The 5 Smartest Draft Picks in Detroit Red Wings History
The Detroit Red Wings have done some amazing things in the draft over the course of its history. So many stars have been selected on draft day and evolved into memorable talents, immortalized throughout the game.
From the 1989 draft with Nick Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov to last year’s first-round pick, Anthony Mantha, Detroit has a knack for getting the players it covets. As there are so many, it was very difficult to narrow down to just five.
This list was composed recognizing three criteria that determined their position—the round in which the player was selected, the significance of their production, and the impact they left on Hockeytown.
Not every top pick pans out at the professional level, and players taken in late rounds can develop into legends. The Red Wings have had experience with both, and they appear here as the five smartest draft picks in team history.
5. Tomas Holmstrom
Nobody played in front of the net like Tomas Holmstrom.
“Homer” was notoriously hated by goaltenders throughout the NHL for his ability to screen and wreak havoc in the crease. His hand-eye coordination was remarkable and probably took a good number of goals away from his defensemen.
The 6’0” Swede was drafted in the 10th round (257th overall) in 1994 and terrorized goalies for 15 seasons. If it were an official stat, it is likely he would be the league’s all-time leader in goals disallowed.
Certainly a fan favorite, Holmstrom made the day of every NHL netminder when he announced his retirement after the 2011-12 season. His family remains in Michigan and he still frequents the team and Joe Louis Arena.
4. Vladimir Konstantinov
Vladimir Konstantinov was a solid, two-way defenseman that provided great stability on the blue line and won a Stanley Cup in 1997.
While his career was tragically cut short by a limousine accident the summer after the 1997 championship, “Vlad” was still an extremely popular player in Hockeytown.
Taken in the 11th round (221st overall) of the 1989 NHL draft, Konstantinov provided size and unmatched tenacity in his own zone. During his six seasons, he was incredibly responsible in his own end, never registering a plus-minus mark lower than plus-10. In the 1995-96 season, he finished with 34 points and a league-best plus-60 rating in 81 games.
Best known for his thumping hits, Konstantinov was a fan favorite in Detroit. While he was never able to play again, he is still very much a part of the team and the surrounding community.
3. Pavel Datsyuk
Pavel Datsyuk is a marvel to any hockey fan, and even more so to most general managers around the NHL.
Lucky for the Red Wings’ director of European scouting, Hakan Andersson, Datsyuk wasn’t seen by many others before they took him with their sixth-round pick (171st overall) in 1998.
The “magic man” was noticed when Andersson was in Russia to scout defenseman Dmitri Kalinin, who was playing against Datsyuk’s Dynamo Yekaterinburg.
MLive.com’s Ansar Khan quoted Andersson:
One time I saw him, the defenseman was skating back to get the puck, (Datsyuk) was behind him 10-15 feet, all the sudden, instead of forechecking, he took off to the left. Somehow he figured out the defenseman was going to get the puck and rim it out that way. There was Pav, waiting for the puck. It was unreal.
After a few words with GM Ken Holland, Detroit took a flyer on the almost unknown player.
Datsyuk's remarkable skill and hockey intelligence make him a world-class player. He certainly was a bargain for Detroit and will be celebrated in Hockeytown for years to come.
2. Henrik Zetterberg
Much like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg was discovered by Hakan Andersson while scouting another talent.
Zetterberg was a small guy when he caught the attention of Andersson and current Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill at a tournament in Finland. While Andersson was trying to point out Mattias Weinhandl, the two couldn't help but notice this skinny kid who always seemed to have the puck.
Larry Wigge of NHL.com quoted Zetterberg:
I was a small kid, but I wasn't the last kid chosen in a pickup game. I had skills and I really worked at making them better and better. I remember as a kid I always tried to not get hit and to hold onto the puck until I spotted an open teammate.
Detroit took Zetterberg with their seventh-round pick (210th overall) in 1999, and he’s developed into one of the most illustrious players in Red Wings history. He won the 2008 Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy, is the franchise’s 36th captain and ranks ninth in team history with 702 points.
“Z” is one of the most dignified leaders in the game, and is certainly one of the most brilliant draft picks in team history.
1. Steve Yzerman
Because drafting can be as much luck as it is skill, Steve Yzerman ranks No. 1 as the smartest draft pick in team history.
Instead, Detroit had to “settle” for Steve Yzerman.
Yzerman would become a fruitful scorer and was named team captain before the 1986-87 season. He would remain in that role for the next 19 seasons, becoming the longest-tenured captain in NHL history. He was a three-time Stanley Cup champion (1997, 1998 and 2002), Conn Smythe winner (1998), ranks second in team history and sixth all-time with 1,755 points.
NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman quoted deputy managing editor Brian Compton:
Steve Yzerman defined leadership over the course of his career. While there are many other worthy candidates at No. 4, Yzerman was solid in every facet of the game. He's everything you want in a player.
Even though he wasn’t the player they targeted, Yzerman became the player the Red Wings wanted, needed and exalted above all others.