Before Greatness: Red Wings’ Steve Yzerman’s Rookie Season

The Hockey Writers

Steve Yzerman spent all 22 of his NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wing, leading the team to three Stanley Cups and multiple personal awards. Yzerman ranks seventh all-time in the NHL in points (1,755) and second all-time in Red Wings franchise history behind only Gordie Howe.

Yzerman was drafted fourth overall by the Red Wings at the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. He was not the organization’s first choice, but he turned out to be an amazing long-term asset for the club. But what was his rookie season in 1983-84 like? Did he display his greatness early on?

Yzerman’s Rookie Stats

Yzerman’s numbers during his first season in the NHL were incredible, with 39 goals and 48 assists in 80 games. That averages out to 1.08 points per game (PPG). The most recent rookie to score over a PPG in their rookie season was Mat Barzal in 2017-18 with 85 points in 82 games (1.03 PPG).

Steve Yzerman Detroit Red Wings
Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Yzerman put the puck on net 177 times for a 22% shooting percentage – the highest of his career. His career average was 15%, and he only eclipsed 20% one other time.

Yzerman’s NHL Rookie Accolades

Despite his incredible production, Yzerman did not win the Calder Trophy. He came in second to Tom Barrasso, a goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres. However, at 18 years old, he became the youngest player to ever play in an NHL All-Star Game. Jeff Skinner, at 18 years and 259 days old, broke Yzerman’s record 27 years later while playing for the Carolina Hurricanes.

“I admired him and idolized him as a player here in the Detroit area…I remember how upset I was when he didn’t get rookie of the year when Tommy Barrasso, who had a great year, got it. I felt Steve deserved it, and from then on, the way he grew in the league is what impressed me.”

Doug Weight – Former player and Michigan native.

Yzerman’s 87 points were not good enough to finish in the top ten in NHL scoring, but it was a remarkable season for arguably one of the greatest players of all time. Wayne Gretzky tallied 205 points in the 1983-1984 season.

Yzerman’s Playing Style

Yzerman began his career as a dynamic and offensively gifted player. With the puck on his stick, he was unstoppable, weaving through pressure with his stickhandling and fantastic hand-eye coordination. He didn’t have the biggest frame (5-foot-10), but he used his body to help create separation between his opponent and the puck.

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Yzerman’s rookie season was just a taste of the talent he developed into in his storied career.

“Steve was a fun, flashy player who was great to watch when he came into the league. Over time you could see how badly he wanted to win and he added other dimensions to his game. He started blocking shots, playing better defense and taking his leadership to a whole other level. He would grind when the game had to be grinded out or score a big, finesse goal when his team needed it. He became a complete player and a complete leader. I witnessed it first-hand playing in Colorado, although I wish I wouldn’t have seen it so close. He was a big part of their success and one of the best who’s ever played the game.”

Adam Foote – former captain of the Colorado Avalanche.

The Captain

Yzerman is still one of the youngest players to ever be named captain (or alternate captain), which was only at the beginning of his fourth season with the Red Wings. At the time, he was the youngest, at 21 years and 153 days old.

Related: Steve Yzerman The Legendary Captain

However, he was named an alternate captain in his sophomore campaign and wore the ‘A’ for two full seasons before receiving the ‘C’. Although his strong leadership skills were apparent from the beginning.

Steve Yzerman Red Wings
Steve Yzerman (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Despite his small size, Yzerman was immediately the best player on the team. Jim Devellano, general manager of the Red Wings when he was drafted, said it was clear in the first five minutes of training camp that Yzerman was the best player there, and by the end of his rookie season, he led the team in points.

Yzerman Was Always Great

Yzerman was always a fantastic player. The major hurdles came after his rookie season with various injuries and team struggles, but, from the beginning, it was clear he had a Hall-of-Fame career ahead of him. Did his rookie season preclude his greatness? No. Yzerman was always great.

“Steve Yzerman was a tremendous hockey player who epitomized everything good about our game. He loved the game and played with passion every night. He was a winner who led Detroit to three Stanley Cups and was always there for his country to represent Canada on the international stage. He was the face of the Detroit Red Wings and will be remembered as one of the best players and leaders that ever played the game of hockey. It was a pleasure to have worked with him.”

Wayne Gretzky – The Great One



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