The last time Detroit picked inside the top 10, the year was 1991. The selection was Martin Lapointe.
Suffice to say much has changed since then.
For a quarter century, the Red Wings didn’t need to put a ton of effort into the top end of the draft. They often picked in the mid-to-late 20s — if they were in the first round at all — and did most of their work in the late rounds.
Now, things have changed again.
Detroit finished 25th overall and has a 6.7 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall selection at the June draft in Chicago. If the Red Wings don’t land one of the top three selections, they will pick at No. 7, 8, 9 or 10.
And, accordingly, GM Ken Holland is prepping for all types of scenarios.
“It’s probably the most (Holland) has scouted since he’s been GM,” assistant GM Kris Draper said, per MLive. “I’ve done a lot of scouting this year. Being in Michigan, you’re in an ideal situation to see a lot of the top kids.
“It’s been a great opportunity to see a lot of high-end names in the draft.”
This is a hugely important draft for Holland. He’s come under fire in recent years for questionable free agent acquisitions — veterans like Stephen Weiss, Jordin Tootoo, Brad Richards, Carlo Colaiacovo — which, in turn, have tied into a larger criticism. The one in which Holland’s accused of torpedoing the club’s future by continually chasing the now-defunct playoff streak.
And that, in turns, ties into an even larger criticism.
That Holland won’t entertain the rebuild idea at all.
“We’re going to continue to try and be competitive, we’re going to continue to try and make the playoffs and our ultimate goal is to eventually be a Cup contender,” Holland said a few months ago. “To me, rebuild means eight to 10 years, and there are teams that have made the playoffs one year in 10 while rebuilding.”
Which brings us back to the draft.
The two days in Chicago will be profoundly important. Holland has an opportunity not just to get an impact player in the top-10, but also walk away with a large collection of talent.
In addition to their own selections, the Wings added three third-round picks by selling off Brendan Smith, Thomas Vanek, and Tomas Jurco at the deadline.
“Somebody told me it’s the most picks we’ve had in a draft since 2002,” said Holland. “Usually we go into these drafts with five or six picks, (because) we’ve traded picks away.”
The end goal? Stockpile options that can hopefully join a youth movement that includes Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Evgeny Svechnikov.
“These moves that we made for these draft picks will allow us to pick more players,” said Holland, “and hopefully some of them will end up as Red Wings down the road.”
Related: It’s going to be a very different draft for Detroit