So much for all the mock drafts regarding who the Red Wings would select.
The Red Wings were expected to concentrate on defensemen with their two picks in the first round of Friday's NHL Draft, but couldn’t resist the forwards available.
When winger Filip Zadina was available at No. 6, defying expectations, the Red Wings bypassed all the projected defensemen they were going to pick and quickly snatched the native of Czech Republic.
Then, later in the night, at No. 30, they selected Joe Veleno, a center expected to go some 15 to 20 picks higher.
So, what was the reaction of Tyler Wright, the Red Wings’ director of amateur scouting, when the two players were available?
“A little bit of shock,” Wright said.
Zadina (6-foot, 197 pounds) is generally considered to be the best goal-scorer in the draft, with an outstanding, accurate shot and an impressive competitiveness on the ice.
Playing with Halifax in the Quebec major junior league, Zadina scored 44 goals and had 38 assists for 82 points.
“We had him very high on our list,” Wright said. “We were ecstatic to tell you the truth.
“He’s not a one-trick pony who could score. He has good hockey sense, creates plays, he’s a good character kid, he competes.
“He’s just a very good overall offensive hockey player.”
Zadina was thrilled to be selected by the Wings.
“It feels awesome,” Zadina told the media scrum around him, minutes after being drafted. “I feel so happy right now. I am in Detroit and I don’t care what (slot he was picked). I’m a Detroit player.
“I’m just glad I’m here.”
Zadina was a player the Wings couldn’t pass on, despite a bevy of defensemen available such as Quinn Hughes (Michigan), Evan Bouchard or Noah Dobson.
There is a some belief Zadina could step right into the Red Wings’ lineup in October — although Wright cautioned about rushing the young player.
“He’s physically mature, he’s a mature kid, he’s played against men (international tournaments),” Wright said. “He’ll determine that ultimately, but we’ll give him every opportunity.”
The first two picks went exactly according to plan, with defenseman Rasmus Dahlin going to Buffalo at No. 1 and Carolina picking forward Andrei Svechnikov at No. 2.
But Montreal chose center Jesperi Kotkaniemi at No. 3 — a selection that Wright said allowed the Wings to believe they could get Zadina — shaking the projected picks, and Ottawa chose forward Brady Tkachuk.
Arizona then surprised most everyone by taking center Barrett Hayton at No. 5, unexpectedly leaving Zadina for the Red Wings.
“Everybody was expecting I was going to Montreal, but it’s the draft and anything can happen,” Zadina said. “I don’t really care about the number (draft pick). I’m just glad to be in Detroit.
“I didn’t fall, it’s just the draft, (but) I was kind of nervous where I would be (picked). But it’s Detroit, and it’s unbelievable.”
One possible reason Zadina dropped in the draft could be some poor physical testing scores at the combine.
Zadina’s confidence also rubbed some people the wrong way. He told reporters earlier in the month he’d like to fill Montreal’s nets if the Canadiens didn’t draft him, and told reporters in Dallas he can’t wait to play against Ottawa and Montreal, teams who passed on him Friday.
“I just want to play and prove to them they didn’t like that decision (not to pick him),” Zadina said. “I’m just glad and I want to prove (to) Detroit they made a good decision.”
Wright doesn’t mind the “swagger.”
“I like the swagger,” Wright said. “He has to make the team first. This is step one. Step two is the work starts now.
"We wanted to add offensive skill to our lineup.”
This was the Wings’ highest selection since they took Keith Primeau third overall in 1990.
At No. 30, the pick acquired from Vegas in a trade deadline deal for Tomas Tatar, the Wings selected Veleno.
Expected to be a top-15 pick, Veleno had 22 goals and 57 assists for 79 points in 64 games at Drummondville.
Veleno (6-1, 195) captained Canada’s team at last summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament.
“We had him extremely high on the board,” Wright said. “We wanted to target centers. I don’t want to make comparisons but he skates like Dylan Larkin, he plays the game like Dylan Larkin. “
Veleno admitted he was getting a bit nervous sitting and waiting to hear his name called.
“A little bit,” Veleno said. “But I was nervous the whole way through the draft, and excited at the same time. Hearing your name called is pretty special. I was just waiting for the opportunity.
“It’s a great spot for me. It’s such a great, historic franchise. The organization knows what they’re doing, they bring up players pretty well. I’m excited.”
The Red Wings have nine more selections Saturday, including two in the second round and three in the third round.
Meet the new Red Wings
Pick: No. 6 overall (Round 1)
Position: Left wing
Height/weight: 6-foot, 197 pounds
Last season: Halifax (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League), 57 games, 44 goals, 38 assists, 82 points.
Scouting report: Projected to be one of the top five players selected, Zadina dropped to No. 6 where the Red Wings quickly grabbed him. An elite goal scorer, Zadina has a great shot and is an outstanding skater. He’s extremely competitive, and is an underrated passer. He can improve defensively, and needs to get stronger along the boards. Didn’t test consistently well physically at the draft combine.
Pick: No. 30 overall (Round 1)
Height/weight: 6-foot-1, 195 pounds
Last season: Drummondville (QMJHL), 64 games, 22 goals, 57 assists, 79 points.
Scouting report: Projected to be a drafted somewhere in the 10-15 range, Veleno dropped to the Red Wings at 30. Looking for defensemen, the Wings couldn't pass on Veleno. He began playing in the Quebec junior league at age 15, but never really matched the hype or expectations that were placed on him. A good playmaker, scouts also love his character and leadership qualities.