Detroit Red Wings’ 2020 NHL draft spots have produced plenty of talent

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Red Wings enter this year’s NHL draft with a hefty 10 picks spread over two days, starting with the No. 4 overall pick on Tuesday night.

Realistically, if just two or three of those draftees after the first round end up contributing at the NHL level, it’ll have been a successful draft for general manager Steve Yzerman and his front office.

But what if they really hit it out of the park — or, in hockey terms, what if they really fill up the net? Yzerman went No. 4 himself back in 1983, and that worked out, uh, pretty well.

While it’s impossible to predict that level of success for this year’s No. 4 pick — no pressure, fellas! — it might be instructive to look at the best player taken by any NHL team at each of the Red Wings’ draft spots this season, with an eye on the absolute best-case scenario in each round.

[ Yzerman reveals his NHL draft strategy ]

Let’s start at the top with …

No. 4: F Steve Yzerman

Back in 1983, after the Red Wings drafted him at fourth overall, Steve Yzerman eyeballed the rebuilding team and deemed he had a chance to make it.

What, you thought we were picking Lanny McDonald (with no offense to the Hall of Famer or his epic mustache)? No, we’ll go with The Captain, who, you may have heard, spent all 22 NHL seasons with the Red Wings and amassed 692 goals, 1,063 assists and three Stanley Cup. Oddly enough, though, Yzerman isn’t the top No. 4 pick in goals or assists; Mike Gartner, the Washington Capitals’ pick in ’79, finished with 708 goals, and Ron Francis, picked by the Whalers in 1981, had 1,249 assists. Still, Stevie Y was No. 2 in both categories, which is good enough for us.

Active: You could build an All-Star-caliber squad with No. 4 picks still playing in 2020 (with one caveat). At forward, you’d have Mitch Marner (2015, Maple Leafs), Andrew Ladd (2004, Hurricanes) and Nicklas Backstrom (2006, Capitals). At defense, pick two from the trio of Alex Pietrangelo (2008, Blues), Cale Makar (2017, Avalanche) and Seth Jones (2013, Predators). We have to cheat a little at goalie, though; Roberto Luongo (1997, Islanders) is the only netminder ever taken at No. 4, and he hung up his pads in 2019 after 19 seasons.

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No. 32: D Eric Weinrich

Vancouver Canucks' Tim Hunter, left, checks Chicago Blackhawks' Eric Weinrich as the two battle for the puck during the first period of their second-round playoff game on May 23, 1995, in Chicago.

With the No. 1 pick of Day 2 (and also the final time No. 32 is a second-rounder, as the NHL will be at 32 teams for the 2021 draft as Seattle enters the league), the Wings will be hoping to do better than their 2009 pick, Landon Ferraro, who finished with seven goals and five assists in 77 career NHL appearances.

If their pick ended up with a career like Weinrich’s, well, they could do worse. Taken by the Devils in 1985, the Maine product spent 17 years in the NHL, playing for eight teams. Weinrich, a stay-at-home defenseman, never scored more than seven goals in a season, but had just five seasons with a negative plus/minus and finished with 70 goals and 318 assists in 1,157 games.

Oh, and whoever the Wings take, keep an eye on them for future coaching opportunities; current Devils coach Lindy Ruff (1979, Sabres) and Sharks coach Bob Boughner (1989, Red Wings) each went 32nd overall.

Active: Forward Christian Fischer has 35 goals and 28 assists in Arizona since the Coyotes drafted him in 2015.

[ 10 free-agent goalies the Wings could look at this offseason ]

No. 45: F Patrice Bergeron

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) battles with Red Wings center Riley Sheahan (15) after a face-off during the first period of the Wings' 5-2 loss Thursday in Boston.

It was tempting to go with Slava Kozlov, drafted in 1990, based on his role as part of the Wings’ Russian Five and his nearly 1,200 games played. Both have 11 20-goal seasons, too. But Bergeron, who has stuck with the Bruins since his selection in 2003, has four fewer goals (352 to 356) and 20 more assists (517-497) in about 100 fewer games played. Bergeron also gets the nod based on his trophy case, with four Selke Trophies (given to the league’s top defensive forward) and 11 consecutive top-five finishes in Selke voting.

Active: Bergeron is still going, but we’ll also give a nod to a defenseman with Detroit ties: Jeff Petry, the son of former Tigers pitcher Dan Petry, has 69 goals and 184 assists since the Oilers selected him in 2006. Petry signed a four-year, $25 million extension with the Montreal Canadiens late last month, too.

No. 55: F Jason Pominville

Sabres right wing Jason Pominville prepares to shoot on Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard during the first period Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 in Detroit.

Pominville (2001, Sabres) was a Selke winner early in his hockey career. Not in the NHL, though. In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where the Selke Trophy is given to the league’s “most gentlemanly” player. So even as a teenager, Pominville was a decent dude. And he continued that over a 15-year NHL career, drawing votes for the Lady Byng Trophy (the NHL’s “most gentlemanly” award) in 13 seasons. He also received votes for the NHL’s Selke five times, which gives a good picture of the personification of the Sabres and Wild, the two teams he played his 1,060 games for: You don’t have a grudge against him, but he’s never going to win anything major. He finished his career with 293 goals, 434 assists and a plus-44 rating. Welcome to Pominville.

