# HOW IMPORTANT ARE DRAFT PICKS?

**Jason Gregor**

February 25 2011 02:28AM

Every year during the month leading up to the NHL trade deadline there are heated debates in chat rooms, on blogs, at coffee rooms, around water coolers and here on the Nation about what is a fair or good return in a trade. It is much easier to debate when actual players are moved, but when people start tossing around draft picks the air becomes much more grey.

What is the true value of a draft pick? Is a 2nd rounder fair return on a eight-year veteran 3rd pairing D-man? Many of us seem to think it is, but is it really?

I don't have the answer to either question, so I decided to take a look at a decade of drafting and see if the numbers can shed any light on how we should value a draft pick. Without even doing any research it seems obvious that a 1st rounder has the most value, and then a 2nd, but will the value drop accurately from a 3rd, to a 4th and so on?

I'm not sure there is a perfect outline in determining how valuable a pick becomes for each individual team, but we need some guide lines so I came up with the following.

**BUST**(Fewer than 100 games)

**SHORT LIVED**(Out of league and less than 300 Games played)

**DECENT PLAYER**

**DOMINANT PLAYER**(considered an elite player by fans/media outside their city)

**1996**

**1**

11... Busts

^{st}ROUND (25 picks)2... Short Lived

12... Decent players

**2nd ROUND (26 picks)**

17... Busts

1... Short Lived

8... Decent players

**3rd ROUND**(

**28 picks)**

20...Busts

1... Short lived

6... Decent players

1... Dominant player (Chara)

**4th ROUND**

**(28 picks)**

2... Short Lived

**5th to 9th ROUND (133 picks)**

5... Short Lived

1... Dominant player (Tomas Kaberle, 8th rounder)

**Out of the 241 picks only 44 of them (18.2%) turned into regular NHL players.**

**1997**

**1**

11... Busts

^{st}ROUND (26 picks)2... Short Lived

10... Decent players

3… Dominant players (Joe Thornton, Roberto Luongo and Marian Hossa)

**2nd ROUND (27 picks)**

22... Busts

2... Short Lived

3... Decent players

**3rd ROUND**(

**27 picks)**

2... Short lived

3... Decent players

**4th ROUND**

**(26 picks)**

2... Short Lived

**5th to 9th ROUND (140 picks)**

3... Short Lived

^{rd}round had the exact same success rate as the 2

^{nd}, but after that the chances of drafting an NHL player dropped to 7.7% in the 4th, but then rose to 11.4% in the combined final five rounds.

**Out of the 246 picks only 37 of them (15.0%) turned into regular NHL players.**

**1998**

**1**

5... Busts

^{st}ROUND (27 picks)3... Short Lived

18... Decent players

1… Dominant player (Vincent Lecavalier)

**2nd ROUND (31 picks)**

3... Short Lived

6... Decent players

**3rd ROUND**(

**28 picks)**

5... Short lived

6... Decent players

1... Dominant player (Brad Richards)

**4th ROUND**

**(28 picks)**

4... Short Lived

**5th to 9th ROUND (144 picks)**

5... Short Lived

1... Dominant player (Pavel Datsyuk, 6th rounder)

**Out of the 258 picks only 52 of them (20.1%) turned into regular NHL players.**

**1999**

**1**

12... Busts

^{st}ROUND (28 picks)6... Short Lived

8... Decent players

2… Dominant players ( Daniel and Henrik Sedin)

**2nd ROUND (38 picks)**

6... Short Lived

4... Decent players

**3rd ROUND**(

**30 picks)**

2... Short lived

7... Decent players

**4th ROUND**

**(30 picks)**

2... Short Lived

**5th to 9th ROUND (146 picks)**

6... Short Lived

2... Dominant players (Ryan Miller, 5th round, Henrik Zetterberg, 7th round)

^{nd}round in 1999 produced very few NHL players. Only 10.5% (four of 38) became decent players, 15.8% had a short lived career, while 73.7% turned out to be busts.

**Out of the 272 picks only 32 of them (11.8%) turned into regular NHL players.**

###
**2000**

**1**

10... Busts

^{st}ROUND (30 picks)4... Short Lived

14... Decent players

2... Dominant players (Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik)

**2nd ROUND (34 picks)**

23... Busts

10... Decent players

1... Dominant players (Ilya Bryzgalov. He was waived by Anaheim later on.)

**3rd ROUND (31 picks)**

25...Busts

3... Short Lived

3... Decent players

**4th ROUND (34 picks)**

**31...Busts**

1… Short Lived

2.... Decent players

**5th to 9th ROUND (162 picks)**

148...Busts

6… Short Lived

7... Decent players

1... Dominant player (Henrik Lundqvist, 7th rounder)

^{nd}round produced one first liner, 2.9%, ten decent players, 29.4%, while the other 23 players, 67.7%, turned into busts.

