Tondar's Daily Rant

Prepare yourself for the writings of Tondar the Destroyer, Baron of Atlanta, Rightful Heir to the Throne of Spain, from whom all babies come. As his will be blogged, so let it be done.

Friday, November 16, 2007


From Seth...

How have the Red Wings stayed so good?

Their drafting has been downright incredible.

I need statistics on this, but from the looks of things, it seems the Wings have drafted in the worst position of any franchise from 1997 to 2007 -- by a WIDE WIDE WIDE margin. Yet they've also had the greatest percentage of their draft picks reach the NHL, again by a WIDE margin. In that time, they haven't once picked above 20th overall, (Jakob Kindl at 19th overall) and had only 11 picks total in the first two rounds, most of those at the very end of the 2nd round.

Look at this 2002 draft:

Round 1 - No picks
Round 2 (58 overall) - Jiri Hudler, now centers 2nd scoring line for Detroit
Round 2 (63 overall) - Tomas Fleischmann, traded for Rob Lang, now Washington's top prospect
Round 3 (95 overall) - Valtteri Filppula, now left wing on 2nd scoring line for Detroit
Round 4 (131 overall) - Johan Berggren, didn't make NHL
Round 5 (166 overall) - Logan Koopmans, played college hockey, now top goalie in ECHL
Round 6 (197 overall) - Jimmy Cuddihy, went back to school, will re-enter draft
Round 7 (229 overall) - Derek Meech, now 7th defenseman for Detroit
Round 8 (260 overall) - Pierre-Olivier Beaulie, in ECHL, won't make NHL
Round 9 (262 overall) - Christian Soderstrom, prospect, 1st line for Farjestads in Swedish Elite League
Round 9 (291 overall) - Jonathan Ericsson, last pick of the draft who's becoming the next Jiri Fischer -- was the best defenseman in AHL last year, and will most likely be a Red Wings starter next year.

According to, just over 10 percent of players drafted in the NHL draft will become regulars in the NHL. Yet with no 1st round selection and the last pick of every round after that, the Red Wings managed to find five sure-fire NHL players, and two or three more with a good shot at it. As for other teams, well, the first choices were good, with Rick Nash, Kari Lehtonen, Jay Bouwmeester, Joni Pitkanen, Ryan Whitney, Joffrey Lupul, Eric Nystrom (GO BLUE!) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard among the Top 10 picks. but after that, except for 24th overall Alex Steen and 25th overall Cam Ward at the end of the first, and Jarrett Stoll and Matt Stajan in the 2nd, there's nobody close to Hudler, Fleischmann and Filppula. In other words, the Wings used the 58th, 63rd and 95th selections to grab three guys who should have been 13th, 14th and 15th overall, with picks left over to nab a potential starting NHL goalie in Koopmans, a solid defenseman in Meech and a potential star defenseman in Ericsson.

That just doesn't happen!

Was it a fluke? Let's look at the years surrounding it.

2003 Draft:
Round 1 - no picks
Round 2 (64 overall) - Jimmy Howard, future No. 1 goalie. Best goaltender in AHL
Round 3 - no picks
Round 4 (132 overall) - Kyle Quincey, played as 6th defenseman for Detroit in playoffs last year
Round 5 (164 overall) - Ryan Oulahen, projects as a future Kris Draper, now in AHL
Round 6 (170 overall) - Andreas Sundin, playing in Sweden, moon shot that didn't pan out.
Round 6 (194 overall) - Stefan Blom, playing in Sweden, moon shot that didn't pan out
Round 7 - no picks
Round 8 - no picks
Round 9 (289 overall) - Mikael Johansson, Red Wings lost rights, one of the best players in Sweden

So in 2003, with no 1st or 3rd round picks, they still got three NHL players from North America, and another guy who will be in the NHL out of three moon shots in the late rounds. The Wings got screwed by the NHL here, as there was a new rule created right after this draft (specifically created to screw the Wings by the way) that limits how many prospects a team can maintain the rights to overseas. This meant the Wings had to release the rights to Blom, Sundin and Johansson just two years after drafting them. 2003 was a big draft for the top, with Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Nathan Horton, Thomas Vanek (1st CCHA player taken, now best of the class), Milan Michalek, Ryan Suter, Dion Phaneuf, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry going off the board in the 1st round. It's too soon to tell with this draft, but whereas half the teams drafting in first round got a great player (and guys like No. 4 overall Nikolai Zherdev will likely pop this or next year), the 2nd round, aside from Patrice Bergeron, has yet to produce anything. Looking back, Howard should have been in the middle or end of the 1st round, say 20th overall, and Quincey probably belonged in the middle of the 2nd.

