Weak Drafts: Truth or Myth?

Christian Roatis
April 14 2014 07:54AM

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Let's get something out of the way right off the bat: no draft outright sucks. No draft is exceptionally worse than another. Yes, some drafts yield more superstars than others, and some appear more "sexy" before the fact, than others, but in general, every draft is about the same in terms of their yield. What does differ from year to year, is where that talent is found, and the amount of star talent resulting. Sometimes all the quality NHLers come from the 1st round, while sometimes the majority are drafted in the later rounds. One thing remains consistent: every single draft contains quality NHLers, the key is finding them.

1999 and 2002 have been dubbed as two of the worst draft years in recent memory, and although they were both heavily saturated with busts and disappointments (thus garnering the "terrible draft" label), there were still a number of quality NHLers who emerged from them. 2003 was labelled as the "mother lode" of NHL Drafts, and while it did produce a staggering number of stars, its success rate remained on the average. To get a gist of the contrast in quality between draft classes, here's a look at some basic statistics of each draft class from 1999 to 2009.

Year

Number of Drafted Players

Percent of Draftees to Play in the NHL

Number of NHL All-Stars

Number of 1st Round Picks to Play Over 250 Games

1999

272

40.8

6

13

2000

293

40.3

7

17

2001

289

43.3

9

19

2002

291

35.7

7

22

2003

292

44.5

24

27

2004

291

43.6

6

17

2005

230

48.3

9

16

2006

213

40.8

3

19

2007

211

43.6

4

15

2008

211

48.3

5

16

2009*

211

46.2

2

9

Average

255                   

43.2                                  

8                         

18.1                                                

 *2009 All-Star Numbers and 1st Rounders to Play Over 250 Games data was not used in the Average because of how young the careers of many promising players in that class are.

Looking at that chart, you'll immediately notice that with the exception of 2002, the percentage of draftees to lace it up in the NHL is pretty consistent across all 10 drafts, and the amount of 1st Round Picks to play over 250 games (which I used as a benchmark to determine established NHLers) is also tremendously consistent. Of course, there'll be some variation in all these categories from year to year, but outside of one or two anomalies, it appears every draft will consistently yield the following: approximately 90 full time NHLers (assuming there's 211 players drafted which is the norm now) and 8 NHL All-Stars.

Every team is allotted 7 picks, one in each of the 7 rounds of the draft, to do what ever so choose, with. Assuming the team exercises a selection on all seven, it's very possible they land multiple NHLers who'll play over 250 games, and an NHL All-Star with their 1st Round Pick. In every single draft from 1999 to 2008, a player selected outside the Top 30 turned into a cornerstone, All-Star type, skater. If an organization has multiple selections in the 1st round (like the Flames did last year), the chance of selecting multiple All-Stars should also increase, if you're examining the raw numbers. And that, brings me to my next point.

The quality of a draft is determined by the quality of each individual organization's scouting staff and scouting practices, rather than the players available themselves. It's a customized system, not a one size fits all. Even with all the home runs sitting in the first round of the 2003 Draft, there were still a handful of misses. If the proper work hasn't been done from a scouting perspective, the so called "strength" of the draft is meaningless, you'll probably screw up your picks either way. There will always be diamonds in the pile of rocks, you just need the proper supplies and techniques to find it. If you rely on the entire pile being comprised of diamonds to get your hands on one, you're going to have a tough time. Sure, occasionally the "sure-fire" prospect doesn't work out (see: Nikita Filatov), but more often than not, this isn't the case.

The Flames have recently piled considerable resources into scouting and have put more of a focus on the recruitment and developmental side of the organization, in an effort to breed more home grown stars. This gameplan - at least on the surface - appears to be working.

The change in philosophy came with Jay Feaster taking the helm and reviewing his entire scouting corps. He  made small tinkering moves, leaving Todd Button on as Director of it all and hiring good personnel to surround him. The saying "you get out, what you put in" rings true for the Flames, will three straight, dare I say stellar, looking drafts. The 2011 class featuring the likes of Sven Baertschi and Johnny Gaudreau, and is already paying dividends, with 4 of the 5 draftees having skated in the NHL, while the one who hasn't having been dealt for an established NHLer. The 2012 Draft will always been controversial because of 21st overall selection, but 3 of the 7 draftees have NHL deals and Jon Gillies and Mark Jankowski are all but guaranteed contracts whenever they choose to leave college. The biggest fruit of the 2013 NHL Draft is already a 20 goal scorer in the NHL. A decade from now, experts and writers could dub any one of these drafts as "poor" or "shallow", but it won't apply to the Flames because they (most likely) scored themselves a few quality players. They found the diamonds amongst the coal. And it had nothing to do with the calibre of the draft class, but everything to do with the scouting and work they put into it.

