NHL Draft Success (2005-2009)

There have been a sprinkle of articles reviewing draft accuracy over the years (like TSN’s Scott Cullen‘s awhile back) and as engaging as they are I’ve always had problems with the way they are constructed. Examinations of the draft that cover a long period of time fail to account for the changes in the league and the draft itself, so the comparisons don’t really work. When articles cover more recent drafts (Hockey Futures does them at five-year intervals) they are forced to make judgement calls on players whose futures are yet to be defined (just two examples, Colin Greening hadn’t started his pro career five years in, while Carl Soderberg didn’t jump to the NHL until he was 27).  All this preamble is to make two key points: 1) the attitude and approach to the draft in the NHL changed seismically after the 2004-05 lockout (due to the cap), 2) the typical make-or-break moment for a draft pick varies considerably.  On top of that, the raw overview I’m about to give is simply a window into the study, since I’m not focussed on management changes or know how much money/emphasis is being allocated on scouting by teams year-by-year (nor am I comparing the quality of those players).  What follows is a very broad examination of levels of success within the draft by team.  I’ve cut off at 2009 because even the ’10 draft class still hasn’t completed their cycle of development (’09 has some ambiguity, so the results there aren’t included fully included in the comparative data).  All of this presupposes the importance of the draft, something that could not be assumed at points in NHL history.

My framework: what is a successful pick?  Any skater who has played 200+ NHL games (along with some judgement calls, particularly when it comes to goaltenders).  With that many games the player has managed at least two and a half seasons of NHL work and that’s a solid return on the investment.  It’s not the only metric you could use, but it seems both broad and specific enough to be a place to start.

2005 (here)
First Round
18 players have played 200+ games, including 9 of the top-10 (Luc Bourdon tragically died and is the only exception).  Only 3 players never suited up in the NHL (Marek Zagrapan #13, Sasha Pokulok #14, and Alex Bourret #16)
Second Round
8 players hit 200+ games (the best are James Neal #33 and Paul Statsny ##44), with 12 never hitting the ice; only Marc-Andre Cliché might break that 200 barrier.
Third Round
6 players hit the mark (the best are Kris Letang #62 and Jonathan Quick #72; I’m including Ben Bishop #85); 12 never played
Fourth Round
6 players have reached the plateau (the best is Keith Yandle #105); 17 never played; Chris VandeVelde still has a chance to break the barrier
Fifth Round
5 players hit the mark (the best are Darren Helm #132 and Nathan Gerbe #142); 23 never played
Sixth Round
Only Matt D’Agostini qualifies; 22 players never played
Seventh Round
5 players reached the plateau (all serviceable players); 26 players never played

Here’s the success by team (I’ve included those players destined to break the plateau):
4 – Columbus (MacLean), Montreal (Gainey)
3 – Detroit (Holland), Dallas (Armstrong), Pittsburgh (Patrick), St. Louis (Pleau), New York Rangers (Sather)
2 – San Jose (Wilson), Ottawa (Muckler), Los Angeles (Taylor), Arizona/Phoenix (Barnett), Toronto (Ferguson), Nashville (Poile), Buffalo (Regier), Chicago (Pulford/Tallon), New Jersey (Lamoriello)
1 – Anaheim (Coates/Burke), Carolina (Rutherford), Minnesota (Risebrough), Edmonton (Lowe), Philadelphia (Clarke), Atlanta/Winnipeg (Waddell), Colorado (Lacroix), Vancouver (Nonis), Boston (O’Connell)
0 – Washington (McPhee), New York Islanders (Milbury), Florida (Keenan), Calgary (Sutter), Tampa Bay (Feaster)

2006 (here)
First Round
20 players hit the plateau (I’m including Jonathan Bernier), including all of the top-ten picks; 3 players did not hit the ice for an NHL game (Mark Mitera #19, David Fischer #20, and Dennis Persson #24)
Second Round
9 players (I’m including Michal Neuvirth) hit the mark, with only Jhonas Enroth having a chance to join them; 14 players never played
Third Round
While only 3 players have reached the plateau, but another 3 will or should join them (Brian Strait #65, Ryan White #66, and Eric Gryba #68); 16 never hit the ice
Fourth Round
2 players (Matt Beleskey #112 and I’m including James Reimer #99); 22 players never played
Fifth Round
No player has hit or will hit the 200 game-mark (or even 100); 23 never played; Chad Johnson #125 was the best player picked
Sixth Round
3 players hit the mark (Andrew MacDonald #160, Viktor Stalberg #161, and Mathieu Perreault #177), with Leo Komarov #180 having an outside shot of also getting there; 23 prospects never played
Seventh Round
2 players qualify (Derek Dorsett #189 and Erik Condra #211); 24 players never played

