The Detroit Red Wings must draft a defenseman with the sixth overall pick of Friday’s opening round of the NHL entry draft. You know it. They know it.
Everyone in hockey knows it.
“I’m a big believer that if you can’t get the puck out of your own zone - I don’t care how good your forwards are, how good your scoring on the wings are - if you don’t have defensemen who can move the puck out of your own zone, if you’re spending too much time in your own zone, you can forget about it,” TSN draft analyst Craig Button said. “To me, the success of (the Red Wings’) Stanley Cup teams was on the blue line. Until they get that moving forward in a significant way, they’re not going to return to that level.
“I’m not saying anything that (Detroit general manager) Kenny Holland doesn’t know.”
What is also known is that there are several high-end defense prospects available in this year’s draft. It’s unlikely that all among Quinn Hughes, Noah Dobson, Evan Bouchard and Adam Boqvist will be there when the Wings are on the clock at No. 6, but it’s a certainty that some of them will be. And the Wings absolutely need to get one of them.
“I think if the Red Wings want a defenseman, there’s going to be options for them at 6,” Button said. “Will all the defensemen be there? Maybe not, but there’s certainly going to be some there that can really add to their team.
“When I look at those defensemen – Hughes, Bouchard and Dobson I think are top-pair defensemen, and Adam Boqvist might be the guy who has the greatest offensive upside, because of his abilities. When you start to look at those four defensemen, those are hard to obtain and pretty important to success.”
If only Detroit’s history of selecting defensemen in the first round wasn’t so frightening, there might be more optimism that they will fix what ails them come Friday. Fourteen times the Wings have gone to the D-man well in the opening round of the draft, and while they all weren’t horrible, the list of atrocious choices runs long and deep.
Defensemen Taken By Detroit In The First round:
Dennis Cholowski (20th, 2016) - The jury is still out on Cholowski, who spent last season in the WHL. This will be his first full pro campaign and should offer a fair indication of his upside.
Brendan Smith (27th, 2007) - Smith never lived up to his potential in Detroit and was dealt to the New York Rangers in 2016-17. He finished last season with Hartford of the AHL.
Jakub Kindl (19th, 2005) - Never could crack the top six on a regular basis in Detroit. Alarmingly lacking in confidence, was eventually traded to Florida.
Niklas Kronwall (29th, 2000) - The club’s greatest first-round success story. Won a Stanley Cup and was a borderline all-star in his prime. Still useful to the team today, but no longer a top-four guy.
Jiri Fischer (25th, 1998) - Was going to be at least Kronwall’s equal in terms of success. Won a Stanley Cup in 2002 and was just entering his prime as a player when his career was ended in 2005 by a rare heart condition.
Jesse Wallin (26th 1996) - A star in junior, he never could find stability as a pro. Wallin’s father committed suicide when he was 16 and you certainly have to wonder how that impacted his future.
Max Kuznetsov (26th, 1995) - Big defenseman just didn’t seem to have one endearing quality that could make him an NHL regular. Sent to L.A. in the 2003 trade for Mathieu Schneider.
Yan Golubovsky (23rd, 1994) - Ill-advised holdout in training camp in 1997 when the Wings had just won the Stanley Cup sealed his fate in Detroit. Dealt to Florida, he played just 56 NHL games.
Anders Eriksson (22nd, 1993) - Another who just couldn’t find his footing as a regular with the Wings, he battled weight problems and was part of the package that brought Chris Chelios to Detroit from Chicago in 1999.
Yves Racine (11th, 1997) - Detroit’s first pick the year the draft was held at Joe Louis Arena, Racine struggled as a Wing and ended up a journeyman, playing for six NHL teams.
Willie Huber (9th, 1978) - Also excelled in junior, and at 6-5, 225 pounds, Huber was the largest player in NHL history when he joined the Wings. But he was a mobile skill player when fans wanted him to be a physical beast, and Huber was basically booed out of Detroit, traded to the Rangers in 1983.
Rick Lapointe (5th, 1975) - Another big defender whose skill was as noticeable as his toughness, the Wings dealt Lapointe to Philadelphia in 1977. He ended up playing for five teams in 11 NHL seasons.
Serge Lajeunesse (12th, 1970) - Scorer of one goal as a rookie, Lajeunesse languished in the minors for the majority of the next two seasons before he was dealt to the Flyers for tough-guy Rick Foley. In Philly, they sought to convert him to forward, but this also failed.
George Forgie (3rd, 1965) - The early years of the draft were a real crap shoot, and the Wings crapped out when they selected Forgie from the Flin Flon Bombers. In four pro seasons, he never advanced beyond the Eastern League.
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