The most unheralded member of the Red Wings’ front office used to guide intrepid fishermen around the waters of Sweden, Norway and Argentina. Frankly, that makes all the sense in the world.
Hakan Andersson is still fishing. And he’s still the best at finding the most prized fish in the darkest waters.
Andersson is the William Morris Agency of the NHL—all by himself. You ever hear the story of how Lana Turner was discovered while sipping a milk shake in a Hollywood diner? Well, Andersson has done that time and again for the Red Wings.
Andersson is the Red Wings’ Director of European Scouting, a post he’s held since 1993. He is the man responsible for finding gems such as Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom, Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen and too many others to mention. Andersson fishes the waters, like he used to do after his own playing career ended due to injury.
It’s true. For several years, Andersson acted as a fishing guide, boating with swanky folks who paid a pretty penny to be navigated around expertly to find the fish that no one else could.
When he got done with looking for fish, Andersson turned his talents to finding hockey players.
Hakan Andersson, posing with the trophy he has helped the Red Wings win four times
Imagine finding Michael Jordan pouring in points in a high school in Nova Scotia. Or discovering Miguel Cabrera slamming home runs over the fence of a ballpark in New Zealand.
Andersson’s specialty is unearthing players that the NHL’s typical scouting department has barely heard of. The players mentioned above—Zetterberg et al—were hardly first rounders that garnered the most attention.
Filppula and Franzen were third round picks. Datsyuk was a sixth-rounder. Zetterberg wasn’t drafted until the seventh round. And Holmstrom didn’t get picked until round ten.
Anyone can draft a hot shot in the first round. It’s success in the later rounds that separates the men from the boys in the world of scouting.
Andersson watches hockey and sniffs out talent like you and I breathe. It comes that natural to him.
Andersson and his European staff, scattered throughout the continent, start watching games in September and they don’t stop until April. They use the Wee Willie Keeler method in finding skilled players.
Keeler, one of baseball’s greatest hitters, used the mantra, “Hit ’em where they ain’t” in describing his method of wielding a baseball bat.
Andersson and his scouts look where they ain’t. The “they”, are other teams’ scouts.
It doesn’t hurt to be lucky rather than good on occasion, however.
Datsyuk is Andersson’s Lana Turner.
Andersson went to Moscow in 1997 to check out a player named Dmitri Kalinin, but in the course of doing so, Andersson became enamored with a shifty center playing for Kalinin’s opponents. The shifty center was Datsyuk.
Andersson eschewed the pursuit of Kalinin—currently playing in the Kontinental Hockey League, by the way—and made a return trip to Moscow to see Datsyuk play again. Using Anderssson’s notes, the Red Wings drafted Datsyuk 171st overall in the 1998 Entry Draft. Andersson maintains to this day that he was the only NHL scout to have ever seen Datsyuk play prior to the draft.
The next year, Andersson was at a tournament in Finland to scout right winger Mattias Weinhandl but became enamored with a center “who always seemed to have the puck.”
In 1999, again acting on Andersson’s recommendation, the Red Wings drafted that center 210th overall in the entry draft. He currently wears no. 40 and is the captain of the Red Wings—Zetterberg.
Hakan Andersson’s hand is nearly filled with Stanley Cup rings. He has four of them, and every one of them has been earned just as much as the 20 players who skated nightly for the Red Wings in those Cup years.
The former fishing guide whose own playing aspirations were torpedoed by injury, is perhaps the greatest fisherman in the history of the NHL, when it comes to amateur scouting.
Andersson still enjoys fishing in his free time. No doubt he has little trouble finding anyone who wants to venture out in the boat with him.