Reviewing NHL Draft Guides

With the draft just a week away it’s time to take a look at this year’s guides.  As I’ve done for the last few years I’m only looking at guides covering the entire draft, so in that light: Future Considerations (FC), Hockey Prospects (HP), International Scouting Service (ISS), and Red Line Report (RLR) are on the menu.  The top-30 lists for the first three are all publically available (you can see them on their various websites or posted up elsewhere).

The four publications have 129 prospects in common–that is to say, 128 players they all agree should (or will) be taken in the draft.  That’s 61% of the total, which represents a very small drop from last year (-3 players).  As you would expect the further we get into the draft the greater the variance.  As for unique selections, ISS leads the way with 39 (RLR 31, FC 28, and HP 24).  This represents an increase from 2015, but its on par for 2014.  As for what leagues the common group comes from, it’s no surprise the CHL dominates: 82 CHL (5 via tier-2), 27 Europe (9 Sweden, 7 Finland, 3 Russia, 2 Czech, 1 Swiss), and 25 US (3 via NCAA).

As for those unique selections, the vast majority are mid-to-late selections (only one player hits the second round, and just five in the third).  These unique picks are much less commonly CHL players (just 39% vs the 60% they represent among common selections).  The breakdown (123): CHL 49, US junior 27, Russia 12, Sweden 11, NCAA 6, tier-2 6, Czech 5, Finland/Switzerland 2, Slovakia/Denmark 1.  As per usual the guides ignore some highly ranked Central Scouting European players (you can see their lists here), as Oleg Sosunov (#25), Artur Shepelkov (#35), Pius Suter (#40), Ivan Kovalev (#41), Artur Lauta (#43), Sebastian Repo (#44), Alexander Bjurstrom (#45), Andrei Kuzmenko (#47), Alexander Yakovenko (#50), Veini Vehvilainen (#G3), Sergei Bolshakov (#G8), and Filip Larsson (#G10) are completely absent (most, not surprisingly, are Russian).  In comparison the highest ranked NA player that doesn’t appear on the lists is Anthony Salinitri (#84).  I’ve always believed this wild variance has to do with the spotty scouting in Europe (if CS’ approach had issues you’d see the same avoidance in their NA lists).

Future Considerations ($22.99)
Scouts: 31
Prospects listed: 211
Prospect profiles: 211
Mock draft: first and second round
Future watch: 2017 and 2018 drafts
Miscellaneous: critical piece on scouting bias

This always affordable product has been my best-buy for several years now.  With that said, there’s nothing new in this years version (save 7 more scouts listed versus 2015), although I do think the piece on potential bias (written by Daniel Deschenes) is excellent and well worth reading through.

Hockey Prospects ($39.99)
Scouts: 22 (Canada 16, US 2, Europe 4); they are not listed in the book, but are available on the website
Prospects listed: 211
Prospect profiles: 411
Mock draft: N/A
Future watch: 2017 and 2018 drafts
Miscellaneous: scouts’ game reports

This expansive publication consistently has more profiles than any other and has been the best predictor of the draft the past two years.  There are no meaningful changes to the product from last year (with extras included in the more expansive “team” version that I’m not reviewing here).

International Scouting Service ($99.99)
Scouts: 53 (Canada 28, US 18, Europe 7)
Prospects listed: 220
Prospect profiles: 110
Mock draft: first round
Future watch: 2017, 2018, and 2019 drafts
Miscellaneous: team draft success from 2000-2014

While the price-point for ISS is unchanged from last year the content has undergone a significant change: the number of profiles has been cut in half, despite an increase in the number of scouts listed (an additional 15 from 2015).  ISS continues to separate its goaltending lists from the rest of the players for no good reason, and provides no rubric for their inclusion in their draft lists.  As the most expensive (and expansive) scouting group included, this year’s product is a disappointment.