**Out of the 291 picks only 40 of them (13.7%) turned into regular NHL players.**

###
**2001**

**1st ROUND (30 picks)**

6... Busts

4... Short lived

18..Decent players

2... Dominant players (Ilya Kovalchuk and Jason Spezza)

**2nd ROUND (33 picks)**

23... Busts

1... Short lived

9... Decent players

**3rd ROUND (34 picks)**

2... Short lived

4... Decent players

**4th ROUND (34 picks)**

29...Busts

1.... Short lived

4.... Decent players

**5th to 9th ROUND (158 picks)**

133...Busts

10... Short lived

15... Decent players

^{nd}round produced a 31.4% chance of getting a decent player, while 3.0% were short lived and 65.7% turned into busts.

^{rd}round it was 11.7%, same as the fourth round, while the final five rounds had a higher than average 9.4%.

**Out of the 289 picks only 52 of them (18.0%) turned into regular NHL players.**

###
**2002**

**1st ROUND (30 picks)**

**7... Busts**

1... Short lived

21..Decent players

1... Dominant player (Rick Nash)

**2nd ROUND (33 picks)**

24... Busts

8... Decent players

1... Dominant player (Duncan Keith)

**3rd ROUND (33 picks)**

26...Busts

2... Short Lived

5... Decent players

**4th ROUND (35 picks)**

31...Busts

1.... Short lived

3.... Decent players

**5th to 9th ROUND (160 picks)**

148...Busts

5... Short lived

7... Decent players

^{rd}round, 8.6% in the fourth round and only a 4.3% chance in the final five rounds combined.

**Out of the 291 picks only 46 of them (15.8%) turned into regular NHL players.**

###
**2003**

**1st ROUND (30 picks)**

**2... Busts**

2... Short lived

18..Decent players

8... Dominant players (Eric Stall, Ryan Suter, Jeff Carter, Brent Seabrook, Ryan Getzlaf, Zach Parise, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards.)

**2nd ROUND (38 picks)**

24... Busts

4… Short Lived

9... Decent players

1... Dominant player (Shea Weber)

**3rd ROUND (33 picks)**

26...Busts

4... Short Lived

3... Decent players

**4th ROUND (35 picks)**

32...Busts

1.... Short lived

2.... Decent players

**5th to 9th ROUND (156 picks)**

135...Busts

8... Short lived

13... Decent players

^{rd}round produced 9.1% while it dipped to 5.7% in the fourth round, but it rose to an average of 8.3% in the final five rounds combined.

**Out of the 292 picks only 54 of them (18.5%) turned into regular NHL players.**

###
**2004**

**1st ROUND (30 picks)**

**8... Busts**

6... Short lived

14..Decent players

2... Dominant players (Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin)

**2nd ROUND (35 picks)**

26... Busts

2… Short Lived

7... Decent players

**3rd ROUND (33 picks)**

25...Busts

3... Short Lived

5... Decent players

**4th ROUND (31 picks)**

24...Busts

2.... Short lived

5.... Decent players

**5th to 9th ROUND (162 picks)**

143...Busts

9... Short lived

10... Decent players

^{rd}round produced 15.1% while it rose a bit to 16.1% in the fourth round, and then dropped to an average of 6.2% in the final five rounds combined.

**Out of the 291 picks only 43 of them (14.7%) turned into regular NHL players.**

###
**2005**

**1st ROUND (30 picks)**

**10... Busts**

1... Short lived

15..Decent players

4... Dominant players (Sidney Crosby, Bobby Ryan, Jack Johnson and Anze Kopitar).

**2nd ROUND (31 picks)**

20... Busts

4… Short Lived

6... Decent players

1... Dominant player (Paul Stastny)

**3rd ROUND (30 picks)**

23...Busts

2... Short Lived

5... Decent players

**4th ROUND (34 picks)**

28...Busts

3.... Short lived

3.... Decent players

**5th to 7th ROUND (105 picks)**

94...Busts

3... Short lived

8... Decent players

^{rd}round produced a 9.1% rate on a decent player, while it dipped to 5.7% in the fourth round, but it rose to an average of 8.3% in the final five rounds combined.

**Out of the 230 picks only 42 of them (18.2%) turned into regular NHL players.**

#
**WRAP UP**

During this ten year span there was 2703 picks, -- I don't say players because Jarret Stoll, Matt Lombardi and Lance Ward were drafted twice, and I'm sure there is more, but I didn't catch all of them. I only counted Stoll and Lombardi once in the final tally of decent players. Ward was a short-lived player -- so I'm going to say there was 2700 for argument sake.

