Last pick proving to pay off

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

DETROIT -- When Jonathan Ericsson's name was called at the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, he wasn't in the crowd at the Air Canada Centre twitching nervously.

He wasn't monitoring the proceedings via the Internet or waiting for word with baited breath.

The Detroit Red Wings defenceman was doing what hockey playing teenagers should be.

"I was actually working at a youth hockey camp, coaching, and helping kids at a hockey school," he said.

"Someone from the local newspaper called me and told me I was drafted."

Good thing he wasn't waiting for it to happen.

When Ericsson's name was announced, it was by the Detroit Red Wings with the 291st, and final, selection of the affair.

It had been a long, long time since Rick Nash was tabbed first overall.

Yet, all these years later, he's battling for the Stanley Cup with the defending champion Red Wings.

It's amazing considering the volume of players chosen before the towering defenceman that haven't even come close to cracking an NHL roster, including a handful of other Detroit selections.

"When I got drafted, I was just happy people had their eyes on me," said Ericsson, the 6-foot-4, 220-lb. rookie blueliner from Sweden.

"Then I knew people would have their eyes on me a little bit more. I knew I had a chance to be a solid hockey player at the professional level -- not have to work besides hockey -- and I got more into training and worked a lot harder in the gym.

"I knew I had a chance and wanted to do everything to make it."

Ericsson is one of eight last-overall picks to play in the NHL since the league began an amateur draft in 1963, a list that includes Gerry Meehan, Sergei Priakhin and Kim Johnsson. Ericsson is the latest selection to make it.

Coincidentally, Chicago's last pick in the 2002 draft is also in this Western Conference final series. Adam Burish was selected 282nd.


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