The speculation comes to an end tonight. Who will Stevie Yzerman snag with the sixth pick? He just pulled off a great trade that put a Calder Trophy Finalist between-the-pipes, who’s to say he isn’t bold enough to try trade up? Or maybe he just stays put because he knows what he wants and knows he’s going to get it. While we wait until tonight to find out the answer to those questions, I figured it would be the perfect time to take a trip down memory lane to the Entry Draft of Stevie Y himself, 1983. This is probably my favorite Wings Entry Draft. It brought scoring and fighting to the Wings roster. Who doesn’t love that? But before we get into the Wings, I should make note that this Draft was unique for several reasons. First off, the St. Louis Blues didn’t participate in the Draft after their relocation bid to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was blocked. To this day they still remain the only franchise to not participate in the Entry Draft. Second, when the Minnesota North Stars selected first-overall, they became the first playoff team to Draft first overall. The Rangers became the second team when they drafted Alexis Lafreniere in 2020. And the final interesting fact is that 7 of the top 10 picks became All-Stars, with 3 of them becoming Hall of Famers.
The 1983 Draft was certainly one of a kind, which is why it’s my favorite. The Red Wings had missed the playoffs in the previous five seasons, which ironically, is the same record they currently hold. Detroit held the fourth pick back in 83’ and had just seen Brian Lawton and Sylvain Turgeon selected. The Wings were hoping Pat LaFontaine would slip to them at fourth, and even Yzerman admitted LaFontaine was too good to pass up on. But everything worked out as it was supposed to. The Islanders took LaFontaine and the Wings got The Captain. Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings are synonymous because he always delivered. Over 600 goals, 1000 assists, 3 Cups, and a handful of All-Star games are just a couple of the accolades we can attribute to the 1983 Draft pick. But sometimes it’s the factors that aren’t measured by stats or analytics that make the biggest difference. The Wings drafted a lot of big personalities in 1983, and Yzerman’s leadership was necessary to keep the train on the tracks.
After taking Lane Lambert in the second round, Detroit selected one of the baddest men to ever lace ‘em up. Bob Probert was the bodyguard the Wings needed to let their first-rounder work his magic, and in hindsight, drafting him in the third was a steal. Probert will always be rememberedfor his fearless fighting style, but let’s not forget the man was an All-Star during the 1987-88 season when he put up 29 goals, 33 assists, 398 PIMS, and even tallied 21 playoff points before they fell to the Oilers Dynasty in the Campbell Conference Final. If you want to know more about Probey please check out this deep dive I wrote about the legend. Clearly, Joe Devellano had a plan with this draft. Skill combined with toughness, and he wasn’t done with either.
Detroit had two picks in the fifth round, and they took the skilled Petr Klima and the monster Joey Kocur. The Wings’ love affair with Klima was no secret. So when he was willing to ditch his national teammates to make the move to the US, Vice-president Jim Lites and coach Nick Polano pounced on the opportunity. After a brief lockdown in Germany to avoid the Czech Police, Lites and Pagano were able to secure refugee status for Klima to come play in Hockeytown. Klima hit the ground running with three straight 30+ goal seasons and was dominant in the late-80s. But after 4.5 seasons Klima was traded to the Edmonton Oilers where he would go on to lift the Cup 1990. The Czech winger was talented but similar to Probert, his struggles with alcohol resulted in disciplinary issues. There were probably two players who knew Probert the best at that time, Klima and Kocur.
Joey Kocur was the Wings’ 88th pick of the draft, two behind Klima, and is regarded as one of the best fighters of all-time. The Bash Brothers wreaked havoc on the NHL during the 80s. Kocur has even joked that they would look at the lineup before the game and pick out who they were going to scrap. The Saskatchewan native’s right-hand was so feared that Stevie Y asked Scotty Bowman to bring him back to Detroit for the 1996-97 season. Bowman listened because he knew Kocur could elevate the Wings’ physical play, but I bet he wasn’t expecting Kocur to pop in goals in both the 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cup Finals to help the Wings go back-to-back.
The Wings selected Chris Pusey, Bob Pierson, Craig Butz, and Dave Sikorski before snagging Stu “The Grim Reaper” Grimson in the tenth round. While the Reaper wouldn’t suit up for the Wings before landing in Calgary, he did do a comeback tour in the early 90s. It’s crazy to think that theoretically, the Wings could have run three of the most legendary enforcers on the same line, or split them up so every talented player would be protected. It never came to fruition, but it’s fun to imagine that was Devellano’s plan. Similar to Probert, please check out a deep dive a the Reaper, he’s had a fascinating life.
This concludes the 1983 Draft breakdown. It’s pretty wild to think the man drafted fourth overall nearly forty years ago could be selecting the Wings’ future captain. In the end, Detroit fans have enjoyed some pretty legendary drafts. Tonight could be another. Will we reap the rewards immediately? Maybe…maybe not. But as Dostoevsky said To live without hope is to cease to live. Let’s keep the hope alive tonight. Enjoy the draft folks!