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Best Player Available: The Steve Yzerman Draft Philosophy

Today we were treated to a Q&A with Steve Yzerman courtesy of Craig Custance at The Athletic. In between games at the U18 World Chapionship in Sweden, Craig spoke to the Red Wings new general manager about some big (and small) prospects and his overall draft philosophy.

One thing Yzerman made abundantly clear about his drafting is he doesn’t mess around when it comes down to who’s available when his team is up.

But sometimes teams will draft a guy and say he projects as a third-line player and it’s like, “Aren’t you better off using that second-round pick on a player with more risk who might be a top-line player?” You know?

Yeah. I would say, you try to project every single player in the draft. What do they have a chance to be? If there’s a good prospect there, you take him. You know? You take the best one there when you’re picking. That’s all we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to outsmart the rest of the league.

Yzerman’s philosophy is to take the BPA – the best player available. In the interview, Yzerman explained that they scout every prospect in the draft and how much harder it is to get lucky in the later rounds because teams aren’t afraid to draft that smaller, but more skillful player earlier on. He also doesn’t let country of origin or contract statuses with other leagues scare him off from drafting a player if they’re the best available. We saw him take that risk with Nikita Kucherov and look how that paid off.

There are still lots of questions surrounding Yzerman’s scouting staff and brain trust in Detroit. It’s likely he’ll make some sweeping changes in the near future. For now, though, his focus is getting the team set up for June’s draft so that he can continue to build on the foundation that was started by Ken Holland.

For more on how Yzerman attacks the draft and handles roster composition, our own Cameron Kuom did a deep dive on Yzerman’s tenure in Tampa Bay:

A Deep Dive Into Steve Yzerman’s Nine Year Tenure In Tampa Bay