Scouts initially dismissed Datsyuk and Zetterberg as too small, still, the Wings’ staff took a chance on the pair selecting Datsyuk 171st overall in 1998, followed by Zetterberg a year later as the 210th pick.
More than a decade later, the duo affectionately known as the Euro Twins, will reach career milestones in Tuesday’s game at Joe Louis Arena. Datsyuk is playing in career game No. 600, and Zetterberg in career game No. 500. All 1,100 of their NHL games has been as Red Wings.
“It’s a big point, a big milestone for us,” Datsyuk said. “I’m happy I played with this team, and I think Hank is happy, too. And being able to play together, it’s been lots of fun.”
The two had instant chemistry when they were paired during the 2002-03 season, where they bonded as two of the youngest players on the squad.
“I think we were the only young guys,” Zetterberg said. “There was a lot of veteran players who had been here for a long time, and me and Pav kind of found each other on and off the ice, and we went on from there.”
The pair, also known as “The Hank and Pav Show,” have used their chemistry to the ice in their 15 combined seasons with Detroit. Together they have won two Stanley Cups and a variety of individual awards — Zetterberg, 29, won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2008, and Datsyuk, 31, has captured the Selke and Lady Byng trophies numerous times.
“They’ve just come of age,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Obviously, we’ve really pushed them hard to be good with and without the puck. Not so much in the demand part of it, but just by how we’ve played them. We’ve made them go head-to-head every single night, and we believe that’s how you win in the end, your best players got to be better than their best players. And so that’s probably led to growth, and they’ve become dominant players in the league now.”
Both signed lucrative long-term contracts with the Wings, all but ensuring they will spend their entire careers in Detroit. Looking back, Datsyuk never thought he would be where he is today.
“If you’re looking now, yes,” said Datsyuk, who also was on the Wings’ Stanley Cup team in 2002. “But nobody knows in the beginning. It’s (usually) a high draft pick. But now it’s lots of fun.”
Zetterberg agreed, saying he never thought he would get this far, but hopes that he can someday reach 1,000 career games for the team that drafted him.
“I have a chance to do that, just got to be healthy enough and play well enough,” he said. “And if I do that, there’s a pretty good chance that I will hit it here. And if it comes, it’s going to be an honor.”