Red Wings pick Sandin Pellikka takes long road to draft

Detroit News

Detroit – Axel Sandin Pellikka was determined to get to the NHL Entry Draft.

How determined?

The Wings’ second first-round draft pick Wednesday, the 17th pick overall, drove 15 hours Tuesday from New York to get to Nashville for the draft.

Sandin Pellikka and his parents, grandmother, brother, agent and friend and fellow Wings’ prospect Liam Dower Nilson got into New York Monday but their flight was cancelled to Nashville. The group spent the night in New York and decided the best course of action Tuesday was drive to Nashville instead of finding another flight.

So they rented two cars and made the 15-hour trek to the Entry Draft.

“We tried to find a solution and the best one was to drive,” said Sandin Pellikka at his news conference after getting drafted by the Wings. “It was a 15-hour drive. The last four hours I was driving and my arms started to feel numb. I looked over at my agent and he was laying there, sleeping.

“It was a new experience for me. I’ve only had my driver’s license for like a month before I got to drive here in the U.S.”

More: What they’re saying: Wings pick Sandin Pellikka gets better reviews than Danielson

Sandin Pellikka and his group put on “Country Roads” to add music to the trip and stopped at the usual American fast food joints.

“We stopped at all the good things America has to offer, Chipotle, Five Guys, those kind of places,” said Sandin Pellikka, who also got phone calls from his mother who was in the other car telling him to slow down.

The trip was worth it, especially after Sandin Pellikka heard his name called by the Wings.

For Danielson, too.

“Just a dream come true,” said Danielson at his media scrum after getting drafted. “I couldn’t believe it at all.”

Both players felt they good interviews at the draft combine in Buffalo with the Wings and felt positive they’d be drafted by the Wings.

“But it doesn’t feel real until it happens,” Danielson said.

Danielson is a two-way center with size, leadership qualities (he’s the captain for Brandon in the WHL) and a growing offensive game.

Kris Draper, the Wings’ amateur scouting director, likens Danielson to the Wings’ first-round pick last year, center Marco Kasper.

More: Red Wings may go west to draft Wheat Kings center Nate Danielson

“They are similar,” Draper said. “They don’t cheat the game and have a passion for the game.”

Draper was pleased to hear Connor Bedard, the No. 1 overall pick who went to Chicago, say Danielson was one of the toughest players to go against in the WHL last season.

“That stands out in an interview,” Draper said. “That put a little smile on our face.”

Yzerman felt Danielson’s versatility stood out.

“There’s a lot to like about him, he’s a good all-around prospect,” Yzerman said.

Sandin Pellikka is an offensive defenseman who can effectively run a power play, is an elite skater and puck mover, and is a right-hand shot (as is Danielson), something the Wings are lacking in their system on defense.

“We had priorities and we think we were able to address two of them tonight,” general manager Steve Yzerman said.

More: Red Wings select center Danielson, defenseman Sandin Pellikka with first-round picks

Sandin Pellikka is “a good fit” said Yzerman, a mobile right-hand shot who will complement what the Wings already have in the organization.

“He skates well and has very good hockey sense,” Yzerman said. “He’s a little bit different than what we have in our system, so he’s a good fit.”

The Wings selected Sandin Pellikka with the draft pick they obtained from Vancouver in the trade for defenseman Filip Hronek, a defenseman with some of the attributes Sandin Pellikka possesses.

“He plays the game the right way,” Draper said. “We really like his hockey sense and poise with the puck. We saw a lot of him in international play and he’s real smart and knows how to manage the game.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews

Twitter: @tkulfan

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