Nick Lidstrom wasn’t necessarily a can’t-miss NHL star when he was drafted in 1989. He went in the third round, 53rd overall (there were 21 teams at the time).

He retired yesterday after 20 seasons and many, many well-deserved accolades.

The NHL draft is part science, part opinion, part complete-crapshoot. It’s impossible to predict where most teenagers will end up in their hockey primes, but still, it feels like the right time to rub salt in the wounds of the teams who chose other defensemen over the 2nd best defenseman of all-time (behind only Bobby Orr, in this blogger’s opinion). So, let’s get to the numbers.

Nick Lidstrom versus every defenseman drafted ahead of him – some stats:

Players drafted ahead of Nick Lidstrom: 52

Defensemen drafted ahead of him: 18


Average NHL games played by defenseman drafted ahead of him:  272.67  (4908 total)

Nick Lidstrom’s games played:  1564

Adam Foote (22nd overall) and Patrice Brisebois (30th overall) combined for 2163 of those games.


Average post-season games played by d-men drafted ahead of him:  27.1  (498 total)

Nick Lidstrom’s career playoff game total:  263


Combined Norris Trophies won by defensemen drafted ahead of him:  0

Nick Lidstrom’s Norris Trophy total:  7

Just a bit lopsided.


Combined goals by defensemen drafted ahead of him:  265  (An average of 14.7)

Nick Lidstrom’s career goals:  264

Oh, so close. He almost had all 18 of them.


Combined assists by defensemen drafted ahead of him:  899  (An average of 49.9)

Nick Lidstrom’s career assist total:  878

Ah! One more year Nicky, you’d have ‘em.


Combined points by d-men drafted ahead of him:  1164  (An average of 64.7)

Nick Lidstrom’s career point total:  1142  (6th all-time for d-men)


Stanley Cups won by defensemen ahead of him: 4

Stanley Cups won by Nick Lidstrom: 4


Ouch, all those teams.

The fun part for me is imagining the 1989 debates about which d-man to draft, and knowing that some scout on a team with a higher pick likely ripped him for something, then explained why Player X will turn out better. Egg, meet face.

It was an incredible run for Lidstrom – I hate to see him go, but I’m glad he’s calling it a career without leaving in Chelios-esque fashion.

Comments (6)

  1. I listened to yesterday’s podcast and knew this post was coming because of Pizzo and his spilling of the beans.

    I think I agree that if you remove just Adam Foote from the list of players drafted ahead of Lidstrom, then things look REALLY lop-sided. Brisbois played alot, but he was never a top 2 defensive pairing. Only Foote can say that he was even close to the same company as Lidstrom.

    As for the conversation at the draft, haven’t we seen this time and time again? Especially from Detroit? We were still seeing an influx of European players at that time and the game, in 1989, was built around the big bruiser as a defenceman.

    Go look at Ryan Suter’s draft position. I choose Suter because the rumour has Suter being pursued by Detroit. He’s the same. I think it is more interesting to see how many guys, at each position, were drafted in the first round only to be busts.

    Personally (I hate pumping Pizzo’s tires) this is a testament to Detroit’s scouting system. Much like the San Antonio Spurs, they collect all pieces of knowledge when developing their draft order.

    BTW, Loved that your dad bought some huge bolts to fix the Cup. That may be the best beerability story I’ve heard yet.

  2. What’s almost as incredible as drafting Nick Lidstrom with the 53rd overall pick in ’89 was then grabbing Sergei Fedorov with the 74th pick in the following round. I think it could just be a product of how poor the foreign scouting was at the time. Pavel Bure went 113th overall in the same draft.

    • Not in the case of Bure and Fedorov. Those were soviet players. There was no guarantee they would EVER be eligible (let alone inclined) to play in the national hockey league in 1989, which is why they went late.

      Lidstrom may have been a product of better scouting in 89, but Bure and Fedorov were rolls of the dice. Is a late pick better spent on an elite player you’re unlikely to ever see? Or a guy with holes in his game whose development you can at least control? Because the soviet union fell. option A would be the better one in hindsight.

      Had it not, a Bure pick would have been wasted.

  3. He retired this year because he didn’t want those other 18 d-men to look as bad. Good guy.

  4. He retired 2 playoff points behind Yzerman… Seems like he was too respectfull to pass.

  5. Don’t knock Cheli. He was an impact defenseman well into his 40s. For a guy as passionate about his life’s work as Chelios was, leaving the sport had to be like ripping his heart from his chest.

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