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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Red Wings’ super scout

Hakan Andersson was sitting at a Stockholm-area mall, having lunch with a friend when a 16-year-old boy walked up to him and said something quite unusual.

“Are you Hakan Andersson, the scout from Detroit?”

If you’re in the line of work that Andersson is, fame is nice, but a hurdle in getting the job done.

“First-time ever it’s happened to me in my entire life,” said Andersson of being recognized. “I think people around the rinks might know me, but that’s about it. I buy my ticket, walk in, stand in a corner, watch. I don’t want anybody to know. If you’re on what I call a little mission, watching a guy in a lesser-known league, then you want to be in the corner. You don’t want anyone to say, ‘I saw the Red Wings scout here last game.’”

Being where no one else is, seeing what no one else does, thinking the way no one else does … that’s Andersson’s profession.

The director of European scouting for the Detroit Red Wings – a franchise noted for its success in drafting European talent – has made a name for himself at the NHL’s annual draft. This year’s draft begins at 7 p.m. Friday night (Versus) with the first round and continues Saturday (10 a.m., NHL Network) with rounds 2-7.

Andersson has been a big factor in the Red Wings being able to stock their feeder system despite consistently drafting very low in each round.

The Red Wings select 29th overall tonight in the 30-team draft. Because of their success in both the regular season and playoffs, the Red Wings haven’t selected in the top half of the first round since taking Martin Lapointe 10th overall in the 22-team 1991 draft. Since taking Joe Murphy out of Michigan State first overall in 1986, the Red Wings have had only one first-round pick higher than 10th – Keith Primeau was taken third overall in 1990. In addition, the Red Wings didn’t have any pick in the first round in seven of the past 12 drafts.

But the Red Wings have maintained a pipe-line of talent stocked largely with low-round draft picks from Europe.

"Hakan certainly is one of the best in the business,” said Detroit vice president and general manager Ken Holland. “You've just got to look at his track record. … Obviously Hakan has been an MVP behind the scenes for us."

The first draft pick that was made solely on Andersson’s recommendation was Tomas Holmstrom being taken with the 257th overall pick (10th round) in 1994. Since then, the Red Wings have farmed Europe for these tremendous late draft picks: Pavel Datsyuk with the 171st overall pick (sixth round) in 1998; Henrik Zetterberg with the 210th pick (seventh round) in 1999; Jonathan Ericsson with the 291st pick (ninth round) in 2002; Valtteri Filppula with the 95th pick (third round) in 2002; Jiri Hudler with the 59th pick (second round) in 2002; and Johan Franzen with the 97th pick (third round) in 2004.

Since 1997, the Red Wings’ draftees have played in 3,188 NHL regular-season games. Of those games, 91 percent (2,890) were played by European draftees.

Success and anonymity are not usually compatriots. But Andersson has managed to keep future draft picks like Datsyuk and Zetterberg and Ericsson under wraps.

“When I was watching Jonathan Ericsson, I saw him two games and saw how good he is,” said Andersson. “Then I went another five, six games and just watched the stands to see if anybody’s there.”

Andersson landed Ericsson with the final pick of the draft. Just as he helped bring Zetterberg and Datsyuk and Holmstrom and the others to Detroit.

As he talked about his scouting talent, Andersson wore his 2008 Stanley Cup ring. Asked about it, Andersson took it off his hand and held it out.

“Read the inside of it,” said Andersson.

A single word was inscribed on the inside of the band … family.

“I really like that,” said Andersson. “That says a lot about this organization and what’s important.”

If all goes well Friday and Saturday, the Red Wings will add another member or two to their family.


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