Detroit's Cupboard Well Stocked for Future

If anyone is wondering how the Detroit Red Wings continue to have success, making the playoffs year after year and still being a contender, one of the most important things to think about is their prospects. It is the reason that they are the consistent team that they are. Some teams like to load up on free agents, make monster trades and rush their prospects in, but Detroit has the best system in the game and possibly sports.

Of course, because of their success, Detroit has the option of leaving players in junior or the minors for a longer time than most. When the time comes, there are always a couple holes to fill and they are never shoved into a huge role that would overwhelm them.

The only time this happened was with two players in particular, Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov. Yzerman came to the team in 1983 as a 4th overall pick, made the team his first season and was expected to carry Detroit on his back with no help at all. Fedorov was thrust into the fray to help Yzerman, and because both persevered through some tough seasons, they created a backbone for the franchise.

Players like Igor Larionov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Darren McCarty and Slava Kozlov stepped into roles that strengthened the team and made them playoff contenders every year. Detroit's scouting of European teams made their draft strategy focus on later rounds, trying to make a solid NHLer out of a 6th or 7th round pick.

That's how Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Homstrom and Johan Franzen all came to Detroit. All later round picks (Franzen was drafted at age 24) and all turned into top line players. Sure, they hit on most of their top picks such as Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Darren Helm and Valterri Filppula, but all four played in the AHL for some time before coming to Detroit. They weren't rushed and when they did make it, they were fourth liners that learned from the likes of older players.

So now, as the preseason winds down, Detroit has some major talent coming through their system. Some of these players might have made other NHL teams, but they realize that if Detroit keeps doing this and they churn out NHL players, they might as well abide to the unwritten rule that they should play with Grand Rapids.

Some of the guys coming up are on the cusp of a roster spot; Brendan Smith, Cory Emmerton, Jan Mursak and Jakub Kindl come to mind.

Some others have shown amazing promise, such as Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen. And then there are guys that were top picks that will probably take longer like Landon Ferraro and Calle Jarnkrok.

Thomas McCollum is a year away from becoming a backup with Jordan Pearce pushing him.

The bottom line is there is always someone waiting and ready to take a minor role on the big team, and it's a reason why the Wings will continue to be a dominant force in the NHL.

Kyle Busch


George Prax's picture

It's hard to go a week without hearing someone talk about the Detroit model. Many teams try to copy it, very few succeed. And it's mind-boggling how they continue to make it succeed. Even now with so many of their players retiring or nearing retirement I don't think anyone doubts that they can still be contenders.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

Well you figure when Yzerman and Fedorov and Shanahan left, people doubted they'd survive, but Datsyuk and Zetterberg replaced them, and now with Lidstrom on the back end, someone will step up for him too. It really is amazing.