Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson’s claim to fame is being chosen last in 2002 NHL Entry Draft (9th round, 291st overall) and then becoming an NHL regular for several seasons.
It’s something we all know about him, but maybe fail to appreciate. Consider that the NHL’s had about three last-picked players worth a damn, with Ericsson, Patric Hornqvist and Andy Brickley. Consider that around a half-dozen “Mr. Irrelevant” players in the NFL had gone on to significant careers since 1936.
Who knew the 6-foot-5 Swedish kid the Red Wings selected in 2002, a forward at the time no less, would sign a 6-year contract in 2013?
Ericsson signed a six-year contract extension worth $25.5 million, with a cap hit of $4.25 million per season. Pushing 30, his average ice time crossed the 20-minute threshold last season, the first post-Lidstrom one for the Wings. This season he’s averaging even more at 22:16.
“It took him a number of years to become what he’s capable of being,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Only stars step right in and grab the lead. The rest of us have to work at it and get better each and every day.”
The term was necessary to get the cap hit, which is rather friendly for the Wings considering Ericsson’s in his prime. They now have Niklas Kronwall, Ericsson and Jakub Kindl locked up through 2017; one imagines the next contract for Danny DeKeyser could do the same.
Ericsson long ago proved he’s more than a trivia question in this league, but it’s times like this when you can’t help but consider his strange path to the League – and what would have happened if the Red Wings had taken the other guy.