NHL teams build their teams in many different ways. Some construct their clubs via free agency while others do it through trades. However, the main way teams create a roster is through the NHL Draft. Most years have maybe one or two players make the roster, but some years the general manger gets it right and gets a cornerstone or two for the franchise. The Last Word on Hockey is doing the best draft class for each team with the exception of the Seattle Kraken. Today we look at the Detroit Red Wings best draft class.
Detroit Red Wings Best Draft Class
There are drafts, then there are standard-setting picks that change the course of an entire organization. The Red Wings best draft class came in 1989. With the sheer amount of talent available, it’s far and beyond the best draft in the history of Hockeytown. In fact, many consider it the greatest hockey draft of all time. From Nicklas Lidstrom to Sergei Fedorov to Vladimir Konstantinov, the draft is nothing short of stacked. No other draft in the history of hockey has come remotely close to the 5,955 combined games this class has played.
Initially, the Red Wings’ draft choices were seen as quite controversial. In the 1980s, drafting a Soviet player was seen as a waste of a pick. Until Alexander Mognliny defected in 1989, not a single player had left the Soviet Union to play in North America. This was a deterrent for many general managers at the time. Jim Devellano, then-manager of the Detroit Red Wings, never considered himself much of a gambling man.
In 1989, Devellano made two of the biggest bets in his career. He drafted two Soviet players — one in the fourth round and another in the 11th round. The two players — Sergei Fedorov and Vladimir Konstantinov — became the first building blocks of the infamous Russian Five, one of the best five-man units in the history of hockey.
Mike Sillinger, Round 1, 11th Overall
Sillinger started his career in Detroit and ended it in 2008-09 playing for the New York Islanders. The journeyman forward played for 12 NHL teams in his career and scored 548 points in 1,049 games. Mike’s son, Cole Sillinger, was just drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Bob Boughner, Round 2, 32nd Overall
Bob “the Boogieman” Boughner is another huge name from the 1989 draft. Boughner played 630 games and strung together a whopping 1,382 penalty minutes. While he never played a game for the Red Wings, his career as both a player and coach has warranted his spot on this list. He is currently the head coach of the San Jose Sharks.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Round 3, 53rd Overall
Lidstrom, also known as “The Perfect Human”, is considered by some to be the greatest defenceman of all time. With seven Norris Trophies, four Stanley Cups, and one Conn Smythe Trophy, The Swedish blueliner redefined the world of NHL defence. He was the first European captain to guide his team to win the Stanley Cup and he currently holds the record for most games played by a European player.
Sergei Fedorov, Round 4, 74th Overall
The first of the Russian Five, Fedorov is one of the greatest players in the history of the NHL. Renowned for his lights-out offensive ability and superb two-way play, he could play at center, on wing, and on the defence. It’s hard to mention the title of “greatest Russian player of all time” without mentioning Fedorov. Even if Alex Ovechkin is your pick, an argument can be made for Fedorov based on his versatility alone.
Dallas Drake, Round 6, 116th Overall
Fun fact: did you know Pavel Bure almost played for the Red Wings? After a controversial call by the NHL’s front office, the Red Wings were forced to rescind their rights to Bure, who later went to the Vancouver Canucks. Despite this, they were able to land Dallas Drake in his stead. While not quite the player Bure was, Drake ended his career with over 1,000 games, 477 points, and a Stanley Cup in 2008.
Vladimir Konstantinov, 11th Round, 221st Overall
Konstantinov’s career was cut tragically short by a limousine accident that left him paralyzed. His injury served as a rallying cry for the 1998 Red Wings, who went on to win a cup in his honor during the following year. Konstantinov was renowned for his powerful hits and was a runner-up for the Norris Trophy in 1997. Konstantinov was one of the renowned Russian Five, and one of the first players to defect to North America.
Other Red Wings Best Draft Classes
1983 NHL Class
In Devellano’s first year as general manager, he hoped to land Pat LaFontaine with the fourth overall pick. With the Islanders selecting LaFontaine, he moved on to his next choice: a young centre by the name of Steve Yzerman. The future captain is one of the best players in the history of the NHL, and his spot on this list is certainly warranted. Along with Yzerman, Devellano drafted the “Bruise Brothers” — Bob Probert and Joe Kocur, two of the toughest guys in the NHL. Other notable names include Petr Klima and Stu Grimson.
1991 NHL Class
The star of the show in 1991 was Martin Lapointe, who won the Cup with the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. This draft also saw the acquisition of starting goaltender Chris Osgood and right winger Mike Knuble. While this draft and 1983 had quite a successful crop, nothing comes close to the standard-breaking success of 1989’s draft.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images