DETROIT’S ALL-TIME DRAFT TEAM: IT’S NOT HOWE, IT’S ‘Y’

You won’t find Gordie Howe on the Wings’ all-time all-drafted team because Mr. Hockey arrived before the start of the NHL draft. But you will find Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Datsyuk and many, many other all-time talents.

Steve Yzerman|USA Today

Steve Yzerman|USA Today

An all-time Hockeytown team without Mr. Hockey? How is that even possible?

As an Original Six franchise, many of the Detroit Red Wings’ greatest players suited up for the team before the advent of the NHL amateur draft in 1963. As a result, you won’t find legends such as Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Terry Sawchuk, Red Kelly, Alex Delvecchio, Sid Abel and others on the Wings’ all-time all-drafted team – for the simple reason that they were never drafted.

But even without their early-era Hall of Famers, the Red Wings can assemble an all-time all-drafted team that can compete with anybody. This club is absolutely loaded at centre, with a complementary cast of scoring wingers who bring some grit to their game, too. The defence corps drops off after the all-world first pairing, but there’s a blend of offence and physicality on both the second and third pairs. In net, there’s a winning pedigree and plenty of experience, with the two goalies who rank Nos. 2 and 3 behind Sawchuk in games played and victories for the franchise.

Let’s start with the centre position. It doesn’t get better than this. There’s two of the NHL’s all-time top 10 leading scorers in Steve Yzerman and Marcel Dionne, plus two-way luminaries Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Datsyuk. Good luck trying to shut down any one of these guys, never mind all four. In fact, the Wings are so rich down the middle that we moved a couple of other centres over to the wing because they were simply too good to keep off the team.

Yzerman, who went from an offensive superstar to a dominant two-way player in the second half of his career, gets top-line billing between Henrik Zetterberg – who played both centre and the wing during his days in Detroit – and Gerard Gallant, who was Yzerman’s regular left winger in the late ’80s. This line can light you up and lock you down, with Gallant providing two-fisted truculence when required.

The second line is from the old school, with the dazzling Dionne setting up goal-scoring wingers John Ogrodnick and Pete Mahovlich. On the third line, it is Scotty Bowman’s favourite defenceman Fedorov, a two-way centre for the ages, between Keith Primeau – another centre shifted to the wing – and slick Slava Kozlov. Supreme defence, supreme offence, and keep your head up when Primeau comes trucking through. The fourth line would be a first line on most teams, with ‘Magic Man’ Datsyuk sliding pucks to power wingers Johan Franzen and Adam Graves (another centre who can play the wing).

On defence, it’s the 1989-drafted twosome of Nicklas Lidstrom (53rd overall) and Vladimir Konstantinov (221st) as the top duo. Has there ever been a better all-around ‘D’ pairing? It makes you wistful when you consider the tragic circumstances that prematurely ended Konstantinov’s career. The second pair features hard-hitting, defensive defenceman Niklas Kronwall with the equally forceful Reed Larson, whose heavy slap shot helped make him the highest-scoring U.S.-born defenceman when he retired. And there’s more offence and rugged size on the third pair, too, in Steve Chiasson and Willie Huber.

In net, it’s the two goalies who have been most associated with the Wings’ crease over the past 25 years, Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard. Osgood was the starter when Detroit won the Stanley Cup in 1998 and 2008, while Howard has been holding down the fort for the past decade-plus.

Here’s a look at Detroit’s all-time all-drafted team. The 20-player lineup is based on players’ entire NHL body of work.

CENTRES
Steve Yzerman (4th, 1983)
Marcel Dionne (2nd, 1971)
Sergei Fedorov (74th, 1989)
Pavel Datsyuk (171st, 1998)

RIGHT WINGERS
Henrik Zetterberg (210th, 1999)
John Ogrodnick (66th, 1979)
Keith Primeau (3rd, 1990)
Johan Franzen (97th, 2004)

LEFT WINGERS
Gerard Gallant (107th, 1981)
Pete Mahovlich (2nd, 1963)
Slava Kozlov (45th, 1990)
Adam Graves (22nd, 1986)

DEFENCEMEN
Nicklas Lidstrom (53rd, 1989)
Vladimir Konstantinov (221st, 1989)
Reed Larson (22nd, 1976)
Niklas Kronwall (29th, 2000)
Steve Chiasson (50th, 1985)
Willie Huber (9th, 1978)

GOALIES
Chris Osgood (54th, 1991)
Jimmy Howard (64th, 2003)