Reviewing NHL Draft Guides

With the draft almost upon us it’s time to review this draft year’s guides.  As I’ve done for the last few years I’m only looking at guides that cover the entire draft, so in that light I’m looking at: Future Considerations (FC), Hockey Prospects (HP), International Scouting Service (ISS), and Red Line Report (RLR).  A reminder that there are 217 picks this year (due to expansion).  In my descriptions below I’ve ignored mock draft sections and some of the future watch stuff (2018 and/or 2019 drafts), as these always seemed like pointless fluff to me (the former is broadly available for free, while the latter has no discernible value unless you are in the most bizarre fantasy league).  I’m also reviewing the regular copies of these guides (RLR has a “pro” version and HP has team specific versions).  In brackets I’ve noted changes from last year.

International Scouting Service $10.00 (-$89.99)
Scouts listed: 52 (-1)
Prospects listed: 200 (-20)
Prospect profiles: 110 (unchanged)
Miscellaneous: historical draft analysis

This has been the least impressive draft product for a long time (due in part to its cost), so the radical price cut is added value. Despite having the largest scouting staff of any guide (just 5 scouts in Europe however), it offers the least amount of substance. Why they choose to list fewer players than will be drafted is beyond me, as is their continued separation of goaltenders from their draft rankings (which is to say, their goalie list isn’t integrated into their main list, nor does it indicate what rounds said goalies will be taken).  They improved their draft analysis piece from previous years, but really, other than cost there’s no reason to buy this product for casual fans unless you’re on a strict $10 budget.

Future Considerations $24.99 (+$2)
Scouts listed: 37 (+6)
Prospects listed: 250 (+39)
Prospect profiles: 219 (+8)
Miscellaneous: none

This has been my best-buy 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 fans.

Hockey Prospects $39.99 (unchanged)
Scouts listed: 20 (-2)
Prospects listed: 217 (+6)
Prospect profiles: 389 (-22)
Miscellaneous: game reports; extensive scouting profiles of future drafts

For hardcore draft fans or those who want to dig deeper this remains the best product on the market–as such, the additional cost is worth it.  It also stands as the best predictor of the draft (albeit, by a relatively small amount–see below).

Red Line Report $50 US (unchanged)
Scouts listed: 12 (N/A)
Prospects listed: 325 (+13)
Prospect profiles: 116 (plus 68 one-line notes) (unchanged)
Miscellaneous: expansion draft thoughts; potential older European picks

Constricted by the limitations of space for their print-version, it can’t compete with HP and FC; with ISS reducing its price I don’t think its unique takes can really justify the cost–RLR either needs to revise how it does things or else sales are going to suffer.

Variations
The four publications agree on 119 players (54.8%; down by 10 from last year); this includes 19 first-rounders; 168 players (77.4%) are shared by three publications.  As for unique selections, let’s go by round:
First: none
Second: none
Third: 2 (HP, RLR)
Fourth: 14 (FC/RLR/HP 3, ISS 5)
Fifth: 22 (HP 3, FC 4, RLR 6, ISS 9)
Sixth: 39 (ISS 4, HP 10, FC 12, RLR 13)
Seventh: 21 (HP 6, FC/RLR 15)*
Total: 98 (ISS 18, HP 23, FC 34, RLR 38)
* because of ISS’ bizarre formulation, they have no players in the seventh round

These unique selections are heavily European, American, and overage (comparatively). Thirty-nine of the ninety-eight players (39.7%) are overage, while the EU and American leagues comprise 59 (29 and 30 respectively) of the total (60.2%)–there are also 5 tier-2 junior players.  HP and ISS are heavier on US content, FC about even, and RLR very heavily European.

Predictive success
I’ve been reading and tracking these particular sources for quite some time.  While I’m not that interested in how accurate they are in predicting player X taken at position X (unless someone gambles on that I’m not sure why anyone would be), but I am interested in what percentage of the players included are taken in the draft.  So, tracking back to 2011, here’s how they’ve done by percentage (best to worst):
HP: 74.2, 72.0, 69.2, 70.9, 75.8, 74.8 (avg 72.8)
FC: 73.8, 71.1, 68.7, 69.0, 69.2, 70.1 (avg 70.3)
RLR: 73.8, 73.9, 67.7, 64.7, 73.0, 66.8 (avg 69.9)
ISS: 68.1, 66.3, 62.7, 60.0, 68.6, 63.6 (avg 64.8)
Keep in mind these numbers don’t reflect who was right about how good prospects were, it’s just a reflection of how closely their selections follow what NHL GMs did on draft day. To date I’m slightly ahead of HP in terms of predictions (72.9).

So what’s the overall best value?  My opinion this year remains unchanged: for casual fans FC is the way to go, but for those with a stronger interest in the draft you’re better off with HP.  Either way, I enjoy both products so whatever choice you make is a good one.  As for ISS and RLR, both guides offer their own unique frustrations–the latter is more engaging, but much more expensive.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)