-- At 5-foot-11 and 176 pounds, Tomas Tatar
, the Red Wings’ second pick in the 2009 NHL draft, certainly isn’t one of the biggest players around. However, the Slovakian’s skill level and skating ability are what make him a special player – it’s a blueprint Red Wings management has followed for years.
One has to look no further than the Wings’ current roster to see examples of similar players, like Henrik Zetterberg
, Pavel Datsyuk
and Jiri Hudler
that have thrived in the NHL despite being smaller players.
All of these players, Tatar included, work into the Red Wings’ philosophy: players will get bigger and stronger over time while skill level is inherent. Skill and talent always seem to come first for the Red Wings in terms of what they look for when drafting a player. It’s this philosophy that enabled them to find late-round gems like Datsyuk and Zetterberg. While other teams are looking for size and strength, the Red Wings look for skill and give their draft picks time to develop.
When asked who he compares his game to, Tatar mentioned Tampa Bay right wing Martin St. Louis (5-9, 177). His relatively small size has not prevented him from being one of the league’s leading scorers over the past five seasons.
Tatar, 18, was among the 32 prospects to participate in the opening day of the Red Wings' development camp at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday morning.
Prior to the 2009 World Junior Championship, Tatar was a virtual unknown to NHL scouts, but then he led Slovakia to a fourth-place finish, scoring seven goals and and four assists in seven games.
Red Wings management was so impressed with his play during and after the WJC that they expected him to be drafted towards the middle of the first round in last month’s draft. Tatar instead slipped to the end of the second round, where the Red Wings were thrilled to select him with the 60th overall pick.
Tatar’s story is similar to that of Hudler, who was drafted 58th overall while he was seen as a top-15 prospect in 2002. Like Hudler, and so many before him, the Red Wings believe they have found a special player that many teams passed up on because of his smallish stature. Tatar said one of his goals is to get bigger and stronger, in order to adjust to the rugged North American style.
Tatar’s plans for the future also include playing for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League who selected him sixth overall in the Canadian Hockey League import draft.
However, his ExtraLiga contract may prevent him from reporting. Tatar said he is looking forward to playing in Canada, but the Red Wings won’t be disappointed if he has to stay in Slovakia for another year.
As always with the Red Wings, patience is a virtue when it comes to developing prospects – especially guys like Tatar. Adam Rice is an intern in the Red Wings' New Media & Publishing Department at Joe Louis Arena.