Active: Defenseman Dmitry Orlov (2009, Capitals) has 37 goals and 143 assists in 516 games, and drew Norris votes in 2017.

No. 63: F David Krejci

Boston Bruins center David Krejci, left, tangles with Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Monday, Dec. 29, 2014.

At the risk of upsetting Dominic Turgeon (2014, Red Wings) and our spell check, we’re going with Krejci, who was selected by the Bruins in 2004. Since then, he has 207 goals, 479 assists and a plus-127 rating in 911 games, all tops among his fellow No. 63 picks. Krejci should be at it again next season, the final year of a six-year, $43.5 million contract.

Active: If Krejci isn’t enough for you, Turgeon recently signed a one-year extension with the Wings; he led the Grand Rapids Griffins with two short-handed goals in 2019-20 before the season’s stoppage.

[ How the Red Wings’ back-to-back Stanley Cups rank in NHL history ]

No. 65: F Kirk Maltby

Detroit Red Wings forward Kirk Maltby, right, and Colorado Avalanche forward Dan Hinote collide at the Pepsi Center in Denver on May 22, 2002.

The Oilers selected him in 1992 following his 50-goal season in juniors (which, admittedly, came a year after he was draft-eligible and went unselected). In 164 games in Edmonton, he had 21 goals, 17 assists and 184 penalty minutes. But it all clicked when he was traded to the Red Wings (for the rights to college defenseman Dan McGillis) in 1996. Maltby, along with Kris Draper, Darren McCarty and Joe Kocur, formed the Grind Line, which played a key part in the Wings’ four modern Stanley Cups. Maltby finished with 107 goals, 115 assists and 683 penalty minutes in 908 games wearing the Winged Wheel.

Active: Defenseman Adam Pelech (2012, Islanders) has 12 goals in five seasons with the Isles and added a playoff tally in this year’s Eastern Conference finals.

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No. 107: G Kirk McLean

Rangers' Brian Leetch and Canucks' goaltender Kirk McLean.

The Wings did OK in 1981 when they drafted forward Gerard Gallant, who put up 207 goals in 563 games with the franchise. But we’re going to go with McLean (Devils, 1984), who had two top-three finishes in Vezina voting during a 15-year career with the Devils, Canucks, Panthers and Rangers. His best season came with the Canucks in 1991-92, when he led the NHL in victories (38) and shutouts (5) while posting a .901 save percentage and 2.74 GAA. Ah, the days before the left-wing lock.

Active: Forward Christian Wolanin (2015, Senators) wins this by default, though he played just three games in Ottawa in 2019-20.

No. 125: G Reggie Lemelin

Ron Duguay (sans helmet) scores a goal as Steve Yzerman and Calgary's Steve Tambellini, Jim Peoliniski and Reggie Lemelin look on.

Only seven No. 125 picks have appeared in the NHL, and two of them are goalies: Lemelin (1974, Flyers) and Chad Johnson (Penguins, 2006). Lemelin was, by far, the more successful of the two, with 236 regular-season wins and rate stats (3.46 GAA, .884 save percentage) that weren’t bad for the ’80s-era NHL. The Quebec City native — a teammate in Calgary nicknamed him “The Canadian Tretiak,” comparing him with Russian goaltending great Vladislav Tretiak — had five top-10 finishes in Vezina voting with the Flames and Bruins and paired with Andy Moog on the 1989-90 Bruins to allow the fewest goals that season.

Active: Forward Dmytro Timashov (2015, Maple Leafs) made his debut this season with 44 games in Toronto before Yzerman nabbed the Swede on waivers in February. He played five games with the Wings and should push for a job in ’20-21, assuming he signs as a restricted free agent.

No. 156: F Peter Bondra, D Brian Campbell

Red Wings left wing Tomas Tatar shoots while being defended by Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell in the first period.

The pair, selected seven years apart, played almost the exact same amount of games, so we’re calling this one a tie. Bondra, taken by the Caps in 1990, played 1,081 games and finished 43rd all-time in goals (503), with 472 coming over 14 seasons for Washington. Campbell went to the Sabres in 1997 and has one more career game (1,082) and 87 goals over 17 seasons, including five seasons finishing in the top-10 in Norris voting. His 417 assists, though, are good for 56th all-time among defensemen.

Active: Defenseman Jared Spurgeon (2008, Islanders) has had a solid 10-year career with the Minnesota Wild, including four seasons with double-digit goals in the past five.

No. 187: G Frederik Andersen

Apr 1, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen makes the save in front of Justin Abdelkader in the third period of the Red Wings' 5-4 loss at Joe Louis Arena.

Andersen was taken by the Hurricanes in 2010, but he didn’t come to North America until the Ducks selected him 87th overall in 2012. (He still counts, though, for our purposes.) The only Danish goalie in NHL history, Andersen turned 31 on Friday. Happy belated birthday to the “Ginga Ninja” — we got you the hopes and dreams of the entire Maple Leafs fan base to rest on your shoulders; someday the franchise will advance past the first round of the playoffs. (The Leafs’ last playoff-series victory came in 2004, when Andersen was 14.)

Active: All kidding aside, Andersen has been doing his best to carry the Leafs with a .916 save percentage and 2.77 GAA over the past four seasons. No goalie has started more games (244) faced more shots (7,798) or made more saves (7,142) over that span.

Contact Ryan Ford at Follow him on Twitter @theford

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