"It helped me when I got here, right away I played with good players," Zetterberg said Saturday. "They kind of just eased me in."
The Chicago Blackhawks couldn't afford to do the same with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, banking on them to contribute when they made their NHL debuts last season as teenagers.
In their second season, it paid off for the proud-again franchise.
Kane and Toews led Chicago to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 -- second in 11 seasons -- and into the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1995.
"Just to be a part of the resurgence of the franchise the past couple years, it's been a hell of a ride," Kane said after arriving in Detroit, the site of Game 1 this afternoon.
Zetterberg and Datsyuk were late-round picks, drafted 210th and 171st overall, and were groomed to be stars of the future.
Datsyuk was a third-line center under coach Scotty Bowman, now a consultant for the Blackhawks, as a 23-year-old rookie when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup seven years ago. Zetterberg's production as a 22-year-old rookie the next season, scoring 22 goals, was simply a bonus.
"These guys turned into dominant, two-way hockey players," Detroit forward Kris Draper recalled.
Kane, of Buffalo, N.Y., was the NHL's Rookie of the Year last season and Toews of Winnipeg, Manitoba, finished third in voting for the Calder Trophy.
Both avoided a sophomore slump. Toews had a team-high 34 goals in the regular season and has 10 points in 12 playoff games. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Kane had 70 points this season and has eight goals in the playoffs.
"There's nothing similar about them at all," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Toews is the guy you need for your franchise because he's a guy that's gonna play two ways. ... Kane is the guy who can stick handle in a phone booth."