Detroit Red Wings promote former ‘Grind Line’ center Kris Draper

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Kris Draper is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s undoubtedly the best dollar the Detroit Red Wings ever spent. Draper was acquired from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a dollar on June 30, 1993. He’d not only go on to be a vital piece of four Stanley Cup teams, but since retiring, he’s done a tremendous job as Detroit’s director of amateur scouting.

General manager Steve Yzerman hired Draper to the role upon returning to the organization in 2019. Draper did serve in various capacities under former general manager Ken Holland.

Draper joked that Holland was gracious with ‘The Office’ like title special assistant to the general manager because he basically just watched hockey and filled out reports that he wasn’t sure anyone read and wasn’t in charge of anything during his time breaking into a front office role under Holland.

Recently, Yzerman added a new title to Draper’s resume. In addition to the Detroit Red Wings director of amateur scouting, Draper, 52, will also hold the title of assistant general manager. It is a title that Yzerman’s former teammate Pat Verbeek held in Tampa Bay and Detroit before being hired as the Anaheim Ducks general manager in February of 2022.

This promotion gives me a feeling that perhaps Kris Draper will become an NHL general manager in the future. Although Yzerman gets a ton of credit for his stellar draft classes, Draper, among others, works diligently in the background to find the talented prospects the organization will eventually select. Since returning to the Detroit Red Wings, Yzerman has hit on most of his first-round selections, of course, are yet to flourish, but only time will tell. Yzerman and his team have identified the likes of Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, Sebastian Cossa, Simon Edvinsson, Marco Kasper, and most recently, Nate Danielson and Axel Sandin-Pellika. What a difference from Ken Holland’s last few drafts that landed the Red Wings with Filip Zadina, Michael Rasmussen, Joe Veleno, Dennis Cholowski, and Evgeni Svechnikov.

Of that group, only two first-round picks remain. Rasmussen and Veleno are both contributors to the Detroit Red Wings, but neither has star appeal. Rasmussen had been surging before suffering a season-ending injury once head coach Derek Lalonde moved him from center to the wing. There is still hope that he will become a valuable top-nine player for the Detroit Red Wings in the years to come. Joe Veleno seems to of carved out a role on the fourth line, which is a bit of a disappointment for a former first-round selection.

Draper recently admitted that he was a bit leary when Yzerman called him into his office to ultimately offer him his new job title and description.

"“I was never a big fan of being called down to the office,” Draper said, smiling. “I saw the principal way too much in elementary school.“I want the opportunity to sit on meetings like last week with free agency, the negotiations of contracts, entry-level deals,” Draper said. “I’d love to learn how to do those. But my main role is exactly what it’s been since Steve has come here, and that’s running the draft.“I take a lot of pride in my job right now as director of amateur scouting, and to be added to assistant general manager by Stevie means a lot. It is a big stepping stone. To earn that trust from Steve Yzerman is something that means a lot. Obviously, he appreciates the hard work, what I’ve been doing, where we’re at, and the direction we’re going.”"

Draper spent 17 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and anchored the ‘Grind Line,’ which played a vital role in Scotty Bowman’s lineup, often playing as a shutdown unit against the opposition’s top group.

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That allowed Bowman to create enormous mismatches playing Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov’s lines against some second and third lines. Draper finished his NHL career with 161 goals, 203 assists, and 364 points over 1,157 games. Draper would become a valuable veteran who embraced a leadership role in Detroit’s cup run in 2008, wearing an ‘A.’