Pavel Valerievich Datsyuk (born July 20, 1978) is a Russian professional ice hockey player and alternate captain for the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League (NHL). He is known for his stick-handling and is considered one of the best two-way forwards in the game today, having won the Frank J. Selke Trophy in the 2007–08 and 2008–09 NHL seasons. Datsyuk has also won four consecutive Lady Byng Memorial Trophies for performance and sportsmanship. He was nominated for the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player following the 2008–09 season. Datsyuk won the Stanley Cup in 2002 and 2008 with the Red Wings.
Datsyuk was born in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg), in what is the Urals region of Russia. His childhood had more than its fair share of difficulties, especially at the age of 12, when his mother died.
While Datsyuk displayed above-average hockey skills, he was often overlooked by scouts because of his smaller size. He began playing for the farm club of Dynamo Yekaterinburg in the mid-1990s, though he seemed headed for an undistinguished career until noted Olympic trainer Vladimir Krikunov began coaching the team.
The boy “with the twitchy walk” caught the eye of Krikunov, but not on the ice. Instead, Datsyuk excelled on the soccer field, where his anticipation, vision, and intelligence were more apparent. Under Krikunov, Datsyuk evolved into a particularly efficient two-way player, and he began to draw wider attention among Russian hockey fans. Despite his early successes, however, he went undrafted in the 1996 and 1997 NHL drafts.
Pavel was first noticed by Red Wings Director of European Scouting Håkan Andersson in the summer of 1997–98. Andersson had made the trip to Moscow to scout Dmitri Kalinin but the one who caught his eye was Datsyuk, “this little guy on the other team.” Andersson made another trip to see Datsyuk and would have gone a third time; however his flight was cancelled due to a storm. A scout from St. Louis was on the plane as well, on his way to the same game, and as a result of that storm Andersson believes he is the only NHL scout to have seen Datsyuk play prior to the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, when the Red Wings drafted him 171st overall.
When Datsyuk began his NHL career for the Red Wings, he had legendary mentors – including Soviet stars Igor Larionov and Sergei Fedorov as well as Detroit captain Steve Yzerman – to help him learn his way around the NHL. He was put on a line with Brett Hull and Boyd Devereaux and had a moderately productive first year. The length and difficulty of the NHL season got to him eventually, causing him to sit out a clump of games at the end of the year in preparation for the playoffs. He contributed three goals and three assists to the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup run.
Expectations were high for Datsyuk’s second season, particularly with the addition of another highly touted prospect to the team, Henrik Zetterberg. Zetterberg replaced Devereaux on the Datsyuk-Hull line and the famous version of the “Two Kids and an Old Goat Line” was born. He played only 64 games due to a knee injury but ended up with 51 points in the 2003 season. His playoff performance was a bit disappointing that year, but the same could be said about the entire Red Wings team. The team was swept by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the first round, and Datsyuk was held pointless.
The departure of Sergei Fedorov in the 2003 off-season made room for Datsyuk to rise to prominence on the Red Wings. He took full advantage of his extra ice time, where his dazzling playmaking skills elevated him to the ranks of legitimate scorers in the NHL. Datsyuk earned a spot in the 2004 NHL All-Star Game. In the playoffs, he had no goals and 6 assists through 12 games before the Wings were eliminated in the second round.
He was a restricted free agent during the 2004–05 off-season, but could not reach a deal with the Red Wings despite repeated statements by his agent, Gary Greenstin, indicating his desire to stay in Detroit. He chose not to go into salary arbitration and played with HC Dynamo Moscow during the 2004–05 lockout. On September 4, 2005, Datsyuk signed a one-year contract with Avangard Omsk of the Russian Superleague (RSL), and Moscow Dynamo matched the offer two days later.
On September 19, 2005, the day the arbitration committee of the Russian Superleague was set to determine which club had Datsyuk’s rights, Datsyuk agreed to a two-year deal with the Red Wings for a total of US $7.8 million.
During the 2005–06 season, his high level of play combined with his exceptional sportsmanship (he recorded just 22 penalty minutes the entire season) won him the Lady Byng Trophy;, the first of four consecutive awards (as of 2009). Datsyuk also earned a spot on the Russian team for the 2006 Winter Olympics.
During the 2006–07 season, Datsyuk debuted Reebok‘s new hockey stick with holes bored into the shaft to make it more aerodynamic, dubbed the 9KO. He completed the season matching his previous campaign’s total of 87 points. Prior to the beginning of the playoffs, on April 6, 2007, Pavel signed a 7-year contract extension with the Red Wings for US$46.9 million. He helped the Red Wings get to the Western Conference finals against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks, contributing 16 points in 18 games.
In 2007–08, Pavel was voted by the NHL fans, along with teammates Nicklas Lidström and Henrik Zetterberg, to start for the Western Conference in the 2008 NHL All-Star Game at Philips Arena in Atlanta. He went on to have a career year with a team-high 97 points in 82 games, also leading Red Wings forwards in blocked shots. In leading the team in scoring, he joined Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman as the only players in franchise history to do so in 3 consecutive seasons. Going into the playoffs, he scored his first career NHL hat trick on May 12, 2008, in a 5–2 win over the Dallas Stars in game three of the Western Conference Finals, en route to a 2008 Stanley Cup Finals meeting with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In game six, Datsyuk recorded two assists in a 3–2 win to clinch the team’s 11th Stanley Cup title and its fourth in eleven years.
Having led the NHL in 2007–08 with a plus-minus of 41, and 144 takeaways (58 more than Mike Modano second-best total of 86), Datsyuk was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. With just 20 penalty minutes, he was also awarded the Lady Byng Trophy. In the voting for the Selke, Datsyuk received 537 points (43 first place votes) while John Madden of the New Jersey Devils received 447 points and Datsyuk’s linemate Henrik Zetterberg received 425 points. In the voting for the Lady Byng, Datsyuk received 985 points (75 first place votes). In addition, Datsyuk became the first NHL player to win the Lady Byng Trophy three consecutive times in over 70 years. Frank Boucher of the New York Rangers was the last player to do so, winning the Lady Byng from 1933–35. Datsyuk, along with Ron Francis, are the only players to have been awarded both the Selke and Lady Byng trophies during their careers.
Datsyuk was selected to his third NHL All-Star Game in 2009, but due to a hip injury suffered in a game against the Phoenix Coyotes on January 20, 2009, just prior to the All-Star weekend, he did not attend. However, as per a new league policy that states players must demonstrate injury by missing at least one game prior to the All-Star Game, Datsyuk was suspended one game, along with teammate Nicklas Lidström, for not attending.
Datsyuk finished the 2008-09 season with 97 points (32 goals and 65 assists), matching his career high. He won the Frank J. Selke Trophy , beating out Philadelphia‘s Mike Richards and Vancouver‘s Ryan Kesler. He also won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for the fourth consecutive season. Datsyuk also received a nomination for the Best NHL Player Award at the ESPYs, but lost to Sidney Crosby.
- Olympic bronze medal (Russia) — 2002
- Played in the NHL YoungStars Game — 2001–02
- Stanley Cup (Detroit Red Wings) — 2001–02, 2007–08
- NHL Offensive Player of the Month — December 2003
- Selected to the NHL All-Star Game — 2003–04, 2007–08, 2008–09*
- Lady Byng Memorial Trophy — 2005–06, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09
- Carhartt “Hardest Working” Player of the Month — December 2007
- Frank J. Selke Trophy — 2007–08, 2008–09
- NHL Plus-Minus Award — 2007–08
- NHL Second All-Star Team — 2009