***Feel free to let me know which other players were drafted twice, and I can re-adjust the stats, although, unless there are many, the percentages won't change that much, if any.***

In total, there was 2700 players drafted and only **439 of them (16.2%)** turned into NHL players.

Thirty six of them are dominant players, which equates to only 1.3% of the drafted players.

403 of them became decent NHLers, which amounts to 14.9% of the draft picks.

Here is a breakdown of the each round during this ten-year span.

**FIRST ROUND (286 picks)**

**25 **became dominant players. (8.8%)**148 **turned into decent players. (51.7%)**113 **were short lived or busts (39.5%)

**Of the 25 dominant players, 17 of them came in the top ten picks of a round.**

**SECOND ROUND (326 picks)**

**4 **became dominant players. (1.2%)**70 **turned into decent players. (21.5%)**252** were short lived or busts. (77.3%)

**THIRD ROUND (307 picks)**

**2 **became dominant players. (0.6%)**47 **turned into decent NHLers. (15.2)**259** were short lived or busts. (84.2)

**FOURTH ROUND (315 picks)**

27 became decent players. (8.6%)

288 were short lived or busts. (91.4%)

**FIFTH ROUND (325 picks)**

**1 **became a dominant player. (0.03%)**
22 **turned into decent players. (6.8%)

**were short lived or busts. (92.9%)**

302

302

**SIXTH ROUND (295 picks)**

**1 **became a dominant player. (0.03%)**
26 **turned into decent players. (8.8%)

**were short lived or busts. (90.9%)**

268

268

**SEVENTH ROUND (308 picks)**

**2 **became a dominant player. (0.06%)**
28 **turned into decent players. (9.1%)

**were short lived or busts. (90.3%)**

268

268

**EIGHTH ROUND (267 picks)**

**1 **became a dominant player. (0.04%)**
19 **turned into decent players. (7.1%)

**were short lived or busts. (92.5%)**

247

247

**NINTH ROUND (271 picks)**

**16 **turned into decent players. (5.9%)**
255 **were short lived or busts. (94.1%)

#
**CONCLUSION**

It seems pretty clear that after the first round (60.5%) your chances of finding a decent NHL player become increasing lower. A second round pick will give you a 23.7% chance, you'll have a 15.8% in the 3rd round, only 8.6% in the fourth, 7.1% in the fifth, a little boost up to 9.1% in the sixth and 9.7% in the 7th round.

None of these numbers are shocking, but when people suggest that getting a 2nd rounder for "fill in the blank" is a good trade, keep in mind that you essentially have a one in four chance of turning that pick into a player. I understand that when a team is trading away an UFA that getting something is better than nothing, but unless that something actually pans out, the draft pick, in many cases, turns out to be a whole lot of nothing.

***For those who suggest I should have used players drafted in the first 30 picks in 1996-1999 to ensure it was an even 30 players for each first round, I get your point. However, the 2nd to 7th rounds in many years have a different amount based on compensatory picks so you can't use a set 30 picks for each round.***

#
**CANADIAN TEAMS**

If you are curious how the Canadian teams matched up v. one another during this ten year span here is a quick look at them.

Ottawa had elven first rounder out of their 92 picks, and three were in the top-ten. Their best pick is between Marian Hossa, 12th overall in 1997 or Jason Spezza, 2nd overall in 2001. They have done very well with their first round picks: Hossa, Spezza, Chris Phillips (1st), Martin Havlat (26th), Anton Volchenkov (21st), Tim Gleason (23rd), Patrick Eaves (29th) and Andrej Meszaros (23rd). They've produced 18 decent players and two dominant players out of their 92 picks for a solid 21.7% success rate.

Vancouver had 88 picks, ten in the first round with three in the top ten, and produced three dominant players along with eight decent ones. Their best picks were the Sedin twins 2nd and 3rd in 1999, but Ryan Kesler, 23rd overall, in 2003 was a quality pick as well. Their overall success rate is 12.5%, but with three dominant players they would grade out fairly well.

Montreal had 20 of their 94 picks turn into decent players. Andrei Markov, 6th round 1998, would most likely be their best pick. They've had three top-ten picks, Carey Price (5th, 2005), Andrei Kostitsyn (10th, 2003) and Mike Komisarek (7th, 2001) and eleven overall. They never hit a grand slam with any of their picks, but they sit with a respectful 21.2% success rate of turning picks into players.

Calgary called out 98 names, ten of them in the first round and three in the top ten. Their highest pick was 6th, twice, and they blew it both times on Rico Fata and Daniel Tkaczuk in 1998 and 1997 respectively. Their best pick was Dion Phaneuf, 9th overall, in 2003. They've seen 13 of their picks (13.2% success) become decent NHLers, but none have been very productive offensively. Derek Morris has the most points of any of their picks during this span with 382 in 927 games.

