Don't Sleep On The Late Rounders
Picks like sixth rounder Johan Gustafsson could be big names one day, just like the players below
Tuesday, 06.14.2011 / 4:00 PM CT / Minnesota Wild | 2011 NHL Entry Draft
By Dan Myers - Special to Wild.com
For good reason, the first day of the NHL Entry Draft will generate the most sizzle. Many fans get their first look at potential NHL superstars who headline the Draft. They'll also get the chance to see the home team pick a player that will immediately be followed from afar by every diehard until he makes his NHL debut.
Day one will be nationally televised. It will have NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on the podium. It will feature trades that will draw "Oooohs!" and "Woooaaahhhs!" from the crowd.
Day Two will be much more business-like. In rounds two through seven, teams won't leave their tables to make their picks, which are rattled off in quick order.
But there is one guarantee: there will be some future superstars selected on Day Two, and those in attendance will have a story to share about how they were there when that guy was picked, and they never thought twice about it.
Numerous times over the years, NHL superstars have been plucked much later in the draft. In fact, general managers around the league would tell you that the great teams find a way to strike some occasional late round gold.
The most obvious example of late round success in this conversation is the Detroit Red Wings. Their two most skilled offensive players -- Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk -- are both late round gems. Zetterberg was the 210th overall pick in 1999, while Datsyuk, picked a year earlier, was the 171st overall pick.
But the Wings are not the only example of recent Cup champions with late rounders.
Roseau native Dustin Byfuglien was a critical cog in Chicago's run to the Cup last season, scoring 11 goals in the playoffs. He was the 245th player selected in the 2003 draft. At 6-5 and 265 pounds, Byfuglien will enter the prime of his career close to home with Winnipeg after a breakout season in 2010-11 where he tallied 20 goals and 33 assists as a defenseman following an offseason trade to the Thrashers.
Pittsburgh has plenty of star power in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury, but where would they be without Maxime Talbot, an eighth round pick in 2002. He scored 13 points in the playoffs during the Penguins Cup run in 2009.
Other prominent NHL stars picked on the second day of the draft include Colorado's John-Michael Liles (159th in 2000), Henrik Lunqvist of the Rangers (205th in 2000), Ryane Clowe of the Sharks (175th in 2001) and Daniel Alfredsson of Ottawa (133rd in 1994).
In the salary cap era, with teams reaping the benefits of good players with cap-friendly contracts, hitting on late round guys has become even more valuable. But throughout history, plenty of players have gone on to have stellar careers despite not being highly picked.
Brett Hull, who played collegiately at Minnesota Duluth, was the 117th player taken in the 1984 draft. His 741 career goals is third best all-time. Doug Gilmour scored 450 goals and over 1,400 points despite being just the 134th player picked in the 1982 draft. Luc Robitaille, picked 171st in 1984, scored 668 goals in a 19-year Hall of Fame career. One of the most controversial players of the modern era, Theo Fleury, bagged 455 goals and over 1,000 points. He was picked 166th in 1987. Dominik Hasek, one of the greatest goalies of all-time, was picked by Chicago at number 207 in 1983.
One of the most popular players in Wild history, Andrew Brunette, was a seventh round selection of the Capitals in 1993. Greg Zanon was a fifth Round pick in 2000. Marek Zidlicky was taken in the sixth Round in 2001. All three logged big minutes with Minnesota this season.
Across the border in Wisconsin, folks in the Badger state have their own late rounders to be proud of. Plover, Wis. native Joe Pavelski has become one of the league's top goal scorers. He was picked 205th in 2003.
It's the success of these players that keep scouts busy year-round as they travel to every building with a sheet of ice filled with teenage hockey players. And it's the reason you'll want to stick around on Day Two of the NHL Draft. You never know when a name that gets rattled off with little fanfare becomes one of the most recognizable in the game.