Here’s the success by team (I’ve included those players destined to break the plateau):
4 – Washington (McPhee), Toronto (Ferguson)
3 – Boston (O’Connell/Gorton/Chiarelli), Columbus (MacLean), Ottawa (Muckler)
2 – St. Louis (Pleau), New York Islanders (Milbury/Smith), Minnesota (Risebrough), Los Angeles (Taylor/Lombardi), Pittsburgh (Patrick/Shero)
1 – Chicago (Pulford), Arizona/Phoenix (Barnett/Maloney), Florida (Keenan), Atlanta/Winnipeg (Waddell), Vancouver (Nonis), Colorado (Lacroix/Giguere), Philadelphia (Clarke), San Jose (Wilson), Edmonton (Lowe), Detroit (Holland), New York Rangers (Sather), Buffalo (Regier), Carolina (Rutherford), Anaheim (Burke), Montreal (Gainey)
0 – Tampa Bay (Feaster), Calgary (Sutter), New Jersey (Lamoriello), Dallas (Armstrong), Nashville (Poile)

2007 (here)
First Round
16 players hit the mark, including 9 of the top-ten, but Ian Cole, Riley Nash, and Brendan Nash will all get there (so 19); 5 picks never played a game (Alexei Cherepanov #17 died; Logan MacMillan #19, Angelo Esposito #20, Patrick White #25, and Nick Ross #30)
Second Round
4 players have reached the plateau; 15 never played a game
Third Round
One player has reached 200 games (Yannick Weber #73), but Alex Killorn, Robert Bortuzzo, Joakim Andersson, and Corey Tropp should all get there (so 5); 16 players never hit the ice
Fourth Round
3 players qualify (Alec Martinez #95, Dwight King #109, and Matt Halischuk #117); 16 never played; Brad Malone #105 is on track to join them
Fifth Round
2 players (Jamie Benn #159 and Jake Muzzin #141) reach the mark; Chris Terry #132 has a shot to join them; 23 have never played
Sixth Round
Carl Hagelin (#168) and Nick Bonino (#173) qualify; Patrick Maroon #161, Brett Bellemore #162, and Paul Byron #179 should get there (so 5), with two others having outside shots (Luke Gadzic and Anthony Peluso); 17 prospects never played
Seventh Round
2 players (Carl Gunnarsson #194 and Justin Braun #201) reached the mark; 24 have never played; there’s a chance Paul Postma #205 will eventually get there

Here’s the success by team (I’ve included those players destined to break the plateau):
4 – Los Angeles (Lombardi), Montreal (Gainey)
3 – San Jose (Wilson), St. Louis (Pleau), Colorado (Giguere)
2 – Edmonton (Lowe), Carolina (Rutherford), Philadelphia (Holmgren), Buffalo (Regier), Pittsburgh (Shero), Detroit (Holland)
1 – Chicago (Pulford), Arizona/Phoenix (Maloney), Washington (McPhee), Columbus (Howson/MacLean), Florida (Martin), Nashville (Poile), Tampa Bay (Feaster), Calgary (Sutter), New Jersey (Lamoriello), Dallas (Armstrong), New York Rangers (Sather), Toronto (Ferguson)
0 – Ottawa (Br.Murray/Muckler), Boston (Chiarelli), Anaheim (Burke), Vancouver (Nonis), Atlanta/Winnipeg (Waddell), New York Islanders (Snow), Minnesota (Risebrough)

2008 (here)
First Round
17 players have reached 200 games, including 9 of the top-ten, with another 3 on their way (so 20); four prospects never played (Kyle Beach #11, Chet Pickard #18, Anton Gustafsson #21, and Daultan Leveille #29)
Second Round
5 players (Derek Stepan #51, Travis Hamonic #53, Roman Josi (#38), Justin Schultz (#43), and Marco Scandella (#55) have reached the plateau, with Vyacheslav Voinov (#32), Patrick Wiercioch #42, and Jimmy Hayes #60 locks to join them (so 8); 7 players have never suited up
Third Round
4 players (Michael Stone #69, Lance Bouma #78, Zack Smith #79, Adam Henrique #82), with Brandon McMillan #85 possibly getting there, and Jori Lehtera #65 if he can stay healthy (I’ll include him, so 5); 17 prospects never made it
Fourth Round
Two have reached 200 games (Dale Weise #111 and T. J. Brodie #114)), with Braden Holtby (#93) and Gustav Nyquist (#121) arriving there this upcoming season (so 4); 15 players never suited up
Fifth Round
Two players (Matt Martin #148 and Matt Calvert #127) qualify; 18 prospects never played
Sixth Round
4 players qualify (Jared Spurgeon #156, Cam Atkinson #157, Tommy Wingels #177, and Zac Rinaldo #178), with Ben Smith #169 joining them in the upcoming season (so 5); 19 players never suited up
Seventh Round
Only Jason Demers (#186) hits the mark; 22 have never played; Matt Bartkowski #190 could join him soon; I’ll include Anders Lindback (#207) as well (so 3)

