The Detroit Red Wings have been one of the most successful teams in sports the past two decades, qualifying for the playoffs an incredible 18 years in a row, winning six conference titles and four Stanley Cups.
One of the primary reasons for their consistent success is a player development system that is second to none in the NHL. I remember watching the Stanley Cup teams of the late-90's, and even the 2001-02 team, and foolishly thinking that once they lost players like Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and The Russian Five (my goodness, those teams were stacked) they would eventually fall back to the pack and have, at the very least, a couple of down years. Not even close.
All they did was simply re-tool and continue to be a force in the Western Conference. Carrying the torch now for the Wings are players like Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, and, of course, Henrik Zetterberg. One of the all-time great draft steals, the Red Wings selected Zetterberg in the seventh-round of the 1999 Entry Draft with 210th pick (this was one year after they picked Datsyuk 191st). As is typically the case in the Detroit organization, Zetterberg was brought along slowly, making his debut at the age of 22 during the 2002-03 season.
Five years later, he's one of the most complete players in the NHL, a Stanley Cup Champion, owner of a Conn Smythe Trophy and probably the future captain in the Motor City once Nicklas Lidstrom calls it a career.
Not bad for a guy that was taken immediately after Layne Ulmer and Vaclav Pletka.
While Datsyuk gets all of the attention as the top defensive forward in the league (and for good reason, might I add) it's been interesting to watch Zetterberg get matched up against Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby the past two years in the Stanley Cup Final and, for the most part, shut him down. It's a nice option for a club when its shutdown defensive forward can also average over a point-per-game offensively.
Since he's become a top-line player for the Red Wings coming out of the lockout, he's never scored fewer than 31 goals in a season, and has averaged 1.08 points-per-game the past four years. A versatile player that can be used as a center or a wing, he does everything you could ever want a hockey player to do.
And for your obligatory YouTube video...