Same applies to the 2014 Draft. It may not set any records in regards to the number of NHLers it graduates, and it may not deliver 24 NHL All-Stars, but it will most certainly supply a select group of National Hockey League teams with a number of quality hockey players. Some believe that the Calgary Flames are unlucky to land such a high pick this year because the draft is "weak", but fact is the Flames have a great shot at landing a top player all the same.  For hockey fans, the concern shouldn't be aimed at the "quality" of the 2014 Draft class, but instead at their respective scouting staffs. Do you trust the men at the helm of your teams scouting staff? Do you believe they've done their homework and are in a position to secure one of the big fish to emerge from this class? From a Flames perspective, the last few seasons have me confident that they have "read up" on the class and have strongly educated opinions on most every single player of note that will soften their chances of missing picks. The 2014 NHL Draft, like all its predecessors, will provide. The question is, who has properly prepared themselves to cash in?

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Christian Roatis is a European by birth, Calgarian by heart. Other than writing at FlamesNation, he writes about and scouts NHL Draft Prospects at Future Considerations. Follow him on Twitter @CRoatis!
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#51 BJ
April 14 2014, 05:59PM
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What would it take to trade up forEkblad?... We really need to get a D or two in the system.

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#52 Austin
April 14 2014, 07:03PM
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@Baalzamon

Yes. Burke said so! Along with Reinhart and Draisaitl and Ritchie

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#53 Bean-counting cowboy
April 14 2014, 07:50PM
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BJ wrote:

What would it take to trade up forEkblad?... We really need to get a D or two in the system.

I don't see the value in trading up this year. More likely someone could fall to us that we would have been happy drafting that high up anyway.

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#54 Burnward
April 14 2014, 08:16PM
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We're going to get another young stud.

Regarding Ekblad, all I saw of him this year was at the World Jr's and I thought he carried that defense corps.

I would be thrilled to get him at four. But I think we sit pat and take the BPA.

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#56 The Last Big Bear
April 14 2014, 08:56PM
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Im pretty sure MacTavish has already gone on record saying that he wants to draft Ekblad.

That was a few months ago, so things may have changed, but I'd be pretty surprised if Edmonton passes on poor 'ol Aaron.

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#57 The Last Big Bear
April 14 2014, 09:04PM
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RexLibris wrote:

An aversion to drafting defensemen too high and the desperate need within the organization for a center.

They have scads of blueliners on the way, but after Nugent-Hopkins the most promising Cs they have are Yakimov, Khaira and Chase. None of which project to be 1st or 2nd line centers.

Also, Draisaitl has been repeatedly compared to players like Kopitar and Thornton (Joe) while Ekblad most often is compared to Chris Philips. With all due respect, I think the team can aim a little higher than that.

I know many feel that the Oilers' biggest weakness is on the blueline, and in so far as the NHL roster is concerned that is true, but they need a 26 or 28 year old 1RD, not an 18 year old one.

They are screaming out for a large center, really have been since they traded Jason Arnott, and I think that Draisaitl projects well for the team, given that he'd most likely end up on a line with Nail Yakupov and David Perron.

Compare this year's draft to 2009 when it was Tavares or Hedman. The Avalanche ended up with Duchene 3rd overall. The Oilers could very well end up in a similar situation depending on how Tallon chooses.

Of course, all of this sets up for the Flames and the impact that Brian Burke will have on their draft board. Let's imagine that it goes Reinhart, Ekblad, Draisaitl. Does Burke take Bennett or go with Dal Colle? Does he reach down a little and take Fleury because the Flames are short on high-end defensive prospects?

The smartest move would be to take Bennett, but there are other options available as well.

For the Oilers, the lottery and Tallon decide where they go to a fair degree. For the Flames, I'm really not sure because we haven't seen Burke run their draft board just yet, and in spite of what scouts say, it is the GM that makes a lot of decisions on draft day, especially with a 4th overall pick.

All this tells me is that the Oilers should trade their pick+ for an established centreman.

Drafting an 18 year old and expecting him to grow into a 1C or 2C role as he's thrown into the deep end is exactly how they got into this mess in the first place.

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#58 Stubblejumper
April 14 2014, 09:44PM
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Burnward wrote:

We're winning the lottery anyways gang.

Gary owes Burkie one.

Me thinks Gary oweth Murray one guiding the owners through the last lockout.

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#59 Stubblejumper
April 14 2014, 09:51PM
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McRib wrote:

The biggest thing for me is his skating improved from last season to this year, so he seems to be aware of it needing to get better and I think it will continue to do so. I guess only time will tell, but considering his frame/reach and extremely high Hockey IQ he doesn't need to be the best skater in the world, IMO.

Regarding skating, I've been watching Monahan's progress through the year. If you looked at video of Monahan from last year or during Oct/Nov versus March/April I think you would see a noticeable improvement. Overall his skating was slightly below average when drafted..not efficient, lacking power and glide, kind of an awkward gait.

While he still has some of those traits overall his skating has at least become average to slightly above average, as noted by his breakaway in the Vancouver game.

Draisaitl would also hopefully develop further to get stronger, smoother and faster in the same manner.

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#60 Franko J
April 14 2014, 10:29PM
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Picking the lowest in team history, I'm really excited which player will fall to the Flames. If you observe the draft since 2008, at the fourth pick there has been 4 D and one winger and one centre. With 2 out of the 4 D heading into the draft at one point a potential # 1 choice. Therefore if history remains consistent the selection very well could be a D. If not, at the very least the Flames will end up with a very good player regardless. I just think the team needs more skill and size on "Right side". Too bad {at this point} the Flames only have one selection in the first round because I think as you move down the draft board there are few other players who can enhance our prospect pool and fill some needs.