Here’s the success by team (I’ve included those players destined to break the plateau):
4 – New York Islanders (Snow)
3 – Nashville (Poile), Ottawa (Br.Murray), New York Rangers (Sather)
2 – Buffalo (Regier), Anaheim (Burke/Bo.Murray), Washington (McPhee), Columbus (Howson), San Jose (Wilson), Los Angeles (Lombardi), Calgary (Sutter), Philadelphia (Holmgren), Arizona/Phoenix (Maloney), St. Louis (Pleau), Toronto (Ferguson/Burke)
1 – Tampa Bay (Feaster), Atlanta/Winnipeg (Waddell), Vancouver (Nonis/Gillis), Edmonton (Lowe), Minnesota (Risebrough), New Jersey (Lamoriello), Detroit (Holland), Chicago (Pulford), Florida (Martin), Carolina (Rutherford), Boston (Chiarelli)
0 – Colorado (Giguere), Montreal (Gainey), Dallas (Armstrong/Hull-Jackson), Pittsburgh (Shero)

2009 (here)
First Round
14 players have hit the threshold (including 9 of the top-10), with another 8 who will get there (so 22); only one player never played (Philippe Paradise #27), with Scott Glennie (#8) as the only top-10 bust
Second Round
2 have reached the threshold, with another 7 on their way (so 9, possibly to be joined by Dmitri Orlov #55); 9 players never made it
Third Round
2 players hit the mark, and I’ll include Tyson Barrie #64 and Brayden McNabb #66 as well (so 4), although it’s worth noting several other players whose careers have just started could bump this number considerably; 12 prospects never made it
Fourth Round
2 reach the threshold, with another 4 on their way (so 6, with the same caveat as above); 13 players never suited up
Fifth Round
2 players hit the mark, with Mike Hoffman #130 likely to join them (so 3); 21 players never suited up
Sixth Round
No player is at 200 games, but Anders Lee #152 should get there; 18 players didn’t make it
Seventh Round
Zero players hit the mark, but Jordan Nolan #186 will get there and Erik Haula #182 has a decent chance; 26 players never hit the ice

The preliminary success by team:
4 – New York Islanders (Snow), Nashville (Poile)
3 – Los Angeles (Lombardi), Ottawa (Br.Murray), Buffalo (Regier), Anaheim (Bo.Murray), Colorado (Giguere/Sherman)
2 – Minnesota (Risebrough), Columbus (Howson), Dallas (Hull-Jackson/Nieuwendyk), Washington (McPhee), Edmonton (Tambellini), Tampa Bay (Lawton), Chicago (Pulford), New Jersey (Lamoriello)
1 – Detroit (Holland), Atlanta/Winnipeg (Waddell), Arizona/Phoenix (Maloney), Toronto (Burke), Florida (Martin/Sexton), St. Louis (Pleau), New York Rangers (Sather), Pittsburgh (Shero)
0 – Boston (Chiarelli), Calgary (Sutter), Carolina (Rutherford), Montreal (Gainey), Philadelphia (Holmgren), San Jose (Wilson), and Vancouver (Gillis) with 0.

My hope is that others will dig a little deeper to get the how and why behind the numbers–a few basic factors (poor coverage of Europe and the dismissal of smaller players) are clearly a factor (as explored here in a look at undrafted success stories).

Overview (2009 is not included for the reasons mentioned above)
Round-by-round success rate:
First: 77/120 (64%)
Second: 30/123 (24%)
Third: 22/120 (18%)
Fourth: 16/124 (13%)
Fifth: 9/127 (7%)
Sixth: 14/123 (11%)
Seventh: 12/128 (9%)

The scaling between rounds is not surprising.  Of the 39 top-ten picks (excluding Bourdon for obvious reasons), only 2 were misses, making them 95% reliable.  Excluding the top-ten picks, the first round is still significantly stronger than the second round (40/79, 50%, excluding Cherepanov for the same obvious reason).  The third round is more meaningful than the rest, but the fourth is only a bit better than the rounds that follow; the fifth-seventh rounds are roughly all on equal footing in terms of results, which suggests there’s still room to improve scouting (as ideally there should be a decline each round; albeit the above data is a small sample size).

