DRAFTING 101: NOBODY KNOWS EVERYTHING

Ryan Pike
June 20 2012 10:12AM

Each and every year, a great deal of organizations put together lists of prospects and rate them. These are all very extensive undertakings done either with the goal of informing the NHL clubs themselves (as is the case with NHL Central Scouting and others) or looking to inform hockey fans heading into the draft season.

The difficulty is that it's very hard to conclude who did a good job after the draft. Sometimes NHL teams draft rather chaotically – looking to fill a specific positional need, for instance – and the lack of overlap between what the draft experts say will happen and what does happen is based more in happenstance than in poor preparation.

Want some examples? Look no further than the last three years of Calgary Flames drafting. Central Scouting's final rankings are in parentheses.

In 2009, the club drafted six players:

  • D Tim Erixon (#5 European skater), drafted 23 overall
  • LW Ryan Howse (#37 North American skater), drafted 74 overall
  • RW Henrik Bjorklund (#23 European skater), drafted 111 overall
  • LW Spencer Bennett (#142 North American skater), drafted 141 overall
  • G Joni Ortio (#7 European goalie), drafted 171 overall
  • LW Gaelan Patterson (unranked), drafted 201 overall

In 2010, the club drafted another six players:

  • C Max Reinhart (#79 North American skater), drafted 64 overall
  • D Joey Leach (#120 North American skater) drafted 73 overall
  • D John Ramage (#131 North American skater), drafted 103 overall
  • LW Bill Arnold (#36 North American skater), drafted 108 overall
  • RW Michael Ferland (#146 North American skater), drafted 133 overall
  • LW Patrick Holland (#180 North American skater), drafted 193 overall

In 2011, the club drafted five players:

  • LW Sven Baertschi (#7 North American skater), drafted 13 overall
  • RW Markus Granlund (#9 European skater), drafted 45 overall
  • D Tyler Wotherspoon (#40 North American skater), drafted 57 overall
  • LW Johnny Gaudreau (#193 North American skater), drafted 104 overall
  • G Laurent Brossoit (#7 North American goalie), drafted 164< overall

Different Perspectives

Now, if you went by Central Scouting ratings alone, you could easily conclude that the Flames drafted Howse and Gaudreau way too early, Reinhart and Leach a bit early, and were extremely lucky to have Arnold, Granlund and Baertschi fall to them.

Then again, a quick perusal around the Internet reveals that extremely credible sources such as Future Considerations, Hockey Prospectus, the Hockey News and others have rankings that vary significantly in some cases. It's not that any of these outlets are in any way “wrong,” it's just that they're all looking at things in sometimes very different ways.

The same thing happens with the NHL scouting departments.

There are 30 clubs with head scouts and general managers assessing talent in sometimes radically different ways. Flames general manager Jay Feaster has noted that precisely analyzing the decision-making behind previous draft scouting (and improving it) was one of the reasons why head scout Tod Button was retained.

Sometimes teams are rating players entirely based on offensive ability. Sometimes it's balanced more towards character or hockey sense. Sometimes scouting staff are instructed to replace an aging veteran via the draft.

In short: the NHL Entry Draft is one of the bizarre times of year when even the most prepared prospect experts are seemingly as “clueless” at times as the rest of the hockey onlookers. It's not because they're looking at things in the wrong way, it's because sometimes NHL scouts are looking at things entirely differently than everybody else.

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Now in his third full season covering the Calgary Flames and the NHL, Ryan Pike is a Calgary native and FlamesNation's managing editor. He's trying to keep his head up, his stick on the ice and is giving it 110% every shift. You can also find his work at The Hockey Writers, the Wrestling Observer and Tough Talk MMA.
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#1 Austin
June 20 2012, 11:09AM
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If the Flames draft Faksa, Ceci, Maatta, or trade down and take Pouliot/Girgensons I'll be okay with it. Those guys should be the guys they take jersey's with their name on em.

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#2 Stockley
June 20 2012, 11:43AM
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If Grigorenko somehow slips all the way down to 14 (I don't see it happening, but I never saw Fowler and Gormley sliding a few years back either) I might burn all of my Flames merchandise if Feaster doesn't take him. Character issues or not, the kid has home run talent. Speaking of which, has anyone ever seen Patrick Roy say anything damaging about his Russian protege? I certainly haven't, and Mr. Roy is in a position to judge the boy.

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#3 Austin
June 20 2012, 12:00PM
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Grigorenko would be a dream at 14. But I'll keep dreaming through the first round either way.

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#4 Edslunch
June 20 2012, 12:09PM
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@Ryan Pike - if I understand the Flames' approach they do not need to consider what other teams will do - they have a ranked list 1..210 that they will follow to a tee. Do they spend a lot of time interviewing and thinking about Yakapov, maybe not since he is not going to be available at 14, but I guarantee he is on their list probably at #1. The list is based on their ranking of players, not their expectation of who does what ahead of them.

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#5 everton fc
June 20 2012, 01:53PM
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If you can somehow get Grigorenko... And they do have interest in Radulov... That'd be an interesting line!

I think Gio is the next captain. And should be. I wouldn't move him. He could be the ehart and soul of the team, the real leader... I am okay with Gio leading here...

