Great little read by Michael Farber on the Wings' Swedish scout responsible for Datsyuk, Kronwall, Ericsson, Nyquist, and Holmstrom.
Until 2013, Jim Nill had been Holland’s assistant in Detroit for 15 years, overseeing amateur scouting. “You see all kinds of stuff when you fly in Russia,” says Nill, now the Stars GM. “[Once] Håkan and I saw this guy who had a propane bottle right between his knees. Another time there was a guy with a big hunting knife cutting up a sausage.” Russia is not exactly an upright-and-locked-position kind of place, but the country’s lax approach to air travel made an indirect contribution to Andersson’s most celebrated coup.
In the fall of 1997, Andersson and Rockström were both in Yekaterinburg, a city 900 miles east of Moscow. They primarily were monitoring defenseman Dmitri Kalinin, a future Sabres first-rounder, but that night Andersson was gobsmacked by one of his hockey epiphanies. On a Yekaterinburg power play the center, who Andersson says could not have been more than 5' 9" and 140 pounds, backchecked furiously and made an exquisitely timed, all-out lunge to break up a shorthanded two-on-one, sending the puck skittering to the corner. It was Datsyuk. “I saw skill, great effort and the great read on what was going on,” Andersson says. “He was small, and the NHL’s a big man’s league, but that one play kept coming up in my mind. I knew I had to see him again.”
Andersson did see him again and was en route a third time, only now he had company: a Flames scout was on the same plane. They boarded the scheduled 11 a.m. flight and then sat on the runway as a snowstorm blanketed Moscow. A few hours later Andersson was startled by a roar. Outside his window he could see flames dancing near the wings, blown by a fan through a massive circular device on the tarmac. The contraption looked like Paul Bunyan’s hair dryer. “The snow started to melt,” he says, “but those wings are right near the fuel.” Eventually the deicing was abandoned and the flight was canceled, leaving the two scouts stranded and Datsyuk mostly a mystery to the gentleman from Calgary. Andersson figures he might have gotten scooped if not for the snow. Instead, the Red Wings took the young Russian in the sixth round the following summer.
“The odds say 1.5 in seven make it [to the NHL],” he says. “The criticism is I go too much for the home run. Late rounds, I’ll go for pure talent. If a guy makes it, [he’ll probably] be on the top two lines. My joke is Kenny can pick up the phone [any time] and find a fourth-line player or a seventh [defenseman]. So why not swing for the fences?”