Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman makes first round draft decisions look easier than they truly are.
Through the years, the Red Wings have made some poor first round picks. But former GM Alex Delvecchio’s decision to take Fred Williams at the No. 4 pick in 1976 is considered one of the worst mistakes in NHL draft history.
It’s not as if Delvecchio made an unthinkable pick. Williams was a Saskatoon Blades star who had produced 31 goals and 87 assists for 118 points in his draft season. Ironically, his playing style was compared to Hall of Famer Delvecchio. Williams was projected to be an elite playmaker. But Williams never lived up to his promise. He couldn’t seem to adjust to the speed of the game and ended up playing only 44 NHL games. Only one player in the top 15 of the 1976 draft played fewer NHL games.
The Williams pick was made worse by one of the players they snubbed to take him. Williams’ linemate in Saskatoon was Bernie Federko who had 72 goals in 72 games. The Blues drafted Federko seventh and he had a Hall of Fame career.
Delvecchio did redeem himself in the second round by drafting Reed Larson with the 22nd pick overall. Larson played 904 games and totaled 222 goals and 1,388 penalty minutes.