Red Line Report ($50.00)
Scouts: N/A
Prospects listed: 312
Prospect profiles: 116 (plus one-line notes on another 61)
Mock draft: 2 (both of the first round)
Future watch: 2017 draft
Miscellaneous: European free agent watch

Constricted by limitations of space for their print-version the publication, they can’t really compete with the heavyweights (HP and FC); that said, it offers it’s own unique opinions and with ISS scaling back the number of profiles included this is certainly a better value.

So what’s the best value?  FC has been the easy choice the last few years, but the pure tonnage of profiles from HP makes this a toss up for me.  For casual fans FC is the way to go in terms of cost and value (most fans aren’t going to care about late round profiles), but for those with a stronger interest it’s hard to ignore the extra coverage offered by HP.  I don’t think the different way they organise their prospects matters (by ranking for FC and alphabetical by HP)–it’s moot in PDF because you have a search function.  Either way, I enjoy both products so whatever choice you make is a good one.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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3 Comments

  1. Did you get McKeen’s this year or recently? I heard that their quality has gone down and that their scouting methods are dubious or something, not sure how true it is but they seem to have fallen out of favour. The top 30 rankings seem pretty crazy as well from them but I know that their accuracy rate has been good in the past. I’m more concerned about the quality of the profile than the accuracy rate though tbh since there are a dozen+ free sources that give ratings alone, which guide has your favourite profiles in terms of the scouting?

    There’s also a new one you missed, the $13 Draftbuzz guide which is pretty good value, I think it’s their 2nd or 3rd year. There’s 212 profiles in there and 304 ratings. For 2017, I see 60 quick profiles/ratings. The depth level of the profiles is decent, bigger than TheHockeyNews but I don’t think as detailed as HP. I try to supplement them by using free profiles from THW, The Draft Analyst, Last Word On Sports, the SBN profiles, etc which is pretty easy to do for the top 100ish players. What I like about the Draftbuzz profiles is their usage of stats that seem to be ahead of the rest. They’re good at pointing out trends and picking up on some things I didn’t see in other guides in the past. I’m hoping they’ll be on top of adding in analytics once those grow more in the future in junior hockey. I think Draftbuzz + FC is good value, it ends up being more content than HP alone while still being cheaper combined (not to say that they’re better but really good value-wise and at supplementing each other).

    I actually do like how International Scouting has a separate ranking for goalies and I’d prefer if other magazines did that. How many goalies get drafted per year and where is very much dependent on team needs and the magazines aren’t great at predicting or profiling them unless they have a great scout for goalies. The only thing is that it ends up causing inconsistency because the other guides don’t count goalies separate so I wouldn’t ever bother including Intl Scouting in an aggregated/averaged draft ranking outside their top 30.

    The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy publishes his top 120 online which I basically consider an updated version of THN’s top 100. The magazine itself is released prematurely so the final top 120 is more accurate but I do like having The Hockey News just to have a coloured physical copy and as a quick primer. Plus their presentation is far far better than the other guides.

    • I appreciate all the info (I hadn’t heard of Draftbuzz). No I skipped McKeens this year–I haven’t used it in 2-3 years now (not a terrible guide for casual fans, but of no value to me). If I add anything into what I look at it has to be something that looks at the whole draft–partial guides don’t shed light on anything because they aren’t forced to make difficult decisions. I absolutely detest ISS’ decision to separate by position, especially since they no longer suggest what round those players could or should go in (it also slightly skews their non-goaltending list). It’s completely arbitrary and out of sync with how the draft is actually run (it also means it’s impossible to assess how good ISS is at assessing goaltenders). One of my major pet peeves with guides and individuals who do predictions (ala Corey Pronman) is their completely lack of self-reflection or analysis–if I wasn’t tracking how they did apparently no one would be (publically at least). That said, for fans who just want solid profiles you could go with virtually anything (although scouts/publications occasionally have diametrically opposed views of the same player).

  2. […] for a few years now, and despite the slight price increase and missing the side content from last year, I think it’s still a good value for casual […]


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