At The Helm: Red Wing Center Gives Veteran Team Youthful Boost

Adam BoutonCorrespondent IMay 28, 2009

DETROIT - FEBRUARY 12:  Darren Helm #43 of the Detroit Red Wings controls the puck along the boards during their NHL game against the Minnesota Wild at Joe Louis Arena on February 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. The Red Wings defeated the Wild 4-2. (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

The Detroit Red Wings are one of the best teams each and every year in the NHL because of the talented, veteran group of players that stay and thrive in Hockeytown.

Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios, centers Kris Draper and Pavel Datsyuk, wingers Tomas Holmstrom and Kirk Maltby, goalie Chris Osgood and all those before them (most prominently long-time captain and icon Steve Yzerman) are some of the biggest reasons the Red Wings are in the hunt for Lord Stanley's Cup every single season.

Even though that is again true this year, it's the play of Darren Helm that is starting to usher in a new group of soon-to-be veterans to the red and white dynasty.

Helm, who is arguably the fastest player on the team, is just 22 and has been just as important as any other player on the team this postseason.

The center flies around like it's his last game ever and fights for the puck as if his team is down two goals in the third period with the series on the line.

Sounds like a young Draper, doesn't it?

Helm has just one (yes, one) regular season point in his regular season career spanning a minuscule 23 games over two years, but now has three points (all goals) this postseason, which includes one in the game-clinching game seven against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in round two.

His presence and speed on the ice is much more important than the amount of stats he tallies in the box score.

So why was Helm only on the roster for 16 games this past season?

No room.

He didn't crack the Red Wings roster until late in the season because the Wings didn't need him. Overloaded with talent at the forward position, the Wings honestly didn't have space for him on the roster. He was playing on the other side of Michigan, in Grand Rapids, for the top minor league affiliate for the Wings. He wasn't even in the top-five in scoring on that team either.

Talk about a hidden gem.

Helm is more than just the fourth line center, too.

He's out there at key moments during any game and is one of the leaders on the penalty kill because of his grit and speed.

The Red Wings most certainly have missed Lidstrom, Draper and Datsyuk in the past couple of games, but without Helm and some of the younger players such as Justin Abdelkader, Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula and Jonathan Ericsson, the Wings would probably still be battling the Blackhawks in the semifinals.

"Where the heck did they get him (Helm)?" is probably what most NHL teams are wondering.

It's hard to watch any Wings game and not be immediately drawn to him.  Not flashy, nor powerful, the winger hits players twice his size and out-battles far more experienced veterans who have more than just four points in the NHL total.

Maybe he'll finally crack the Wings' starting roster next year and stick?

The general hockey fans that didn't have the slightest clue who Helm was, will now, especially after Wednesday night.

In case he hadn't already, Helm made his grand entrance to the big stage when he knocked a rebound past Blackhawks goalie Cristobal Huet in overtime, pushing the Wings into the Stanley Cup Finals.

Watch out, Penguins. The Wings have a secret weapon up their sleeve.

And he's on the fourth line.