So what about the season before?

2001 Draft:
Round 1 - no picks
Round 2 (62 overall) - Igor Grigorenko, was the best prospect in the NHL until his car accident
Round 3 - no picks
Round 4 (121 overall) - Drew MacIntyre, good minor league goalie, probably won't make NHL
Round 4 (129 overall) - Miroslav Blatak, prospect, playing in Russia
Round 5 (157 overall) - Andreas Jamtin, won't make NHL
Round 6 (195 overall) - Nick Pannoni, goalie, won't make NHL
Round 7 - no picks
Round 8 (258 overall) - Dmitry Bykov, starting defenseman for Detroit, but moved to Russia during lockout
Round 9 (288 overall) - Francois Senez, won't make NHL

So out of seven picks, the Wings got one solid NHL year from Bykov. But Blatak might pop, and Grigorenko was on his way to being a superstar. Not horrible for no 1st or 3rd round choices.

Let's go back another year, when Detroit actually had two picks in the first three round (we traded our 2nd and 3rd to the Rangers to pick up Kopecky)

2000 Draft

Round 1 (29 overall) - Niklas Kronwall, now a 2nd line defenseman for Detroit with star potential
Round 2 (38 overall) - Tomas Kopecky, now a 3rd line forward for Detroit
Round 3 - no picks
Round 4 (102 overall) - Stefan Liv - Now rated the 3rd best goalie prospect (behind Jimmy Howard)
Round 4 (127 overall) - Dmitri Semyenov - playing in Russia, won't make NHL
Round 4 (128 overall) - Alexander Seluyanov - playing in Russia, probably won't make NHL
Round 4 (130 overall) - Aaron Van Leusen - lost rights, plays for Amsterdam (he's Canadian/Dutch)
Round 5 - no picks
Round 6 (187 overall) - Per Backer, lost rights, plays in Sweden
Round 6 (196 overall) - Paul Ballantyne, played some NHL during injury season, but won't be a regular
Round 7 (228 overall) - Jimmie Svensson, lost rights, won't play in NHL
Round 8 (251 overall) - Todd Jackson, won't play in NHL
Round 8 (260 overall) - Evgeni Bumagin, lost rights, won't play in NHL

This class more than any other demonstrates Ken Holland and Jim Nill's strategy prior to 2003, which was to draft European prospects with big upside but were big risks, then keep them in Europe until they panned out or showed they wouldn't. Of all these picks, two are already NHL starters for the Red Wings, and one more (Liv) has any shot of playing in the bigs. This is about what you'd expect from a good drafting team with a decent spot in the draft. But for the 2000 draft, it was spectacular, considering most teams didn't get ANYONE from this draft after the first 6 picks (DiPietro, Heatley, Gaborik, the disappointing Rostislav Klesla and Raffi Torres, and Scott Hartnell). From the whole rest of the 2000 draft, there's a chunk near the end of the 1st round (Alexander Frolov, Anton Volchenckov, Justin Williams, Niklas Kronwall and Jeff Taffe) very few guys who've become NHL regulars.

Of the rest of this draft, in NHL regulars, there's:
Nick Schulz
Andy Hilbert (1st CCHA player taken -- Go figure and GO BLUE!)
Tomas Kopecky
Ilja Bryzgalaov
Jarret Stoll
Andreas Lilja
Antoine Vermette
Dan Ellis (maybe)
Paul Martin
Justin Papineau
Michael Rupp
Kurt Sauer
Niclas Wallin
Lubomir Visnovsky
Travis Moen
John-Michael Liles
Darcy Hordichuk
Henrik Lundqvist
Matthew Lombardi
That's a pathetically weak draft. The only other teams to pick at least two starters from the 2000 draft were L.A. (Frolov, Visnovski and Lilja) and Colorado (Sauer and Liles). With perfect hindsight, if drafting in 2000 you'd have Heatley, Gaborik, Lundqvist, Visnovsky, Frolov, and then Kronwall, Liles, Volchenkov, Justin Williams, DiPietro, Martin, Bryzgalov, Schultz, Hartnell, then Kopecky. So the Wings ended up with 6th overall and 15th overall.

