The Red Wings and every other NHL team have made mistakes in terms of assessing the most talented players available at the NHL draft. The Wings whiffed big time by picking Joe Murphy 1st overall in 1986; picking Keith Primeau over Jaromir Jagr or Martin Brodeur in 1990 still stings.
Drafting in the NHL is not an exact science, and every team swings and misses in every draft, so it’s not surprising that the Wings have made some mistakes over the years.
The Red Wings’ post-2008 Stanley Cup years, however, were marred by drafting a generation’s worth of highly-picked goalies and defensemen who never developed into top-end NHL talent, yielding a still-thin blueline and a goaltending pipeline populated with goalies taking the long developmental road toward NHL employment. If even one or two of the Wings’ defensive or goaltending-related picks had turned into more than Brendan Smith or Tom McCollum, we wouldn’t be talking about such a “thin” rebuilding team.
Yesterday afternoon, the Free Press’s Helene St. James weighed in regarding the Wings’ biggest “whiffs” over the past three seasons, noting that Detroit never planned on drafting Quinn Hughes in 2018, nor Brock Boeser in 2015, picking Filip Zadina and Evgeny Svechnikov, respectively:
Boeser and Hughes are surrounded by more talent, but even so, both have shown they are stars — especially Hughes, who is excelling in the more difficult position. There was a point in the series against the St. Louis Blues where Oskar Sundqvist knocked Hughes down and Hughes still managed to keep control of the puck and get it to a teammate, setting up a sequence that led to a goal.
Zadina looks like he will develop into a good player, but Hughes already has established his value. Imagine what having Hughes, Moritz Seider and Filip Hronek on the back end would do for the Wings’ rebuild. That’s three defensemen who all excel at getting the puck to the forwards — a facet of the game in which the Wings sorely were limited this season.
We’d all look like geniuses drafting in hindsight. If 2018 were redone, Hughes would probably be a top-three pick (the Wings weren’t going to take him even if Zadina had not been available — they had their sights on defenseman Evan Bouchard). The better Zadina plays, the less passing on Hughes will ding the Wings. The fact Boeser has demonstrated he’s a top-six forward and Svechnikov has yet to show he belongs in the NHL is going to be harder to forget.
St. James continues; the fact that the Wings never even considered drafting Hughes due to concerns over his size speaks to the baffling obsession with picking “bigger and stronger” players during the late Ken Holland-and-Tyler Wright regime, but shit happens, and you have to do the best with the players you pick.
We’ll be talking more about the draft over the course of the next couple of weeks!