Team Performance (GM’s in brackets; the average is 6)
Los Angeles (Taylor/Lombardi), St. Louis (Pleau), Columbus (MacLean/Howson) 10
Montreal (Gainey), Toronto 9 (Ferguson/Burke)
San Jose (Wilson), Ottawa (Muckler/Br.Murray), New York Rangers (Sather) 8
Washington (McPhee), Detroit (Holland), Pittsburgh (Patrick/Shero), Buffalo (Regier) 7
Arizona/Phoenix (Barnett/Maloney), Nashville (Poile), New York Islanders (Milbury/Smith/Snow), Philadelphia (Clarke/Holmgren) 6
Boston (O’Connell/Chiarelli), Carolina (Rutherford), Chicago (Pulford/Tallon), Colorado (Lacroix/Giguere/Sherman), Edmonton (Lowe/Tambellini) 5
Dallas (Armstrong/Hull-Jackson/Nieuwendyk), Anaheim (Coates/Burke/Bo.Murray), Minnesota (Risebrough), New Jersey (Lamoriello) 4
Calgary (Sutter), Atlanta/Winnipeg (Waddell), Vancouver (Nonis/Gillis), Florida (Keenan/Martin) 3
Tampa Bay (Feaster/Lawton) 2

It’s difficult to imagine any scouting staff completely whiffing on an entire year, but organisations do (an average of 5 per season, so a sixth of the NHL).  It’s interesting that LA and St. Louis are benefitting from their excellent scouting (and draft position), whereas Columbus is experiencing much more modest gains (this is where the difference in quality of players manifests itself over quantity).  It seems like a good year for scouts is 2 NHL players (more than that is excellent), while there should always be at least one found (5 teams average less than one).

There’s plenty of room to assess GM’s independent of their teams (from 05-08 half, 15, of the GMs remained the same, although that drops to 13 in 2009).  A quick glance at the variance in performance for those without the same GM (up through 2008):
LA: Taylor 2/1; Lombardi 8/3 (the 2006 draft would have included some or all of Taylor’s scouting staff)
Columbus: MacLean 7/2, Howson 3/2 (the above caveat for 2007, where 1 player panned out)
Toronto: Ferguson 7/2, Burke 2 (the above caveat for 2008, with 2)
Ottawa: Muckler 5/2, Br.Murray 3/2 (the above for 2007, with 0)
Pittsburgh: Patrick 3/1, Shero 4/3 (the above for 2006, with 2)
Arizona/Phoenix: Barnett 2/1, Maloney 4/3 (the above for 2006, with 1)
New York Islanders: Milbury 0/1, Smith 2/1 (the above for 2006, with 2), Snow 4/2
Philadelphia: Clarke 2/2, Holmgren 4/2
Boston: O’Connell 1/1, Chiarelli 4/3 (the above for 2006, plus interim GM Gorton, with 3)
Chicago: Tallon 5/4 (the above for 2005 via Pulford, with 2)
Colorado: Lacroix 1/1 Giguere 4/3 (the above for 2006, with 1)
Dallas: Armstrong 4/3 Hull-Jackson 0/1 (the above for 2008, with 0)
Anaheim: Burke 2/3 Bo.Murray 2/1 (the above for 2005 via Coates, with 1; the same for 2008 with 2)
Vancouver: Nonis 2/3 Gillis 1/1 (the above for 2008, with 1)
Florida: Keenan 1/2 Martin 2/2

A few stray observations in the numbers above: Doug MacLean drafted better than expected in Columbus; my belief that Brian Burke doesn’t draft holds up; Ray Shero was awful; the lauded Peter Chiarelli did not do well at the draft; Dale Tallon’s reputation in Chicago was overrated for the draft.  As for the 15 franchises who kept the same GM’s throughout these four years, Jay Feaster was the worst, followed closely by Darryl Sutter and Don Waddell.  Larry Pleau and Bob Gainey had the best success rate.

It’s worth noting that given top-ten picks are essentially gimmies, GMs who have those picks have their numbers inflated somewhat, so in terms of which scouting staffs can assess after the automatics, here are the adjusted numbers:

Los Angeles, New York Rangers, St. Louis, Montreal, Toronto 8
Columbus, Buffalo, Detroit, Ottawa 7
San Jose 6
Washington, Nashville, Colorado, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh 5
New York Islanders, New Jersey, Boston, Edmonton, Carolina, Dallas 4
Arizona, Calgary, Anaheim 3
Minnesota, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Chicago 2
Florida, Tampa Bay 1

After the first round:

Columbus 7
Montreal, New York Rangers, Toronto, San Jose 6
Los Angeles, Buffalo, Detroit, Ottawa, Nashville, Pittsburgh 5
New York Islanders, New Jersey 4
St. Louis, Washington, Colorado, Boston, Carolina, Dallas 3
Philadelphia, Arizona, Calgary, Anaheim, Minnesota, Chicago 2
Edmonton, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Florida, Tampa Bay 1

The most noticeable drop is by St. Louis, where outside the first round they’ve had middling success (Edmonton’s drop is much less surprising).

At any rate, this all just scratches the surface.  Further analysis and time is required to draw conclusions, but I think this sheds some light on the draft in the current era.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)



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