As the director of European scouting for the Detroit Red Wings
, Hakan Andersson certainly racks up plenty of frequent-flyer miles.
He certainly made more than his share of flights to Russia this season in attempt to evaluate prospects sure to be in the cross hairs of NHL scouts and general managers at the NHL Entry Draft, June 25-26, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"It's time consuming and it varies from year to year, but I enjoy it," Andersson told NHL.com.
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.
"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."
-- Hakan Andersson
"Finding a player I really believe in. That's what gets me excited to this day," Andersson said. "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."
Believe it or not, Detroit's 21st selection in the opening round this year is actually their highest pick since 2005, when they plucked defenseman Jakub Kindl
of the Kitchener Rangers at No. 19.
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.
Over the years, his drafting acumen has been impeccable. Andersson saw untapped potential in Tomas Holmstrom
(No. 257 in 1994), Pavel Datsyuk
(No. 171, '98), Henrik Zetterberg
(No. 210, '99), Niklas Kronwall
(No. 29, 2000), Jiri Hudler
(No. 58, '02), Valtteri Filppula
(No. 95, '02), Jonathan Ericsson
(No. 291, '02) and Johan Franzen
(No. 97, '04).
Talk about hitting the jackpot.
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 admitted. "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 has no doubt done his homework on many, if not all, of the European standouts sure to mentioned throughout the opening few rounds of the Draft. That said, projected Russian dynamos Vladimir Tarasenko
, Evgeny Kuznetsov
and Kirill Kabanov
and Sweden's Calle Jarnkrok
may very well all be on the board when the Wings are on the clock in either the first or second round. Finland's Mikael Granlund
, the top-rated European according to NHL's Central Scouting, might be long gone by the time No. 21 rolls around, but time will tell.
While nothing will be said publicly, don't think for a second Detroit's scouting crew doesn't have a strong belief on who'll be selected once their pick is up.
"It's certainly not like there's paper notes all over the place," he said. "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 its coming up."
Then, when Detroit is finally up, the process goes rather quickly.
"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," Andersson explained.
Still, there are times when an unsuspected move and pick is made, leaving scouts and GMs scratching their heads and scurrying for the next best possible choice for the organization.
Andersson vividly recalls the 2004 Draft at RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.
"Sometimes we go by a list that we put together, but I still remember the year we drafted Johan Franzen
(at No. 97)," he said. "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 and 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."
All in a day's work for Andersson.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale