charge of the game. They know what to expect and they know how you have to play to get better and how to be leaders.”
Smith-Pelly said that it was fun to see their first action as a team and is looking forward to facing Finland again in the tournament opener on Boxing Day.
“It was good to get out there and start playing our game,” Smith-Pelly said. “We just want to keep getting better as the pre-competition goes on.”
Canada faces Switzerland in another pre-tournament tune up on Thursday (9:00 p.m. on TSN2).