Late Draft Picks Lead to Red Wings’ Success

With the 18th overall selection this year, the Detroit Red Wings hold their highest draft pick since the 1991 NHL Entry Draft when they selected Martin Lapointe with the 10th overall pick. Don’t expect them to put all their hopes on that selection. The Red Wings have proved that early draft picks are not required to unearth high caliber NHL players. In the 13 Entry Drafts since 2000, the Wings have only selected in the first round five times and they have only had one first round selection in the past four drafts.

2013 NHL Draft Logo
The Red Wings have their highest pick, 18th overall, since the 1991 Entry Draft.

Yet they haven’t missed the playoffs in 22 years. Of the 31 players who suited up for the Red Wings in 2013, 19 of them were draft picks of the organization. Of the 12 players who were not drafted by the Wings, four of them were never drafted and only Daniel Cleary and Carlo Colaiacovo were first round selections. Of the players in the lineup that were drafted by the Wings, 13 players were picked out of the top 50 and only three of them were first round selections. First rounders don’t get priority in the Wings roster either, 2007 first rounder Brendan Smith finally cracked the NHL roster and made his playoff debut along with 2005 first round pick, and the highest Wings’ selection on the roster, Jakub Kindl. The other first round pick was 2010 selection Riley Sheahan who only appeared in only one game. Here is a look at where the Red Wings players were selected with late round draft picks.

Who Needs a Top Prospect?

The Red Wings haven’t had to rely on picks in the top 50 to garner themselves valuable players. They have found some very talented NHL players selected between 50 and 100. Nicklas Lidstrom was a part of this group, selected 53rd overall in 1989.

Tomas Tatar – (60th overall, 2009). He is not yet a regular on the Wings roster, but the talented Slovakian has seen some big league action in both of the past two seasons. He has some offensive upside with three 20-goal seasons in a row in the AHL. Don’t expect Tatar to be an impact NHLer right away, but his is a big key to the Wings’ future.

Jimmy Howard – (64th overall, 2003). The Red Wings’ starter was picked at the end of the 2nd round in 2003, and was not rushed into NHL action. Now, he is emerging as an elite goaltender in the league and just signed himself a six-year contract extension worth $5.3 million annually. Having started 43 of 48 games and every playoff game, Howard is without question one of the Wings’ most valuable players right now.

Joakim Andersson – (88th overall, 2007). Andersson was never a huge offensive producer in Sweden, nor when he came over to AHL’s Grand Rapids. He burst onto the scene in the 2011-2012 season notched a 20-goal, 50-point season. He appeared in all but 10 regular season games for the Wings this season and was a part of the all-rookie third line in the playoffs.

Valtteri Filppula – (95th overall, 2002). He has emerged as a solid top six forward for the Wings. He didn’t have his best season in 2013, but put up 66 points the year before. He is a pending free agent and the Wings would do well to lock up the shifty Fin who often plays alongside Henrik Zetterberg.

Johan Franzen –  (97th overall, 2004). The Mule is not the most prolific regular season scorer, but watch out when the playoffs roll around. There is belief he could be a point per game performer if he could score more consistently, but he regularly puts up 50 point seasons. He is a huge playoff performer, he had 13 goals in 16 games in the 2008 Stanley Cup victory.

Johan Franzen was picked 97th overall by the Wings in 2004. JYSharky - Flickr}
Johan Franzen was picked 97th overall by the Wings in 2004. JYSharky – Flickr}

The Top 100 is Just a Rating

The Red Wings had four players who suited up for them during the 2013 season who were picked between  100 and 150 overall. Over 100 other players were picked before they were, but that didn’t stop them from from surpassing those drafted earlier. Former Red Wing and Stanley Cup Champion Dallas Drake was selected by the club 116th overall in 1989.

Gustav Nyquist – (121st overall, 2008). Nyquist was an offensive powerhouse at the University of Maine and tallied more than a point per game in his first AHL season in 2011-2012. His offensive numbers hasn’t yet translated to the NHL, but he had five points in the playoffs on the Wings’ third line, including an overtime winner and set up the tying goal in game seven against Chicago. His speed is his biggest strength and it makes him very dangerous. 

Kyle Quincey – (132nd overall, 2003). Quincey didn’t stick with the Red Wings on his first tenure with the club and was claimed by Los Angeles off waivers in 2008. The Wings reacquired him from the Tampa Bay Lightning for their first round pick last year. Quincey has cemented himself in the top four on the blueline for the Wings and was a +7 in the regular season, fourth best amongst Red Wings.

Darren Helm – (132nd overall, 2005). Drafted the same overall, but a round later than Quincey was, Helm was a prolific scorer in junior. He missed all but one game for the Red Wings in 2013 with a back injury, but is regarded as one of the most underrated players on the team. He centers the third line and thrives in his checking role. He is reliable for 10 goals and around 25 points in his checking role.

(Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)
(Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Petr Mrazek – (141st overall, 2010). Mrazek is the future in the crease for the Wings. He only has two NHL starts, but he is only in his first year professionally. The former star of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, Mrazek was a standout as the starting goalie for the Czech Republic at the 2012 World Junior Championship. He is a big game player and has started every playoff game for the Wings’ AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins who are currently one win away from claiming the Calder Cup.

Diamonds in the Rough

The Wings’ best players have been found late in the draft. There is no debate that the Red Wings are good and finding diamonds in the rough. Most teams find their star players with an early draft pick, but the Wings decided to take another route. The relentless netfront presence Tomas Holmstrom was a part of this group, selected 257th in 1994.

Pavel Datsyuk – (171st overall, 1998). He lead the team in scoring, and he was nominated for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded to the best defensive

Pavel Datsyuk Red Wings
The most decorated Red Wing was selected 171st overall in 1998.(Warren Wimmer/Icon SMI)
forward, for the seventh time. Datsyuk is widely considered one of the most dangerous players in the game and he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round. He won the Selke three straight times, he won the Lady Bing Trophy, to the leagues most gentlemanly player, four straight times, was nominated for the Hart Trophy as the regular season MVP once and won two Stanley Cups. There was rumours that Datsyuk was going to head to the KHL to finish his career in Russia, but reports have come out stating that he intends to re-sign with Detroit.

Jan Mursak – (186th overall, 2006). Mursak has appeared in games the past three seasons for the Wings, but hasn’t be able to produce in the NHL yet. An 80-point player in junior, Mursak is still struggling to bring his offensive dominance to the professional level. However, there is still hope he can be the latest late-round steal for the Wings.

Henrik Zetterberg –  (210th overall, 1999). The Wings’ new captain was picked with what is now the final pick in the draft. He consistently produces at a point per game for Detroit and is always a threat in the playoffs. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the playoff MVP, in 2008 along with the Stanley Cup. He also won Olympic gold with Sweden in 2006. Not bad for someone who was passed up 209 times.

Jonathan Ericsson – (291st overall, 2002). Not only is he the lowest pick on this list, he was the last pick in the 2002 draft. Now, he plays on the top defence pair for the Red Wings. The departure of three of the Wings’ top four blue liners opened the door for Ericsson and he did not disappoint in his first season of top pair duty. His speed is his biggest setback, but he makes up for it with his 6’4″ frame and excellent positioning.