Niklas Kronwall (2000) and Johan Franzen (2004) are two of the members of this era of drafted players.
These are what you might call the glory years of the draft in the past 20 years. Why? Four of the five picks are currently on the team and are integral parts of the team.
2000-Rd 1, pick 29: Niklas Kronwall (D)
Kronwall was selected in 2000 by the Red Wings but he stayed in the SEL for three more years before joining the Red Wings/Griffins in the 2003-2004 season. With the 2004-2005 season being a NHL lockout, the Swedish defenseman spent the year in Grand Rapids and won the AHL top defenseman award. Kronwall began play for the Red Wings full-time the following season but missed substantial time with a knee injury. After returning from injury, Kronwall became a reliable blueliner for the Red Wings and has become well known for his teeth-rattling open-ice hits. Dubbed "Nick Jr." for his style of play similar to Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, Kronwall has emerged as a stay at home defender with stick skills to go along with his hitting prowess. As a smooth skater and great passer, Kronwall has become an offensive force, too; racking up 45 assists in the 2008-2009 regular season. Kronwall will likely be the top line guy for the Red Wings after Lidstrom retires and the fact that he's a second pairing defender that puts in mega-minutes per night shows how versatile he is.
Notable others drafted: Tomas Kopecky (RW, 2nd round)
2001-Rd 2, pick 62: Igor Grigorenko (LW)
Grigorenko had a short-lived stay in the Red Wings organization. Drafted in 2001 out of Russia, Grigorenko spent only 5 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2007-2008 before bolting back to Russia. In 2003, Grigorenko suffered serious injuries from a major car accident and it's possible that these injuries altered his skills. Grigorenko most recently played in the KHL.
Notable others drafted: Dmitry Bykov (D, 8th round)
2002-Rd 2, pick 58: Jiri Hudler (C)
The story of Jiri Hudler has become a well-known one of late. Hudler was drafted in 2002 and joined the Red Wings/Griffins in 2003-2004. Like with Kronwall, the lockout year allowed Hudler to mature a bit in the AHL (as well as a few games in the Czech league) before becoming a Red Wing full-time during the 2006-2007 season. Playing in 76 games that season, Hudler scored 15 goals and added 10 assists. The following year, "Happy Hudler" helped the Red Wings reach the Stanley Cup finals and scored 5 goals in the playoff run to go along with his 13 regular season markers. Playing all 82 games in 2008-2009, Hudler scored a career high 23 goals and added 34 assists. With free agency looming and very little cap room, Hudler did not re-join the Red Wings during the 2009-2010 season but instead went to the KHL in a well-documented debacle that drew the ire of many fans. Although, now it looks as if it were a convenient move for Hudler to go to the KHL while the Red Wings had cap troubles. Hudler has returned after one year with Moscow Dynamo in the KHL and offers the Red Wings some welcomed puck possession and speed.
2003-Rd 2, pick 64: Jimmy Howard (G)
It seems that the engine of Jimmy Howard's career is just warming up. After spending four seasons in the AHL, being groomed to be the next Detroit goalie, Howard finally got his shot in 2009-2010. Howard was expected to be the backup to veteran Chris Osgood but as Osgood's play faltered, Howard was called on to play more and more. At first, it was downright ugly. But as the season matured, Howard became a solid netminder for the Red Wings and showed great skill in net, even when his defense hung him out to dry. One of the highlights of Howard's rookie season was a 51 save performance in a 2-1 win over the LA Kings, including some incredible saves. Howard ended his first season with top 5 goals against average numbers and save percentage and a Calder Trophy nomination for top rookie. He's expected to be the future of the Red Wings in net and he will get that shot again next year.
2004-Rd 3, pick 97: Johan Franzen (C)
Johan Franzen finished off his 5th year with the Red Wings in 2009-2010, a season shortened drastically by a knee injury sustained early on in the season. As he came back, the team surged with the added depth and he tallied 10 goals in 27 games, the same number of goals he scored in 69 games in 2006-2007. Franzen had his best year in 2008-2009 as he scored 34 goals with 25 assists and added another 12 goals and 11 assists in the run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Franzen has evolved from a timid forward into a completely dominating scoring threat with a penchant for shooting often--and with production numbers like his, why not? Franzen earned the nickname "The Mule" with his ability to carry the team when needed and numerous game winning goals are indicators of the accuracy of that name. Franzen has set numerous playoff records in his short time with the Red Wings and all signs point to his level of play continuing to be exceptional throughout the course of his career. Feed the Mule.
Favorite Red Wing first pick from '00-'04?
Niklas Kronwall (64 votes)
Igor Grigorenko (4 votes)
Jiri Hudler (11 votes)
Jimmy Howard (18 votes)
Johan Franzen (271 votes)
I like 'em all! (132 votes)
500 total votes