Henrik Zetterberg was considered a long shot when he was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the seventh round (210th overall) of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Though impressed with his skill, management figured he would be more of a fourth-line winger, who would most likely have to pay his dues in the minors. But, much to their surprise, the Njurunda native proved to be a third-line workhorse filled with determination and will. Earning praise from veterans like Leafs´ captain Mats Sundin, who said the talented young winger reminded him Peter Forsberg, Zetterberg has overcome the odds and emerged as an asset to the organization.
Prior to the opening of the 1999–00 season, Zetterberg attracted lots of interest from several Swedish Elite League teams. However, despite temptation, he remained in Timra with the hope of elevating the team into the country’s top league.
Within no time at all, Zetterberg established himself as the league’s most dangerous offensive talent. Notching 16 goals and 24 points in 31 regular season appearances, the determined 19-year-old continued to press forward in the playoffs, scoring 14 goals and 24 points in just 21 games. He also helped guarantee Timra a spot in the Swedish Elite League in 2000–01. During that year, Zetterberg was named assistant captain of Sweden’s World Junior team. As is his nature, he gave 100% effort to the tournament and finished with three goals and five points in seven games. Spectators were amazed; quickly pointing out Zetterberg was by far the country´s best forward throughout the event.
Zetterberg was honored with Sweden´s Rookie of the Year award
In 2000–01, Zetterberg and his team made their debut in the Swedish Elite League. It was during this period of time that he began to grow as a player. As the season came to a close, Zetterberg was honored with Sweden´s Rookie of the Year award, and was tied fourth in the league’s scoring race with 15 goals and 46 points in 47 games. In 2001–02, Zetterberg finished the season with 10 goals and 22 assists in 48 games. It helped him capture the Golden Puck award, an honor received by the best player in Elitserien.
On the international level, Zetterberg not only represented Sweden in both the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and World Championships, but also dazzled the crowd with an amazing four-goal performance in the gold medal final at the Swedish Hockey Games. That performance was the deciding factor in making Zetterberg “Best Swede,” an honor given to the country’s top participant in international competition.