Reviewing NHL Draft Guides

It’s time for my annual review of NHL draft guides. Last year Future Considerations remained on top for casual fans, with Hockey Prospects keeping its crown for the hardcore draft folk. Have my conclusions changed? Let’s find out. Needless to say this isn’t intended as a comprehensive review of all draft guides–my focus is on those that cover the entire draft and that I’ve personally found most useful. Publications like McKeen’s are available ($15 with 124 profiles), but are not discussed below.

In my descriptions below I’ve ignored mock draft/future watch sections because for me they have no value–it’s pointless fluff–but they may be of interest to you so keep that in mind.  In brackets I’ve noted changes from last year. Let’s break it down:

International Scouting Service $10.00 (unchanged)
Scouts listed: 48 (41 NA, 7 EU) (-4)
Prospects listed: 210 (+10)
Prospect profiles: 110 (unchanged)
Miscellaneous: historical draft analysis

While ISS intelligently reduced its cost last year they still have frustrating eccentricities that lack any justification: why stop 7 players short of listing the entire draft? Why separate goaltenders from other players (they aren’t drafted separately)? The miscellaneous information they include is trivial because it’s all easily available online–that’s space that could be used to add profiles. You can applaud the change in cost, but other than that there’s not much value here (particularly as their predictions have been consistently among the worst over the years–see below).

Future Considerations $19.99 (unchanged)
Scouts listed: 29 (15 NA, 14 EU) (-7)
Prospects listed: 300 (+50)
Prospect profiles: 220 (+1)
Miscellaneous: none

This is the best value for casual fans, even with FC trimming its scouts substantially from the previous season (they have the biggest EU scouting staff, oddly enough). It wouldn’t hurt for them to add in some extra content (as they have in years past), but given the price point there’s no obligation for them to do so.

Hockey Prospects $49.99 (+$10.00)
Scouts listed: 28 (25 NA, 3 EU) (+8)
Prospects listed: 217 (unchanged)
Prospect profiles: 345 (-44)
Miscellaneous: game reports

The Mack Daddy of draft guides, this massive tome includes about 400 pages of material no one is ever going to need (game reports and future reports), but the remaining tonnage is well worth it. One quote from their website to keep in mind:

Don’t be fooled by the ‘scouts’ from some services who pretend to be in the rinks. In our travels to games throughout a season, there are approximately 30 NHL team scouts we see a minimum of 20 times per year. So we find it interesting that we haven’t run into some of these ‘scouts’ from other services for stretches of time ranging from four to nine years. In fact, we’ve never seen several of them ever.

I’m not sure who they are targeting here, but I will say they’ve been the most accurate draft predictor among the guides for quite some time (if not always by a large margin, see below). From a personal point of view I see the game reports as frivolous and think something more useful could be done with all that space. With that said, this is a great product.

Red Line Report $50.00 (unchanged)
Scouts listed: 12 (unchanged)
Prospects listed: 326 (+1)
Prospect profiles: 116 (plus 68 one-line notes) (unchanged)
Miscellaneous: potential older European picks

It looks like a kid made it in his parent’s basement, but RLR proudly trumpets its independent nature without providing any reasons why its opinion should be valued. In fairness I’m not sure what else RLR can do to sell itself beyond some eccentric views–championing lesser known or liked players (safely outside the first round). Overpriced and with limited content in a format that hasn’t changed in at least a decade, there’s really nothing to sell it save the few chuckles via its prospect “awards” (although repeating the same one-liners year after year starts to seem lazy). If it was priced between the ISS and the FC guide it would be worth picking up, but with such limited content and the high cost (along with middling predictive success), it’s a pass.

Pick Variation

There’s general agreement among scouts over who is or isn’t an NHL-prospect; the arguments tend to be over the odds of that happening and the relative ceiling. This year they agree on 121 players (up 2 from last year, or 55.7% of the entire draft). What about unique selections (as in, no one else picked the player to be drafted)? By round:
First: none
Second: none
Third: 5 (1 RLR, 4 HP)
Fourth: 12 (2 FC, 2 ISS, 3 RLR, 5 HP)
Fifth: 17 (3 FC, 3 ISS, 5 RLR, 6 HP)
Sixth: 25 (8 FC, 10 ISS, 4 RLR, 3 HP)
Seventh: 34 (11 FC, 5 ISS, 11 RLR, 7 HP)
Total: 93 (24 FC, 20 ISS, 24 RLR, 25 HP)

This is slightly down from last year (by 5 players), with both FC and RLR radically cutting their eccentricity. The unique picks remain heavily European, American, and tier-2 leagues (so, presumably, players seen less frequently).

Predictive success

I’ve been reading and tracking these particular sources for a long time.  While I’m not that interested in how accurate they are in predicting player X taken at position X, I am interested in what percentage of the players included are taken in the draft.  Going 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, 70.9 (avg 72.5)
FC: 73.8, 71.1, 68.7, 69.0, 69.2, 70.1, 61.3 (avg 69.0)
RLR: 73.8, 73.9, 67.7, 64.7, 73.0, 66.8, 63.1 (avg 69.0)
ISS: 68.1, 66.3, 62.7, 60.0, 68.6, 63.6, 66.5 (avg 65.1)
Keep in mind these numbers don’t reflect who was right about how good prospects were, rather they reflect how closely their selections follow what NHL GMs do on draft day. This latter element is, for me, the most interesting.

So what’s the best value?  My opinion remains unchanged: for casual fans Future Considerations is the way to go, but for those with a deeper interest in the draft (or deeper pockets) you’re better off with Hockey Prospects.  Either way, both are excellent products and I highly recommend them.  As for ISS and RLR, both guides have their own unique frustrations which remain unchanged this year–the latter is more entertaining to read, but much more expensive, and neither offer the kind of value their competitors do (by limiting their prospect profiles to the first few rounds they’re competing with free resources online which seems like a very poor business decision).

A friendly reminder about both my patreon and support via donations: the work for this site involves many hours of labour (along with certain set costs) and any and all support makes a big difference.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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2 Comments

  1. This blog is good! Thanks for sharing knowledge


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