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Smith 'can't wait' to join Komets

He's drawn comparisons to Sean Venedam

When the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs -- champions of the CHL -- announced they were suspending operations June 9, the Komets made it a priority to grab some of their best players.

On Wednesday, they landed two of them -- forward Brett Smith and defenseman Jamie Milam.

"These are solid players coming right off a championship," Komets general manager David Franke said. "They know what it takes to win."

Smith, 29, captained the Mudbugs last season, and he tallied 20 goals and 50 points in 57 games. Franke compared him to former Komets forward Sean Venedam, who was instrumental in the 2003 UHL championship.

Smith said he had plenty of suitors but wanted to play near his Ontario home, in front of large crowds.

"There's a great fan base in Fort Wayne, and that was really appealing," Smith said. "They led the league in attendance last season (with 7,460 fans per game). We're not doing it for millions of dollars, so you want fans who love winning and are passionate. I can't wait to put on that Komets jersey and get out there."

Much like Komets captain Colin Chaulk, Smith is vocal in the local room but believes it's important to lead by example on the ice. He's likely to end up an alternate captain, perhaps along with Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock or P.C. Drouin.

"Winning the championship really was (bittersweet)," Smith said. "We put it on the burner, and got the job done and enjoyed it.

"After being in Shreveport (six of the last seven) seasons, then seeing it all washed away, it's sad and brought a tear to my eye. Did I want to finish my career in Shreveport? Yeah. But I'm excited to be in Fort Wayne."

Milam, 27, played 13 games with the Komets as a rookie in 2006, when he was a forward, scoring six goals and 12 points in 13 games. Now a defenseman -- he led CHL blue-liners with 17 goals, and he had 48 points last season -- the native of Lake Orion, Mich., fills the void left by the retirement of the versatile Guy Dupuis.

"Milam is a naturally gifted offensive defenseman, and he's pretty solid defensively, also," Franke said. "He probably has one of the hardest, if not the hardest, shots in the league. If we can re-sign (all-star defenseman) Frankie DeAngelis, then we'll have ourselves a very good one-two combo on the power play."

The Komets have signed nine players for their 60th season, including forwards Chaulk, Drouin, Schrock, Chris Auger and Todd McIlrath, defenseman Craig Cescon and goaltender Nick Boucher.

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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