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From The Point: Spokes of Winged Wheel come from high and low

Henrik Zetterberg is just one of many late-round gems the Red Wings have discovered in the draft. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Henrik Zetterberg is just one of many late-round gems the Red Wings have discovered in the draft. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

The NHL entry draft is in Ottawa this year, on June 20th and 21st. But don’t expect to see any Red Wings representatives on the first day, because they probably won’t even show up.

Why should they? Detroit doesn’t need your fancy first round picks or second round steals to build a perennial championship contender. They can construct a Stanley Cup-caliber team out of eighth-rounders and unwanted unrestricted free agents. The Wings like to wait for the rest of the league to give up on a player, then they drop in and plop him into the middle of their roster.

Detroit has had just one pick in the top 20 in the past 16 entry drafts, and that was defenseman Jakub Kindl at 19th overall in 2005. He doesn’t even count yet (but he might one day, given his No. 36 ranking among NHL prospects in THN Future Watch 2008).

Don’t pity the Wings, though, they’re still doing alright, with five Presidents’ Trophies for the best regular season record and three Cups (and chasing a fourth) since 1995.

Here’s how the Wings’ current Cup-contending roster has come together:

THE FORWARDS

Pavel Datsyuk
Drafted 171st overall, 1998
Hmm…pretty sure there weren’t 170 players who were better than the dazzling Datsyuk in the 1998 draft. Besides top pick Vincent Lecavalier, in fact, pretty sure there weren’t any players better than the dazzling Datsyuk in the 1998 draft.

Henrik Zetterberg
Drafted 210th overall, 1999
Two hundred and nine picks after Atlanta wisely selected Patrik Stefan (where is he now anyway? Oh right…Bern, in the Swiss League), Detroit decided to go with Zetterberg, the National Hockey League’s best two-way player. Good choice.

Johan Franzen
Drafted 97th overall, 2004
Also known as ‘The Mule’ and, more recently, as ‘The Revelation of the 2008 Playoffs.’

Tomas Holmstrom
Drafted 257th overall, 1994
He must have peeved off all the other NHL GMs in the pre-draft interview process.

Valtteri Filppula
Drafted 95th overall, 2002
In his second season in Detroit – and third in North America – the Finnish 24-year-old is centering the Wings’ second line. We can only assume he’ll pull a Franzen in the 2009 post-season, if not sooner. A lot of teams asked about him at the February trade deadline.

Mikael Samuelsson
Signed as UFA, 2004
After playing for four teams (San Jose, NY Rangers, Pittsburgh and Florida) in four seasons (2000-04) – and scoring just 19 goals in 188 NHL games – Samuelsson joined Detroit in 2005-06 and promptly fired 23 goals in 71 games. He hasn’t reached the 20-goal plateau since, but he does have two goals and eight points in 11 playoff games this spring.

Kris Draper
Trade with Winnipeg, 1993
The Jets traded him to Detroit for a dollar. One stinkin’ dollar. I know it was 15 years ago, but even with inflation that’s a steal of a deal.

Dan Cleary
Signed as UFA, 2004
Another typical Detroit move. Cleary, the 13th overall draft pick by Chicago in 1997, had plenty of offensive promise, but off-ice distractions nearly derailed his career. The Hawks, Oilers and Coyotes all gave up on him. Then Detroit swooped in after the lockout, turned him into a checker…and he thanked the Wings with back-to-back 20-goal seasons.

Dallas Drake
Signed as UFA, 2007
Twenty goals? No. But this 39-year-old banger is giving it all during this, the deepest playoff run of his career.

Jiri Hudler
Drafted 58th overall, 2002
Small and super-skilled, the Wings are bringing him along slowly. He could be a Mini-Datsyuk…a Pocket Pavel.

Darren Helm
Drafted 132nd overall, 2005
A rare rookie on Detroit’s roster, Helm played his first seven NHL games this season – and has played the last seven playoff games. His next goal will be his first as a big-leaguer.

Related Links

Darren McCarty
Drafted 46th overall, 1992 (first time); signed as UFA, 2008 (second time)
Want to hear a heartwarming story of redemption and second chances? Sit down and have a coffee with McCarty, who started the 2007-08 season with the Flint Generals in the IHL.

Tomas Kopecky
Drafted 38th overall, 2000
Skilled winger is out for the rest of the playoffs with a knee injury.

Kirk Maltby
Trade with Edmonton, 1996 (spare)
Original ‘Grind Liner,’ at 35, is a victim of the numbers game.

THE DEFENSEMEN

Nicklas Lidstrom
Drafted 53rd overall, 1989
Anytime you pick up a five-time Norris Trophy winner (and probably six after the NHL awards in June) and eight-time first-team all-star (make that nine) late in the third round…well, you’re allowed to giggle to yourself a little bit.

Brian Rafalski
Signed as UFA, 2007
Mathieu Schneider left last summer for the defensively dominant Ducks, so Detroit went out and snagged Rafalski from the defensively dominant Devils. He plays 24 minutes a night, second only to Lidstrom’s 25.

Niklas Kronwall
Drafted 29th overall, 2000
The second-last selection in the first round eight years ago, Kronwall is the highest-drafted Wings pick on the roster. A sublime talent, he has 10 assists in 11 playoff games; his only failure has been an inability to stay healthy. But when he dresses, he’s capable of being Detroit’s best defenseman. Which is pretty darn good.

Brad Stuart
Trade with Los Angeles, 2008
The Wings thought they lacked some toughness on the blueline, so they pulled off a deadline deal with the Kings. Originally a third overall pick by San Jose in 1998, Stuart bounced from the Sharks to Boston to Calgary to L.A., but he’s found a home on Detroit’s top-four. 

Chris Chelios
Trade with Chicago, 1999
After inventing the game of hockey during the first Ice Age, Chelios was frozen in a glacier for 10,000 years. Then he sailed around the world with Noah for a while. He has survived locusts, the Great Depression and both world wars. Some say he started the Great Fire of London in 1666, but Chelios claims he “was out that day.”

Brett Lebda
Signed as UFA after NCAA career, 2004
No one drafted the Notre Dame grad, so the Wings signed him, seasoned him in Grand Rapids (AHL) for a year-and-a-half, then worked him into the lineup in the second half of 2005-06.

Andreas Lilja
Signed as UFA, 2005
Mobile depth defender can step right in.

THE GOALIES

Chris Osgood
Drafted 54th overall, 1991 (first time); signed as UFA, 2005 (second time)
Detroit’s third round draft pick 17 years ago, Osgood won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Wings in 1997 and ’98 – he was the starter for the second championship – and spent nine seasons in Motown (1993-2001). After three years with the Islanders and Blues, he returned following the lockout to back up Dominik Hasek. In the past three seasons in Detroit, Osgood has compiled a 58-18-15 record; not to mention, he’s a perfect 7-0 in the 2008 playoffs.

Dominik Hasek
Trade with Buffalo, 2001 (first time); Wings pick up option on his contract when he comes out of one-year retirement, 2003 (second time); signed as UFA, 2006 (third time)
Hasek’s only Stanley Cup came in his first year in Detroit in 2002. Maybe that’s why he keeps coming back.

Sam McCaig’s From The Point appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Have a point to make with Sam McCaig? You can reach him at smccaig@thehockeynews.com.

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