Welcome to Last Word’s Draft Boom and Bust series. As the 2020 NHL Entry Draft approaches, we decided to examine each team’s best and worst pick since the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. The biggest boom is a player that had the best value relative to where they were selected. Meaning, no one in the first round will be considered a team’s best value pick. However, the biggest bust picks will almost always be in the first round. We will examine each player, why they were picked where they were, and what their NHL career was like. Today, we look at the Detroit Red Wings draft, and their biggest boom and bust.
Detroit Red Wings Draft Boom and Bust
Most teams don’t expect to find tons of productive NHL players in the fourth round, but the Red Wings found a gem when they uncovered Gustav Nyquist. The Swedish forward caught the eye of NHL teams as a potent scorer at the University of Maine. Over his final two seasons at Maine, Nyquist registered 112 points in 75 games. This scoring prowess continued in the AHL after the Red Wings drafted him 121st overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Nyquist scored 58 points in 56 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins in his first professional season. The forward proved he could score at every level, earning a spot with the Red Wings.
Nyquist found immediate success in Detroit and never really looked back. In his first full season in the NHL, Nyquist made enough noise to finish 16th in Hart Trophy voting. Though the Swede never reached the lofty promise that may have implied, he was and continues to be a very productive secondary scoring option. Detroit traded Nyquist to the San Jose Sharks last year before he signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 2019-2020 campaign. Despite his departure, the Red Wings got 295 points in 481 games out of a fourth-round draft pick. This can be considered nothing short of a diamond in the rough.
The Detroit Red Wings have drafted well this century, picking up multiple valuable players in the later rounds of the NHL Entry Draft. This strong drafting is largely responsible for the team maintaining their success as long as they did before finally collapsing over the last several years.
Tomas Tatar has experienced a remarkably similar to career to that of Nyquist. Tatar has registered 347 points in 575 games thus far in his NHL career – just one less point than Nyquist in 5 more games. The two players’ value in most ways can be considered identical, but what makes Nyquist a bigger boom pick is his draft position. The Red Wings drafted Tatar in the second round, making his production a bit more expected.
Fans of the modern NHL may not remember that Johan Franzen went through a stretch of being an incredibly productive goal-scorer. Franzen was drafted in the third round of the 2004 NHL entry draft and wasted no time in being a reliable option for the Red Wings. The Swedish winger consistently hovered around 30 goals a year before having his career cut short due to injury. Franzen registered 370 points in 602 games.
The name Valtteri Filppula may not jump off the page to most NHL fans. The 2002 third-round draft pick, however, has played more NHL games than any other Detroit Red Wings draftee since 2000. The durable centre has played 1018 NHL games while registering 515 points. Filppula returned to Detroit last season and may end his career where it began.
To be fair to Svechnikov, it’s difficult to pick out any player as the biggest Detroit Red Wings draft bust. The Red Wings have made a practice of trading their first-round picks over the last two decades. When they don’t trade their picks, they often pick towards the end of the first round. It’s too early to consider any of their recent top-10 picks true busts, so this label falls to Evgeny Svechnikov.
The Red Wings drafted Svechnikov 19th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft after his first season with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. In that season, the Russian winger wracked up 78 points in 55 games. Svechnikov followed that season up with 79 points in 50 games.
Unfortunately, that scoring prowess has not transitioned into the NHL. Svechnikov has had some issues with injuries, which may be holding him back. Still, Svechnikov has only managed to get in the lineup for 20 NHL games since being drafted. In these 20 games, the once-promising forward has only registered four points. The winger hasn’t fared much better in the AHL either. In his most recent season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Svechnikov only registered 25 points in 51 games.
What hurts more is who the Red Wings could have had with that pick. The next five picks in that draft were Joel Eriksson Ek, Colin White, Ilya Samsonov, Brock Boeser and Travis Konecny. All of these players have been more productive and more able to get into the lineup than Svechnikov. There’s still time for the winger to turn things around, but for now, Svechnikov is the Detroit Red Wings’ biggest draft bust since 2000.
The Red Wings may have a fairly clean draft history, but Svechnikov isn’t the only disappointment. Since 2000, the Red Wings have a few picks they’d probably like to take back.
Of all the Red Wings first-round draft picks since 2000, none played fewer NHL games than goaltender Tom McCollum. McCollum was taken with the last pick in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft but has only played in 3 NHL games since. The goaltender still plays, most recently in the ECHL, but the Red Wings certainly had better options in that draft. Jacob Markstrom was taken one pick later, and the Red Wings also could have had Roman Josi and even Jake Allen would have been a more valuable pick.
Why is he not the biggest bust then? Because goaltenders are hard to predict, and the Red Wings also had fairly solid goal-tending with Jimmy Howard in the net.
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