As for the Pens, they have some issues with salary on the backline. No doubt. Martin will be the salary dump added to any deal that might pull Staal out of there. Martin's name going to Carolina was part of what I read, as well.

With Crosby still fragile.... Staal remains in Pittsburgh.

For now.

I wonder what it would take to get Simon Despres out of Pittsburgh? I'd love to have him here.

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#7 negrilcowboy
June 20 2012, 07:32PM
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gio and dan girardi were both undrafted junior grads that fought and clawed their way into very well rounded defensemen. i place them ahead of several so called blue chippers such as dion phangoof.

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#8 TAE0145
June 20 2012, 08:56PM
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How about the Jagr possibility that TSN put out there. Seems like a bad idea for a team that's not ready to win anything yet. Be better off to give Baertschi a shot.

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#9 Baalzamon
June 20 2012, 09:02PM
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@TAE0145

the Flames don't have so many top 9 forwards that signing Jagr would preclude the inclusion of Baertschi on the roster. This isn't to say I'm a fan of the idea though.

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#10 Stockley
June 20 2012, 10:17AM
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Scouting and drafting is far from an exact science. Most of these kids are 18 years old, who knows how they might develop physically or mentally before they finally reach the NHL.

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#12 Stockley
June 20 2012, 12:13PM
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@Edslunch

That's my understanding of their process as well. When their turn to pick comes up, they look at their list and pick the top ranked guy who is remaining. I like the philosophy, personally. When you draft for needs or by position you miss out on assets. That's part of why the Flames system wound up in the state it is. They would pass on talent to get that physical defenceman the system lacked.

Yes, I am talking about Matt Pelech...

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#14 Stockley
June 20 2012, 12:29PM
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@Ryan Pike

I don't think the farm is as barren as the experts want us all to believe. At the same time there isn't much in the way of elite and high-end talent coming because Sutter drafted for need and/or grit. His last draft has some promise with Reinhart and Ferland on the way, he did well to get them with mid round picks. For every Reinhart there were three Gord Baldwins... that's the problem.

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#15 Baalzamon
June 20 2012, 12:32PM
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on a semi-related note, heard this morning that Carolina made an offer to Pittsburgh for Jordan Staal that included the 8th overall and Brandon Sutter. If that happens, do you think the Pens accept Giordano in exchange for the 22nd and Zbynek Michalek? I say Gio because they'd only be taking on .05 million in cap, and they get an upgrade to their blueline. the Flames get another 1st rounder and a right-shooting dman with good size.

do the Flames need to add something else/offer Bouwmeester instead? I'm not really clear on how good Michalek is...

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#16 Stockley
June 20 2012, 12:45PM
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@Baalzamon

I have a feeling Gio will be the captain after Iggy moves on. I just wouldn't feel comfortable trading him unless the return was very substantial. He is one of the best kept secrets in the NHL. Took him a little while to find his groove last year, but he was excellent late in the season. He also seems to have a quick healing time compared to a lot of players, rarely seems to be out as long as other injured guys.

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#17 RexLibris
June 20 2012, 12:51PM
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I agree that a team ought to compile a list ranking each of the players and stick to it.

Trying to guess what other teams might do seems to play more in the top eight or ten picks. After that I think things begin to settle down a bit more with each passing round.

Sometimes gambling can come into play in the later rounds where a player may be ranked higher on your list than you expect him to be on any other team's, so you let him slide and grab some other prospects first. This is basically what MacGregor did with Gernat last year and the gamble paid off when they were able to get Reider in the 4th round.

All that aside, I think one of the difficulties in the draft is that it requires two parties to meet halfway and operates under the assumption that Lady Luck isn't going to take you out behind the woodshed. A prospect has to work to cover their draft bet, a team has to provide enough support and communication to assist in that. Then they both need to cross their fingers and hope that no ACLs get blown up or brains too badly rattled.

As I understand it, many GMs prioritize certain aspects in evaluating talent. Would Omark have been selected by the Kings or Blues in the 4th round? Unlikely as they both have placed a high value on size as much as skill. Detroit, Tampa Bay, or the Rangers might have rated him more highly. Sutter probably wouldn't have given him the time of day.

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#18 RexLibris
June 20 2012, 12:54PM
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@Baalzamon

That sounds like a really high cost for Staal.

Carolina could deal that pick for a winger and just wait until the trade deadline or next July and sign him as a UFA.

The only Staal I see them having to acquire by trade might be Marc.

If Rutherford moves that pick for Staal now, I suppose he can rest assured that he'll likely sign him to an extension, but it would be paying an awfully high price out of convenience.

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#19 Justin Azevedo
June 20 2012, 01:18PM
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@Stockley

eh, his leg issue kept him out of the lineup for the expected amount of time.

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#20 Baalzamon
June 20 2012, 01:18PM
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@RexLibris

yeah, it does seem to be a high price. come to think of it, I think they said something about taking Paul Martin's contract.. It's hard to remember, I'm not really a morning person. and anyway, it was sportsnet

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#21 @churchey10
June 23 2012, 11:59AM
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How many years has Todd Button been the head scout for?

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