I could keep going.

We already spoke about how the Wings got Zetterberg in 1999 at 210 overall when, in hindsight, he should have been 1st overall. That's without having a pick before the end of the 4th round.

How about the 1998 draft, when the Wings picked up Jiri Fischer (though the 1st round was so deep that Jonathan Cheechoo went in the early 2nd) and Pavel Datsyuk at 171st overall after a strangely successful 6th round that netted Trent Hunter (150th overall), Gordie Dwyer (152), Chris Neil (161), Alex Kotalik (164), and Antero Nittymaki (168). The best 6th round in history ended with Niko Kapanen at 173. (Tyler Arnason, Tomas Divisek, Craig Murray, Jaroslav Svoboda, Jim Fahey, Michael Ryder, Karlis Skrastins, Bruno St. Jacques and Matt Hussey were all selected in the 7th or 8th rounds). But as deep as this draft was, who among these guys would you rather have than Datsyuk? Vince Lecavalier, no. 1 overall, for sure. Maybe (12th overall) Alex Tanguay? Surely not Legwand, Bryan Allen, Vitali Vishnevsky, Rico Fata, Manny Malhotra, Mark Bell, Michael Rupp, Nikolai Antropov, Martin Skoula, Mathieu Biron, Simon Gagane, Robin Regehr, Scott Gomez, Mike Van Ryn, Mike Fisher, Justin Papineau, Mike Ribiero, Chris Nielsen, Denis Arkhipov, or even 3rd rounder Brad Richards? Not Erik Cole (3rd round). Or Brian Gionta (3rd round). Or Ponikarovsky, Vasicek, Horcoff, Spacek, Raycrofk, Kloucek, Belanger, or Mikael Samuelsson?


My point is this was a ludicrously deep draft, yet the Wings ended up with the guy I think we can fairly call the 2nd best overall.

That's 12 sure-fire NHL players, including two superstars, and four more guys who will most likely be NHL regulars, from 1998 to 2003 -- six draft years. In that time, the Wings had just TWO first round picks. And that's not counting the star prospects we've drafted in the four years since then who will most likely become NHL regulars, including Jacob Kindl, Johan Ryno, Jan Mursak, Brendan Smith, Justin Abdelkalder, Dick Axelsson, Darren Helm, Daniel Larsson, Cory Emmerton, Evan McGrath, Mattias Ritola, Logan Pyett, Gennady Stolyarov and Anton Axellsson; and of course 2004 pick Johan Franzen, who's in his second season as a Red Wings starter.

Compare that to the years before. Aside from a few lucky bursts, the Wings were pretty pedestrian drafters, and it showed once they got too good to be drafting in the Top 10.

From 1992 to 1997, among NHL regulars, we drafted only Darren McCarty (46 overall, 1992), Dan McGillis (238 overall, 1992), Matthieu Dandenault (49 overall, 1995), and Tomas Holmstrom (257 overall, 1995).

Rebuilding-Era Drafts:

10 - Martin Lapointe
32 - Jamie Pushor
54 - Chris Osgood
76 - Mike Knuble

3 - Keith Primeau
45 - Slava Kozlov
129 - Jason York

11 - Mike Sillinger
32 - Bob Boughner
53 - Nicklas Lidstrom
74 - Sergei Fedorov
221 - Vladimir Konstantinov

No NHL regulars drafted (Kory Kocur at 11th overall, but it was a really weak draft. Tony Amonte, Alexander Mogilny, Mark Recchi and Rob Blake were taken in late rounds

No NHL regulars drafted (we grabbed Yves Racine when Joe Sakic was on the board, and the Canadiens walked away with John LeClair, Andrew Cassels, Eric Desjardins and Mathieu Schneider!)

1 - Joe Murphy
22 - Adam Graves
85 - Johan Garpenlov

8 - Brent Fedyk
50 - Steve Chiasson
113 - Randy McKay

7 - Shawn Burr
28 - Doug Houda
(Patrick Roy went 51st, Brett Hull 117th, and Luc Robitaille at 171st. Ungh!)

