And with the 171st pick in the 1998 NHL draft, the Detroit Red Wings select forward Pavel Datsyuk. That there is something no one even took as anything important on that day back in 1998, but no one knew exactly what the Red Wings had in Pavel Datsyuk. The mere fact that there were 26 other teams in the league at that moment, and most of them passed on Datsyuk through almost six rounds before Detroit grabbed him late in the sixth is astounding. Datsyuk is arguably the most skilled player in the NHL, he has excellent two-way skills, puck skills like I’ve never seen, the ability to snipe the corners from the side boards, the hockey sense needed to be a top playmaker, the willingness to get dirty, all on top of his ability to skate cleanly, slickly, and almost effortlessly.
Datsyuk was drafted in 1998, but continued to play in Russia until the 2001-2002 season he made his debut in the NHL dawning the distinguished winged wheel during the glory years led by the likes of Steve Yzerman. Datsyuk played in 70 games his rookie season, and put up 11 goals and 24 assists. The Wings won the Stanley Cup that season, giving Datsyuk his first of two.
Datsyuk backed up his rookie season with a good season showing improvements in his game. He finishd the 2002-2003 season with 12 goals and 39 assists. The next season is when Datsyuk started to break out. He put up his first 30 goal season, scoring 30 goals and tallying 38 assists. After the season ended, Datsyuk returned to Russia to play during the lockout.
When Datsyuk returned to Detroit the following season after the lockout, he looked as if he never even missed a beat. He put up four seasons in a row scoring at least 87+ points each season, including a 23 point playoff preformance in the 2008 Stanley Cup run where he claimed the second Cup of his career. The streak also included four Lady Byng Trophies in a row. Datsyuk also won the Selke trophy in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Datsyuk’s numbers dropped a bit after that putting up only 70 points in the 2009-2010 season, but was still a dominant force on the ice going both directions.
Datsyuk returned to Russia again to play during the lockout this last season, but thankfully, the NHL was able to save the season. Sort of. Datsyuk put up 49 points in 47 games this season and helped lead the Red Wings back to the playoffs for the 22nd straight year.
Datsyuk has been a dominant force in the NHL since he made his debut in 2001. In 11 seasons, Datsyuk has played in 779 games, scoring 255 goals and adding 512 assists for a total of 767 points. Even more impressive, Datsyuk has only tallied 200 penalty minutes through 11 seasons. He added 103 points in the playoffs in 140 appearances. Datsyuk is one of the most skilled players in the NHL to date, and I’m excited to have him around for an extra three years after this season in Detroit. Datsyuk is the poster child for being a diamond in the rough. Don’t believe me? Fine, watch this video and tell me this man should not have been drafted first overall in 1998 in front of names like Vincent Lecavalier (first round), Alex Tanguay (first round), Simon Gagne (first round), Scott Gomez (first round), Jonathan Cheechoo (second round), or Mike Ribeiro (second round).