During this span the Leafs didn't seem to believe in holding onto first round picks. Out of their 92 picks, only six came in the first round, 10th, 17th, 21st and 24th three times. They did okay with Nik Antropov (10th, 1998), Brad Boyes (24th, 2000) and Alex Steen (24th, 2002), but they have since traded all three of them away along with their other first rounders, Carlo Colaiacovo and Tukka Rask. Their other first rounder, Luca Cereda (24th, 1999), never played a game in the NHL. So essentially the Leafs don't have one first rounder from this ten-year span still in the organization. Out of their 12 picks (13.0% success rate) who became regulars in the NHL, Kaberle was clearly their best selection.

Edmonton has produced 12 decent players out of 105 picks. They had twelve first round picks, the highest being sixth where they took Boyd Devereaux. Their best pick was Ales Hemsky, 13th overall, in 2001 and they had an 11.4% success rate in this time frame. Ask any Oiler fan and they will tell you their drafting was a big reason why, outside of the surprise Cup run in 2006, they were a bubble playoff team during this decade.

**Comments are closed for this article.**

Kent WilsonFebruary 25 2011, 06:47AM

Really good work Jason. I did something similar a few years ago concentrating over a 10 year span and I got pretty similar results.

icedawg_42February 25 2011, 07:46AM

Flames fans currently put a premium on draft picks but it hasn't always been so. Maybe this is because they are overcompensating for watching Darryl Sutter's apparently cavalier attitude towards packaging them up in deals for middling players. Also its easy to look at picks like the Crosby's, Getzlaf's, Kopitar's etc and get stars in our eyes. The truth is it is really very hard to get a good read on a junior player. I remember watching Getzlaf with the Hitmen and thinking he was a man among boys, but, considering the Hitmen, where are Brad Moran and Pavel Brendl today? Equally dominant juniors but never turned into productive NHL regulars.

backburnerFebruary 25 2011, 09:44AM

exactly... so lets package 'em up and get Brad Richards and win the Cup already!

Kent WilsonFebruary 25 2011, 09:54AM

The paradox of draft picks as assets in the NHL is that, in isolation, they're worth next to nothing (aside from, say, a top-10 pick).

The effect of endlessly dealing draft picks can be a cumulative one over time, however, because you increase your chances of getting "a hit" the more picks you gather and consequently decrease your chances of picking anyone the more you deal away.

Feaster has called it "deficit spending" during his time here and it's one of the few things I agree with him on.

ScottFebruary 25 2011, 10:02AM

A solid strategy in the use of draft picks would then be that you can trade away a few every once in a while, but out of every 10 picks, 2 should end up on your roster for 300+ games?

So that really boils down to an average of 1 player a year.

Realistically, trading away your 2nd to 5th rounders are probably low risk, with the 6 and 7th rounders allowing for teams to gamble on future potential.

Really interesting review! Outside of the 2003 draft, flames haven't done statistically terrible, like we have all percieved. But they missed a gold mine in that draft year, which should have bumped up their stats.

ArikFebruary 25 2011, 11:09AM

I feel like there is a missing step between "decent player" and "Dominant player" Those would be your Stephen Weiss/David Booth players (as opposed to the Chuck Kobasews of the league)

GregFebruary 25 2011, 12:04PM

Really good break-down, I like the simplicity of dominant-decent-bust categorization.

Jason, do you have the stats on decents and busts with in the top 10? Based on 17 (of 100) top 10 picks being dominant as opposed to only 8 of the other 186, it looks like the value of a top 10 pick is significantly higher than the difference of even a late 1st compared to 2nd or 3rd.

thanks!

Jason GregorFebruary 25 2011, 12:51PM

@GregAll my stats are at home...I will get you that over the weekend.

SmellOfVictoryFebruary 25 2011, 02:35PM

Arik wrote:Agreed, but it would be rather complicated to set up that other category, I imagine. For the purposes of assessing draft picks, this provides pretty good insight - 2nd and 3rd round picks seem to be overvalued a reasonable amount by GMs and fans alike, whereas the lower round picks are undervalued. I think any further analysis required would be solely within the 1st round, although I recall someone (Kent if I recall) doing a breakdown of top 10 vs 10th-20th vs 20th-30th in terms of probability of becoming a decent/good/great NHLer.

44stampedeFebruary 25 2011, 11:09PM

Really interesting read. I remember another similar analysis showing the values. That's why I cringe when I see someone wanting to trade a decent player at a good value contract for a second. Most think that the second rounder is bound to produce a good player.