Tim Murray and Ottawa at the Draft

A reader took me to task for a comment I made in my last post reflecting how how Ottawa has suffered at the draft table in the absence of Tim Murray.  I’m not sure anyone doubts Tim’s abilities (he’s probably most famous for helping the Rangers land Marc Staal) and some would argue he’s had it easy with Buffalo because of their draft position.  However, having high draft picks doesn’t guarantee anything if the GM is terrible (witness Edmonton now or Columbus in the past) and I would contend Ottawa has suffered in his absence.

There are a couple of ways to determine draft success, but the best is not available to us as we’re not 7-8 years out.  What we can do it is look at how players were drafted relative to their rankings going into the draft and their relative success since then (we do the former to represent the aggregate scouting opinion and the latter to see if there’s a significant trend since).  This encompasses 15 picks (Buffalo) vs 13 (Ottawa)–I’ve differentiated them by making Buffalo’s players blue.  A couple of other notes: the risk in drafting goaltenders is well known (eg), but it’s important to remember how risky defensemen are as well (see for example here and here).  It’s also worth noting 2014 was considered a weak draft and 2015 a strong one.

2014
2. Sam Reinhart – #3; he’s coming off a successful rookie season with Buffalo where he finished tied for third in team scoring
31. Brendan Lemieux -#31; had a career year in the OHL (his PPG went from 1.05 to 1.37)
40. Andreas Englund (D) – #50; mindnumbingly low numbers with Djurgardens (0.10 to 0.13)
44. Eric Cornel – #43; career year in the OHL (PPG from 0.78 to 1.22)
49. Vaclav Karabacek – #52; unimpressive numbers in the QMJHL (0.67 to 0.63)
61. Jonas Johansson (G) – NR (CS had him high, but no one else listed him); personal bests in the Allsvenskan (GAA from 2.58 to 2.39, save percentage from .896 to .913)
70. Miles Gendron (D) – #89; unremarkable rookie season with Connecticut (0.22)
74. Brycen Martin (D) – #72; no real improvement in the WHL (0.55 to 0.56)
100. Shane Eiserman – #68; numbers dropped in his sophomore season with New Hampshire (0.42 to 0.39)
121. Maxwell Willman – #116; a solid sophomore season with Brown (0.37)
151. Christopher Brown – NR (son of former NHLer Doug Brown); decent rookie season at Boston College (0.27)
181. Victor Olofsson – NR; career year with MODO (0.46 to 0.59)
189. Kelly Summers (D) – #88; slight improvement in his sophomore season with Clarkson (0.30 to 0.37)
190. Francis Perron – #115; career season in the QMJHL (1.18 to 1.74)

2015
2. Jack Eichel – #2; playing in the NHL as a teenager and clearly belongs
18. Thomas Chabot (D) – #20; career year in the QMJHL (0.62 to 0.95)
21. Colin White – #21; excellent rookie season with Boston College (1.16)
36. Gabriel Gagne – #63; numbers were about even in the QMJHL (0.88 to 0.85)
48. Filip Chlapik – #37; numbers dropped in the QMJHL (1.17 to 1.03)
51. Brendan Guhle (D) – #77; production unchanged in the WHL (0.44)
92. William Borgen (D) – #110; a good rookie season with St. Cloud (0.37)
107. Christian Wolanin (D) – NR; good rookie season with North Dakota (0.48)
109. Filip Ahl – #80; excellent numbers in Swedish junior (1.23 to 1.72), but he should be a regular in the Allsvenskan by now
122. Devante Stephens (D) – #224; unremarkable numbers in the WHL (0.15)
139. Christian Jaros (D) – #139; modest improvement with Lulea (0.04 to 0.20)
152. Georgio Estephan – #190; career year in the WHL (0.79 to 1.25)
182. Ivan Chukarov (D) – NR; an okay rookie season with UMass (0.22)
199. Joel Daccord (G) – NR; middling numbers in the USHL (3.15 and .904)

Clearly Eichel and Reinhart are the best players here and just as unsurprisingly Chabot and White are next–the first round picks appear to be legit.  What about beyond that?

For Senators fans the only player from the 2014 class who has intriguing numbers is Perron, although high numbers in junior don’t always translate (look up Tyler Donati, for instance).  That’s not to say other prospects couldn’t turn out, but we’re looking at the evidence that’s in our face right now.  As for 2015, other than Wolanin there’s no stand outs.

How about Buffalo?  Lemieux, Cornel, and Olofsson all showed significant improvement and make for intriguing prospects from the 2014 group.  As for the 2015 class, Estephan is the one whose numbers standout.

To my eyes the score is Buffalo 6, Ottawa 4.  This doesn’t look like a massive difference, but it does mean the Sabres are averaging one more prospect per draft and that’s actually a significant difference (if you remove the first-round selections it’s 4-2 which is even more stark).  Again, let me emphasize that these are early returns and a lot can change, but within the constraints of what we’re exploring, that’s how things stand.

A few numbers just for the fun of it:
Number of unranked players taken: Buffalo 4, Ottawa 2
Number of players taken well above their ranking: Buffalo 4, Ottawa 3
Number of players taken long after their ranking: Ottawa 4

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)