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Andersson continues to find late jewels

by Mike G. Morreale
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- As the director of European scouting for the Detroit Red Wings, Håkan Andersson certainly racks up plenty of frequent flyer miles.

"It's time consuming and it varies from year to year," Andersson told "For example, there are a lot of good Russian players for the upcoming season, so I'll be traveling from Stockholm to Moscow more than a few times. It's about an eight-hour flight and it's time consuming, but I enjoy it."

Especially when Andersson can unearth that diamond in the rough that has become commonplace for an organization that routinely has drafted in the later stages of each round.

Andersson saw those qualities and untapped potential in Tomas Holmstrom (No. 257 in 1994), Pavel Datsyuk (No. 171 in 1998), Henrik Zetterberg (No. 210 in 1999), Niklas Kronwall (No. 29 in 2000), Jiri Hudler (No. 58 in 2002), Valtteri Filppula (No. 95 in 2002), Jonathan Ericsson (No. 291 in 2002) and Johan Franzen (No. 97 in 2004). Talk about hitting the jackpot.

"Pavel Datsyuk played in a far away place in Russia and there weren't many guys who saw him and, to be honest, the fact we drafted him in the later rounds shows that maybe I didn't even believe in him that much at the time," Andersson said. "If I would have known these players were this good, I would have pushed it and said, 'Let's draft them higher.' But I have to give a lot of credit to (vice president/assistant general manager) Jim Nill, (director of amateur scouting) Joe McDonnell and (Wings GM) Ken Holland for giving me the chance to make a pick in the late rounds."

Andersson appears to have this drafting stuff down to a science. The native of Stockholm, Sweden, began scouting for the Wings in 1990 after being recommended to the position by Christer Rockstrom, who was leaving the Wings organization to work for the New York Rangers with Neil Smith at the time. He was front and center evaluating those European stars he played a part in drafting during the Prospects Tournament this week at Center I.C.E. Arena.

Andersson took some time out of his busy schedule to sit down with to discuss his profession and, to some extent, the strategy it entails. Is it difficult to be drafting at the bottom of every round each season or does the staff view that as a challenge?

HA: "I have to believe it's different to draft everywhere. If you're picking first overall, that's difficult because you're looking at two or three guys and thinking, 'Which one do I like?' It's like that at every position, but the only difference is that the higher you pick, the better the material is to choose from. But besides that, it's difficult at every position." Prior to every draft, what does the scouting staff discuss?

HA: "There are some discussions, but that varies from year to year. But it's certainly not like there's paper notes all over the place. I've heard that some teams have meetings 10-12 hours a day prior to drafting.  But we settle things quicker than that. I think part of that is the fact our scouting staff has been the same group for years. The majority of us have been together for 10 years. I find that if we're discussing a European player, we'll take a smaller discussion to the table with me, Vladdie (Vladimir Havluj) and either Jim (Nill) or Joe (McDonnell). The three or four of us will work that out and talk about the player. I do know my mind is on the draft 24 hours a day when it's coming up." When your pick is up and you're on the clock, do you know the choice or is there last minute debating?

HA: "Jim Nill and Joe McDonnell make the decisions, but just before our pick is coming up, they'll say, 'Hakan, one more time now. We're looking at this guy. What's your gut feeling?' It's nothing big or anything, but basically do I like him or not." Was there ever a time when you needed to switch gears because an unsuspected pick was made right before yours?

HA: "Sometimes we go by a list that we put together, but I still remember the year (2004) we drafted Johan Franzen. The name higher on our list at the time was Alexander Edler. But Vancouver made a trade when they realized we were likely going to take him since they didn't have a third-round pick. We knew Vancouver was interested in Alex, but we felt pretty safe since they didn't have a third-round pick. But then we heard the announcement that a trade was made and I said to Jim Nill, 'This is it, Vancouver is trading for a pick just before us and they're going to take Alex.' So we waited and Vancouver did it. So Jim and I regrouped and said 'Ok, what's the next name.' That was Johan Franzen, so we took him." What do you enjoy most about your job?

HA: "Finding a player I really believe in. That's what gets me excited to this day. I might have a little less patience these days if there's a game I go to and there's nobody I like. But I still have that drive to find a good prospect, so I have no problem traveling or driving a long way to see a game. If I find a player that I believe in, that gets me excited."

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