Happy Birthday, Pasha!
Or maybe better in Russian: s dnyem rozhdeniya, Pasha!
34 years ago today in Sverdlovsk, USSR (now Yekaterinburg, Russia) one of the greatest hockey talents of the last decade was born. Pavel Datsyuk was quite a prospect, yet seen as too small by many NHL teams and therefore passed up in the 1998 draft all the way until the he was taken by the Detroit Red Wings in the 6th round, going 171st overall. The chances of actually making it into the NHL from such a late round are minuscule (ironically Andrei Markov was also chosen in the 6th round that year and only 9 slots before at 162), but as the Red Wings do not rush any player into the NHL, there is always extra time to develop.
I believe “develop” had a whole new meaning with Pavel Datsyuk.
Since coming up to the Red Wings let us take a short look at his list of accomplishments: three Selkes (best defensive forward), four Lady Byngs (performance and sportsmanship), and a Hart Memorial Trophy (league MVP) nomination. He has been a part of two Stanley Cup championships and over that time amassed 240 goals and 478 assists for a total of 718 points in 732 games. I think any team would take that as a solid investment for a 6th-round pick.
No matter how pretty his stats may look (or how poorly he speaks English), it is simply the way he plays the game that attracts so many hockey fans to him. Red Wings fans marvel every time he touches the puck even after seeing him play for years. Heck, fans of other teams can’t help but be on the edge of their seat when he starts to stick handle.
“What is he going to do next?” the fans say, “what could he do this time?”
Amazingly, as if on cue, Datsyuk always delivers. He completes a no-look pass through three defensemen, he stick handles two of the best D-men in the game, or maybe he dazzles a goalie in a shootout. It doesn’t really matter how he does it, because he always does. Often called, “the magician” by those in Hockeytown, Pavel is a player who makes something out of nothing, leaving the opposing players, their coaches, and often the fans scratching their heads, wondering what just happened.
Now, many players in today’s NHL are exciting to watch, especially with the puck. The difference between Datsyuk and the others is how exciting it is to watch him without the puck. He can hit, he can read the pass, but oh those take-a-ways – those are a thing of beauty. Wings fans drool with anticipation, watching almost silently as he comes up from behind a player, flicks his stick up, and before the opposing player realizes it, takes the puck and begins the other way. No example might be better than this goal by Datsyuk against the Nashville Predators.
Wings fans seem to be a bit down on their team lately, going into a year where there will be some question marks and uncharted territory. Have hope, Hockeytown, as there is one thing of which you can be 100% sure – next season you will still be asking, “what is Pav going to do next?”