First off, let's get this out of the way right off the bat: yes, Detroit drafted Pavel Datsyuk in the 6th round of the '98 draft, 171st overall. Detroit followed that up in 1999 by picking Henrik Zetterberg in the 7th round with the 210th overall pick. These were two generational low-round draft picks, two guys that put an aging Wings core on their back to keep the team respectable as the Yzermans and Shanahans faded away and left, and then combined with the holdover Lidstrom to take a solid team with questionable goaltending to a Stanley Cup in 2008. Credit where it's due. Certainly, by any standard, finding two arguable, borderline Hall Of Famers in the 6th and 7th rounds in consecutive seasons is remarkable; so remarkable, in fact, that we are willing to ignore the duds the AmWings picked BEFORE those players in their draft years. Illustrious names such as Ryan Barnes and Tomek Valtonen (both 2nd rd, 1998), Brent Hobday (4th rd, 1998), Jari Tolsa (4th rd, 1999) and Andrei Maximenko (5th rd, 1999) dot those draft lists. Certainly, AmWings apologists will howl "WELL, 28 OTHER TEAMS PASSED THOSE GUYS UP, WE KNEW NOBODY ELSE IS AS SMART AS WE ARE, SO WE COULD AFFORD TO LET DATSYUK AND ZETTERBERG FALL!", and that's because AmWings fans are insufferable, arrogant simps. The thought process to truly believe that the Wings just KNEW those two players would fall into their laps that late in their draft years takes an almost unbelievable stretch in logic. Undoubtedly, their scouting department did their due diligence on the two players, but to insist that they were anything more than just late-round flyers that panned out famously is simply obtuse. In fact, to completely buy into the argument that Detroit knew what they were doing because they're smarter than everyone else in the room would lead one to believe that the Wings would have drafted EVERY late-round "steal" in subsequent seasons. To that end, let's start in draft year 2000, and work our way up through the first post-lockout draft, 2005, and see how our delicate genius friends in "Hockeytown" did in the late rounds (6th and beyond).
2000 late-round "steals": Henrik Lundqvist (G, round 7, 205th overall, NYR); Matthew Lombardi (C, round 7, 215th overall, Edm); Paul Gaustad (C, round 7, 220 overall, Buf); Antti Miettinen (LW, round 7, 224th overall, Dal)
2000 late-round Detroit picks: Par Backer (C, round 6, 187th overall); Paul Ballantyne (D, round 6, 196th overall)
2001 late-round "steals": Dennis Seidenberg (D, round 6, 172nd overall, Phi); Ryane Clowe (LW, round 6, 175th overall, SJ); Marek Zidlicky (D, round 6, 176th overall, NYR); Jussi Jokinen (LW, round 6, 192nd overall, Dal); Brooks Laich (C, round 6, 193rd overall, Ott); Johnny Oduya (D, round 7, 221st overall, Wsh); Marek Svatos (RW, round 7, 227th overall, Col); Milan Jurcina (D, round 8, 241st overall, Bos)
2001 late-round Detroit picks: Nick Pannoni (G, round 6, 195th overall); Dmitry Bykov (D, round 8, 258th overall)
2002 late-round "steals": Ian White (D, round 6, 191st overall, Tor); Maxime Talbot (C, round 8, 234th overall, Pit)*; Dennis Wideman (D, round 8, 241st overall, Buf)
2002 late-round Detroit picks: Jimmy Cuddihy (C, round 6, 197th overall); Derek Meech (D, round 7, 229th overall); Pierre-Olivier Beaulieu (D, round 8, 260th overall); Christian Soderstrom (D, round 9, 262nd overall); Jonathan Ericsson (D, round 9, 291st overall)
* - denotes player(s) that singlehandedly outscored Detroit in game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final
2003 late-round "steals": Joe Pavelski (C, round 7, 205th overall, SJ); Tobias Enstrom (D, round 8, 239th overall, Atl); Dustin Byfuglien (D, round 8, 245th overall, Chi); Shane O'Brien (D, round 8, 250th overall, Ana); Matt Moulson (LW, round 9, 253rd overall, Pit); Jaroslav Halak (G, round 9, 271st overall, Mtl); David Jones (RW, round 9, 288th overall, Col)
2003 late-round Detroit picks: Andreas Sundin (LW, round 6, 170th overall); Stefan Blom (D, round 6, 194th overall); Tomas Kollar (LW, round 7, 226th overall); Vladimir Kutny (LW, round 8, 258th overall); Mikael Johansson (C, round 9, 289th overall)
2004 late-round "steals": Roman Polak (D, round 6, 180th overall, StL); Troy Brouwer (LW, round 7, 214th overall, Chi); Chris Campoli (D, round 7, 227th overall, NYI); Pekka Rinne (G, round 8, 258th overall, Nsh); Mark Streit (D, round 9, 262nd overall, Mtl); Jannik Hansen (RW, round 9, 287th overall, Van)
2004 late-round Detroit picks: Anton Axelsson (LW, round 6, 192nd overall); Steve Covington (RW, round 7, 226th overall); Gennady Stolyarov (RW, round 8, 257th overall)
2005 late-round "steals": Matt D'Agostini (RW, round 6, 190th overall, Mtl); Sergei Kostitsyn (RW, round 7, 200th overall, Mtl); Patric Hornqvist (RW, round 7, 230th overall, Nsh)
2005 late-round Detroit picks: Juho Mielonen (D, round 6, 175th overall); Bretton Stamler (D, round 7, 214th overall)
Some things we can take away from this list:
- Most teams are represented at least once, with several showing up two or more times
- Detroit drafted exactly ONE player past the fifth round that is still with the team (Ericsson), and two fringe players that saw any time at all in the NHL (Bykov, Meech).
- Interesting to note several players passed on by the "geniuses" in Detroit that have come back to haunt the Wings (Talbot, Pavelski, and Clowe, most notably).