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Trading places

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
ST. PAUL, Minn. – As Friday’s first round of the NHL draft neared the halfway point, the Red Wings decided to seek a trade to acquire more picks in Saturday’s final six rounds at Xcel Energy Center.

“It’s just like playing the lottery,” said, Jim Nill, the Red Wings assistant general manager. “The more times you buy a ticket, the better chance you’ve got. We think we can get two players out of what we have left.”

The Wings traded the No. 24 pick to Ottawa for a pair of second-rounders – the Senators’ selections at 35 and 48.

It will be the first time since 2005, that the Wings will select nine amateur players in a single draft year. The year they selected defenseman Jakub Kindl (first round), and forward Justin Abdelkader (second round) and Darren Helm (fifth round). It is the ninth time that the Wings haven’t had a first-round pick since 1997.

“There are quite a few guys still available, so we just wanted to get more picks,” Nill said. “We think they’ll be more players that fall down to us.”

Nill and the rest of the Wings’ front office believe the players that they covet will still be there for them when they make three times in the second-round Saturday morning. Detroit also has the No. 55 pick in the second round.

“We initiated (the trade),” Nill said. “We were about halfway down. We have a cutoff list of guys that you just have to take because they’re so good, and once the last guy went, then we knew that we had to step up and try to get extra picks.

“We’re still thinking that two of the guys that we have sitting up high will still be there. … Now there’s no guarantee.”

Nill said that at some point in the draft, the remaining talent becomes very similar. “They all have something good. They all have something bad,” Nill said. “The more you can get the better you chance you have of getting lucky and hitting a home run.”

While the Red Wings didn’t pick Friday, at least four players with ties to the Detroit area were drafted by NHL clubs, including three players from the U.S. National Development Team program in Ann Arbor. The U.S. players are J.T. Miller (New York Rangers); Connor Murphy (Phoenix); and Tyler Biggs (Toronto). Another player with Detroit ties, Northeastern University defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who played a season with the Little Caesars midget minor team, was selected by the Dallas Stars with the 14th pick.

The atmosphere inside of the area was quite lively at times, but one of the loudest ovations came when the newly relocated Winnipeg franchise announced that its nickname will be the Jets. The Wings will play the Jets just once during the 2011-12 season. That game is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 10 at Joe Louis Arena.

SETTLED DOWN: A month into his new job last year, Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman was admittedly anxious at his first amateur draft as a first-time NHL general manager. Saddled with developing a draft strategy, and with very little time to prepare, the Lightning’s new boss tabbed four Canadians, two Americans, a Czech and a Slovakian in the 2010 draft.

“I’m slightly more comfortable this year,” Yzerman told Friday afternoon. “I wasn’t comfortable at all last year.”

Yzerman helped steer the Lightning to a remarkable season, one that saw them reach the Eastern Conference finals, before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in a seven-game series.

By virtue of their season, the Lightning picked 27th in Friday’s first-round, selecting Russian center Vladislav Namestnikov

“Every decision you make you’re confident that you’re doing the right thing,” Yzerman said Yzerman, “but you’re really never sure until three or four years down the line and then you know how good your decision was.

“We have a lot more things in place right now. We know our current team. We know our players. Last year I came in with a lot going on and not certain of a lot of our players. I find myself a lot more organized.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill
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