4 - Steve Yzerman
46 - Bob Probert
86 - Petr Klima
88 - Joey Kocur
186 - Stu Grimson

That Stu Grimson thing is a laugher. People notice that he was drafted in '83 with Yzerman and Klima and the Bash Brothers and mention him too. But the Wings didn't get Grimson until much, much later. He never signed, and re-entered the draft two years later. The Red Wings got Grimson when we traded Sillinger and York to the Mighty Ducks.

So to wrap up: a good NHL team gets one regular NHL player per yer from their drafts, and one star every 10 years. The Red Wings had a good 1983 draft, but performed well below that for awhile. The pop came in 1999. Sillinger didn't take a lot of brain power -- he was the last sure bet left on a bad draft board. And Boughner wasn't a brilliant pick by any stretch. But in a draft this weak, rather than keep grabbing the next-available Canadian on the board, the Red Wings started acting weird. I couldn't find it today, but there's video evidence of a laugh going around the room when Sergei Fedorov was selected. It supposedly happened again when Konstantinov was picked.

As it turned out, those late round additions of Lidstrom, Fedorov and Konstantinov would become key members of the powerhouse Red Wing teams of the 1990s.

Who gets the credit? The whole organization, really. It was Neil Smith and European director Christer Rockstrom who picked Lidstrom. But it's been their successors, Jim Nill and Hakan Andersson who've been the real stars.

Here's some dates in Detroit scouting

1982: Mike Ilitch purchases Red Wings from Bruce Norris
1983: Yzerman, Probert, Kocur, Sillinger drafted
1985: Ken Holland joins Red Wings as scout
1987: Jacques Demers hired as head coach, Red Wings make it to semifinals
1989: Demers, others, fired after attempts to trade Yzerman.
1989: Lidstrom and Fedorov drafted.
1993: Scotty Bowman hired as head coach
1993: Holland named associate GM, engineers Russian Five and acquires Paul Coffey
1993: Holland acquires Kris Draper for $1.00
1994: Hakan Andersson joins staff as scout, recommends drafting Holmstrom
1994: Jim Nill joins staff as scout
1995: Ken Holland acquires Larry Murphy on the cheap from Toronto
1995: Red Wings swept in Stanley Cup Finals by New Jersey
1995: Holland acquires Kirk Maltby for Dan McGillis
1995-96 season: Detroit sets NHL record with 62 regular-season wins
1996: Holland engineers Shanahan trade
1997: Red Wings win Stanley Cup
1997: Ken Holland promoted to General Manager
1997: Jim Nill promoted to chief of scouting
1997: Hakan Andersson presses for Wings to select Pavel Datsyuk, but he goes undrafted
1998: Hakan Andersson becomes chief of European scouting, drafts Pavel Datsyuk
1998: Red Wings win Stanley Cup
1999: Ken Holland pulls off major trade deadline deals, including the acquisition of Chris Chelios, but also gives away many 1999 and 2000 draft picks.
1999: Hakan Andersson drafts Henrik Zetterberg
2000: Hakan Andersson drafts Niklas Kronwall in 1st round, first six picks are Europeans
2001: Ken Holland acquires Dominick Hasek for Slava Kozlov, high draft picks.
2002: Red Wings win Stanley Cup, Scotty Bowman retires
2002: Dave Lewis hired as head coach
2002: Ken Holland acquires Mathieu Schneider for Avery, Kuznetsov, and two high draft picks
2003: Ken Holland acquires Rob Lang for prospects, high draft picks
2004: Hakan Andersson drafts Johan Franzen
2004-05: NHL Lockout, season canceled, no draft
2005: Mike Babcock hired as head coach
2006: Steve Yzerman retires at end of 2005-06 season, Lidstrom named captain
2007: Red Wings reach Western Conference Finals

For awhile, people believed the Red Wings were buying championships like the Yankees of hockey. But as you can see, this team was built from within, using superior scouting to draft NHL players at a significantly higher clip than their competition. This has allowed the Red Wings to continue supplying the clup with home-grown talent, as well as tradeable prospects. Most importantly, the scouting has allowed Detroit to find NHL-level talent consistently in late rounds when management traded away so many 1st and 2nd round draft picks to acquire top NHL talent. Money allowed the team to stay together, but it's the scouting that built this team into the premier franchise in the league, both with and without a salary cap.


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