The Red Wings’ history of first-round draft picks is not favorable. This is our second column from Bruce Mason that takes a look at the Wings’ history of first-round selections.
Read the first part, “Red Wings have had tough luck with their first round picks”
For such a dominant organization that’s among the best in all of professional sports, its quite humorous – and impressive – that the Wings have had 39 first-round picks, and just one stayed for his entire career: Steve Yzerman.
Here’s a look at the rest of the first-round history:
Wings general manager Bryan Murray made a solid selection in Martin Lapointe (10th overall, 1991), but he could have selected a dynamic player such as Alexei Kovalev (1,029 points), who was selected 15th overall, or Markus Naslund (869 points) taken 16th overall. Lapointe had 381 career NHL points and 1,417 penalty minutes.
In 1992, Murray selected Curtis Bowen (22nd overall), who never played an NHL game. And in 1993, he chose defenseman Anders Eriksson, who played 151 games across three seasons but never reached his potential. The very next pick after Eriksson? Todd Bertuzzi (New York Islanders), who later went to Vancouver and scored 25 goals or more in five of six seasons from 1999-2000 through 2005-06.
BAD STRING OF DEFENSMEN MISFORTUNES
Eriksson was just the start of a bad string of luck with defensemen selections. The Wings followed with Yan Golubovsky (23rd overall, 1994), Maxim Kuznetsov (26th overall, 1995), Jesse Wallin (26th overall, 1996) and Jiri Fischer (1998, 25th overall).
Fischer’s case was a tragedy. On November 21, 2005, he collapsed on the Wings’ bench in a game against Nashville. He went into cardiac arrest and was unconscious for six minutes, needing CPR and a defibrillator.
He continued to have heart issues. Doctors never cleared him to play again.
JURY IN SESSION
This pertains to Riley Sheahan (21st overall, 2010), Brendan Smith (27 overall, 2007), and Jakub Kindl (19th overall, 2005).
The cynic will point to the troubles of Smith in college (disorderly conduct charge in 2010) and on the ice (see: Game 6 vs. Chicago, third period). Then there’s Sheahan’s well-exploited DUI incident in Grand Rapids.
But the optimist says Kindl’s strong finish last year will bode well for the future, Sheahan was a significant factor in Grand Rapids’ Calder Cup victory (16 points in 24 playoff games) and better days lie ahead for Smith, whose offensive upside and skating abilities will likely exceed early growing pains.
Kindl, by the way, was selected two picks ahead of Boston goalie Tuuka Rask, so let’s hope he pans out. And for those of you who counter with “The Wings had Jimmy Howard in the system!,” well, here’s this: The Wings still managed to spend a first-round draft pick on a goalie in 2008 (Thomas McCollum, 30th overall), so the Howard point is irrelevant.
ROUNDING OUT THE HISTORY
Willie Huber (9th overall, 1978) pulled off the incredible feat of finishing every season in the minus column. We should call him “wind chill.” He finished an astounding minus-203 in 10 NHL seasons. (Andreas Lilja couldn’t do that if he tried!)
Not to be forgotten with Huber: Fred Williams (4th overall, 1976), who was minus-17 in 44 NHL games and Bill Lochead (9th overall, 1974), who was a minus-30 in his rookie year and finished his career minus-74 in 330 career games with three teams.
Murray Craven (17th overall, 1982) was chosen one pick ahead of Ken Daneyko, who went to New Jersey and stayed there for 1,283 games.
Goalie Terry Richardson (11th overall, 1973) played 20 NHL games.
Mike Blaisdell (11th overall, 1980), who was selected six picks higher than Brent Sutter (829 points in 1,111 career games), produced 55 points in the 1981-82 season but was then involved in a six-player deal in June of 1983 with the New York Rangers that brought Ron Duguay to Detroit.
As for Rick Lapointe (5th overall, 1975)? All we can say is God bless his soul. He died in 1999 of a heart attack.