VANCOUVER - In his first draft as GM of the Detroit Red Wings, Steve Yzerman made a splash. The Red Wings shocked the hockey world by taking German defenseman Moritz Seider sixth overall, making him the second defenseman taken after Colorado’s Bowen Byram at No. 4.
On most lists, Seider was slated to go in the 15-20 range. He played for Adler Mannheim in the DEL, but viewings weren’t always easy for NHL teams due to some minor injuries he had along the way. Yzerman noted that the Red Wings did try to trade back to get another asset while still picking Seider, but they couldn’t find a dance partner and since their next pick didn’t come until No. 35 in the second round, they had to make a decision.
“We think he has excellent hockey sense,” Yzerman said. “Obviously he’s a big kid at 6-foot-3 and a real good skater. In our opinion he was one of the top defensemen in the draft. I know our fans don’t know much about him, but people will come to development camp and see him move, watch him play a bit and they’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
Speaking of surprises, even Seider himself was floored by his high draft slot. There were signs, though - his final meeting at the draft combine was with Detroit and it also turned out to be his longest at 40 minutes. Seider also noted that Yzerman wanted to know everything about him and he ended up meeting with Detroit a couple of times. And when he got up on stage, it was the GM himself who had some sage words for him.
“He said ‘just be calm and enjoy the moment,’ ” Seider recalled. “My hands were shaking and I was so sweaty. I’m still shocked, it was an unreal moment.”
Yzerman got to see Seider live in December when the big blueliner helped Germany earn promotion to the 2020 world juniors by winning the under-20 Division 1A tournament, then again later when Mannheim was in the playoffs. He loved Seider’s high hockey IQ and is confident in Seider’s development if he returns to Germany next season, though the GM cautioned that it is too early to make judgements on where the kid should play next.
“If he goes back there, he’s in a good environment,” Yzerman said. “It’s a first-class organization and a very good team. That wouldn’t be a bad thing if he went back. But we’ll let it play out and determine what is best for him.”
Seider’s hockey journey began in his hometown of Erfurt at the age of 5, when his kindergarten class would take to the ice once a week to learn the sport. After a few sessions, he found a piece of paper in his stall from the Erfurt Black Dragons, a third division squad and the local side. He got to skate with the pros and a love affair was born.
As Seider grew, he needed a bigger challenge. At 13, his parents quit their jobs as managers of a home for the elderly and the family moved to Mannheim.
“That was a huge commitment my parents made,” Seider said. “I’m just happy to pay a little bit back.”
Playing with Adler Mannheim’s DEL team this season meant sharing the ice with former NHLers such as Andrew Desjardins, Ben Smith and even Marcel Goc.
“They’re all so experienced,” Seider said. “Some have won a Stanley Cup, some have won a German championship, some have played 700 NHL games. It was the perfect opportunity for myself. Also it was very important in getting better as a person - just hanging out with those experienced guys and getting to know their families was a huge step for me.”
This was a big pick for Detroit. The Red Wings are in the midst of a rebuild while playing in a very top-heavy Atlantic Division. They’ve got a lot of catching up to do with the likes of Tampa Bay, Boston and Toronto and some nice young pieces in Filip Zadina, Michael Rasmussen and Filip Hronek, to name a new. Seider can be a difference-maker on the blueline and a character guy, at that.
“He’s very personable; a very bright young man,” Yzerman said. “He has a lot of energy and he’s an excellent athlete. There’s a lot of potential in his play and his athleticism.”
It’s fun when an organization gets their guy at the draft, even if the pick seems high at the time. Yzerman’s tenure in Detroit is starting off with a bang - now we wait to see if it pays off down the road.