Wings and Pens at different ends of draft spectrum
High and low draft picks for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings:
High Picks (overall selection)
Sidney Crosby, Pit, 1st, 2005
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit, 1st 2003
Jordan Staal, Pit, 2nd, 2006
Evgeni Malkin, Pit, 2nd, 2004
Brad Stuart, Det, 3rd, 1998 (by San Jose)
Ryan Whitney, Pit, 5th, 2002
Marian Hossa, Pit, 12th, 1997 (by Ottawa)
Dan Cleary, Det, 13th, 1997 (by Chicago)
Low Picks or Undrafted
Pascal Dupuis, Pit, undrafted
Ty Conklin, Pit, undrafted
Brett Lebda, Det, undrafted
Brian Rafalski, Det, undrafted
Tomas Holmstrom, Det, 257th, 1994
Maxime Talbot, Pit, 234th, 2002
Henrik Zetterberg, Det, 210st, 1999
Hal Gill, Pit, 207th, 1993 (by Boston)
Dominik Hasek, Det, 199th, 1983 (by Chicago)
Pavel Datsyuk, Det, 171st, 1998
DETROIT -- Both the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins are fast. Both teams are gifted offensively and defensively. Both are conference champions. Both have young superstars.
But these two franchises couldn't have taken more dissimilar paths to get to tonight's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final (8 p.m., Versus).
The Penguins stocked their roster with high draft picks after finishing out of the playoffs four straight seasons before their first-round exit last spring. For four consecutive years, the Penguins had either the first or second overall selection in the NHL draft, hauling in four pillars that got the franchise to this series against Detroit -- Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal.
The Red Wings also stocked their roster through the draft, but Detroit's lineup contains a tremendous amount of low selections that turned out to be hidden gems. The Red Wings have not missed the playoffs since 1990. In an eight-year stretch (1997-2004), the Red Wings had just two first-round draft picks -- Jiri Fischer (25th overall in 1998) and Niklas Kronwall (29th overall in 2000).
Of the 20 players who dressed for Pittsburgh in the deciding game of the Eastern Conference final, nine were top-18 picks in the NHL draft and just five were either undrafted or selected 100th or higher. For Detroit, those numbers are reversed with three first-round picks (only two in the top 18 of their draft) while nine were either undrafted or selected 100th.
Of the Red Wings' lineup tonight and two of those -- Brad Stuart (San Jose) and Dan Cleary (Chicago) -- were selected by other franchises. Niklas Kronwall was picked 29th overall by the Red Wings in 2000.
"Let's be honest, (the Penguins) drafting for as high as they have for as long as they have, that's why they have the skill level they have," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. :The reason we have the skill level we have is (assistant general manager) Jimmy Nill and (chief European scout) Hakan Andersson and these guys and the work that they do. I think it's a philosophy thing."
The end result is that this series will be highlighted by those different paths taken by these franchises.
Detroit will match up its top forward line of Pavel Datsyuk (drafted 171st overall in 1998), Henrik Zetterberg (210th in 1999) and Tomas Holmstrom (257th in 1994) against the Penguins' top forward line. Whether Babcock determines that to be Crosby's line (Crosby was first overall in 2005) or Malkin's line (Malkin was second overall in 2004) will be discovered tonight.
Either way, it will be pedigree against draft-day mutt.
"They're the model franchise; You ask people in the league and they're very impressed with the job Kenny (Detroit general manager Ken Holland) has done," said Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero. "The Datsyuks and Zetterbergs are great stories in the draft. But some of those other players, some of the undrafted players are great stories. … Overall a great organization that most franchises are modeling themselves after."
Another Detroit draft find, Johan Franzen (97th overall in 2004 after being passed over in six drafts), was labeled doubtful for tonight's game by Holland because of headaches that have sidelined Franzen since the first game of the Western Conference final. Franzen practiced with the Red Wings Friday -- a first time since the start of the last round.
"We expect him to play in this series," said Holland. "He's close."
The return of Franzen -- who leads the NHL with 12 goals in the playoffs -- will go a long way to giving the Red Wings two lines that are both offensive threats.
Pittsburgh has had the ability to put out two scoring lines since taking Crosby and Malkin in back-to-back drafts. Crosby was league MVP last year, leading the NHL in scoring. This winter, Malkin finished second in scoring and is one of three finalists for the MVP.
"They're special, special players," said Babcock. "You can finish last in the league a number of times and never get players like that. If you're fortunate enough to finish last or pick the years that they're available, you're lucky a lucky franchise because they're going to be running your franchise for a long period of time."
All of which adds up to the chance for a high scoring Stanley Cup final.
"There's a possibility a goal can be scored every shift," said Holland. "I think there's going to be some great goals, some great plays."