Take the longevity of Gordie Howe, the intelligence of Igor Larionov and the talent of Steve Yzerman and what do you get?
Pavel Datsyuk, the Detroit Red Wing's star center.
Datsyuk has posted 97 points, fourth in the NHL, in Detroit's 2007-8 regular season campaign, scoring 31 goals with 66 assists. His plus/minus is an NHL leading +41 for the year, so far, and now it's for the playoffs.
This speedster on the ice, make defensemen spin their heads with his back and forth moves and moving the puck around goalies to score. Sometimes, you can't even tell he still has the puck with his skating and puck handling abilities. Just like Detroit's "Professor".
Retired Red Winger, Larionov aka. "The Professor", came to Detroit during the 1995-96 season. They called him "The Professor" because nobody could pass a puck with such accuracy as him. Like the Russian hockey teams during the 1960's and '70's, he would look for a patch of open ice instead of a skater and the puck would magically find the player for a score or clearing pass.
That style of play is also evident in Datsyuk. When he passes, another Red Wing is usually at the end of that pass and it's always right on the tape. With every season in Detroit, he has improve on an already impressive record.
A Bit of History
Datsyuk, 29, was born in Sverdlovsk, Russia. Professionally, he's played for Yekaterinburg and Kazan as well as the Russian National Team during the 1990's and into 2000-1. He came to Detroit during the 2001-2 season, playing in 70 games and scoring 11 times with 24 assists and it's only gone up from there. During the 2001-2 playoffs, he played in 21 of 23 games and scored the game winner against the St. Louis Blues for his first playoff goal. The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup that year for Datsuk's first ring in his first NHL season.
Since that time, he has wowed Detroit fans with his amazing skating and abilities on the ice. Will he be a Red Wing Captain one day? One can only hope. Will the Detroit front office do whatever it takes to keep him in Detroit like they did with Yzerman? It looks like it, after signing him to a seven-year deal with them in the spring of 2007, the longest in Red Wing history.
Datsyuk resides with his wife and daughter in Detroit during the NHL season and returns to his hometown in Russia during the off season. His hometown has been honored by a Stanley Cup visit in the summer of 2002.
Datsyuk has been an All-Star twice, 2004 and 2006. He has won the Lady Bing Trophy twice in 2006 and 2007. He has one Stanley Cup to his credit, so far. He has also played several seasons in Russia for their National, Olymic and World Cup teams, scoring 23 goals with 39 assists. In 445 NHL games, he has scored 139 goals with 286 assists for a total of 425 points and a plus/minus of +125.
The final word
Unfortunately, this reporter has only been able to catch Datsyuk's playing abilities during post-game highlights on ESPN or other sporting news services. But I am awed by his talents. I look forward to seeing what he does during this year's playoffs.