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#61 RexLibris
April 14 2014, 10:36PM
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Christian Roatis wrote:

True as well. Best part about any of this draft stuff is the juicy arguments that emerge :)

I try to stay away from arguing that prospect X is better than Y simply because I'm not a scout and I suspect neither is the person with whom I am debating. If they are a scout, and I'm still arguing, then I'm probably concussed or inebriated. Or both.

Scouting is incredibly difficult. I give full marks to those who can make a living at it. Those who can do it well, amazing.

As it relates to this draft, I'm working off of history and some basic principles of which prospect appears to be overcoming the challenges of their peers and by what means. Hence my hesitation towards Ekblad.

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#62 RexLibris
April 14 2014, 10:44PM
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@The Last Big Bear

I haven't heard MacTavish say anything decisive. Ekblad has been lauded, but so has Draisaitl and Reinhart.

The Oilers leak this stuff annually. Two years ago it was all Grigorenko, then Murray. The year before that it was Nugent-Hopkins ahead of Couturier with Larsson only tangentially in the conversation.

All the talk from the usual suspects (Bob Stauffer, Jim Matheson) has the Oilers gaga over Draisaitl (whom they got to see plenty of during the Oil Kings/Raiders series) and then Ekblad.

It is a very strong possibility that Sam Gagner gets dealt this draft and this opens up a gaping hole on the 2C spot that not even Steve Tambellini could ignore.

The best guess is that the Oilers are weighing the options of trading the pick as part of a package that includes a roster player for a 2C and a defenseman, that they select a C and then go hard to sign a 2C UFA this summer, or even trade the pick for Jason Spezza.

I think Ekblad is a safety net, if they fall to 4th due to the lottery, and he is still there and there are not trade offers that strike their fancy, then they'll gladly take him and move along. But if they have a choice, I think they'd take Draisaitl or Reinhart ahead of him. Again, this is all based on the many media reports and "musings" of the usual organizational insiders.

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#63 RexLibris
April 14 2014, 10:49PM
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@Burnward

Pietrangelo went 4th in '08 between Bogosian and L. Schenn. That worked out alright.

And yes, at #4 it is probably best if the Flames stay put. They are fortunate that they landed there, as the draft is considered to be about four prospects deep on the elite side before dropping off a touch.

Meanwhile, the Islanders have some thinking to do.

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#64 Kevin R
April 14 2014, 11:13PM
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McRib wrote:

Not sure if anyone read this article, but solid insight from Buffalos GM doesn't seem to be a fan of Aaron Ekblad and is a big fan of Sam Reinhart. He also realy likes Leon Draistil (I think a lot of teams do after how he came on in the second half). If Seth Jones can fall to 4th, I think Aaron Ekblad is likely too as well. If Florida doesn't pick him I think Buffalo and Edmonton are both passing. Of the two Seth Jones is a far better prospect in my opinion.

"Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray not sure if Aaron Ekblad is a “franchise” player"

http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2014/04/13/buffalo-sabres-gm-tim-murray-not-sure-if-aaron-ekblad-is-a-franchise-player/

If Ekblad falls to Calgary, what a blessing. This team is in dire need of a blue chip defensive prospect & we even have the 2 years to let the kid grow into a 3-4 spot behind Gio & Brodie. Murray may not think he is a franchise dman, but then the pressure is way higher to hit a homerun with the #1 overall versus the #4. So we get a very good defense with potential to be a franchise dman dropping to our laps. Dropping to 4th has put the Flames in an excellent position. This draft is nothing but a win win for us.

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#65 RexLibris
April 14 2014, 11:14PM
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Darn it, then Lowetide has to go and throw me under the bus by saying the Oilers love Ekblad ahead of even Draisaitl. ;)

http://lowetide.ca/blog/2014/04/ask-lt.html

Oh well, I guess I was getting something different from the media narrative. Must've been the semantics, yeah, that's it.

Also, ISS final rankings out.

http://www.isshockey.com/iss-top-30-released-april/

Dal Colle at #3. Interesting. Flames at #4 may give them some choices, but I still think it'd be murder to be in the #5 or #6 slot unless someone slides considerably.

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#67 the-wolf
April 15 2014, 08:07AM
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@RexLibris

Buffalo seems interested in Draisatl as well. I buy your argument about the Oilers wanting to add another big forward to the top 6. So, if both teams want him, do you think the Oilers would be prepared to give Buffalo something to stay away from him? No idea what that would cost.

Also, how much truth do you put on the Spezza rumors?

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#68 dotfras
April 15 2014, 08:35AM
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Some good info re: Top Draft F Prospects

http://www.lighthousehockey.com/2014/3/27/5554464/comparing-leon-draisaitls-and-sam-reinharts-points-per-game-to-recent

http://www.lighthousehockey.com/2014/3/27/5554464/comparing-leon-draisaitls-and-sam-reinharts-points-per-game-to-recent

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#69 RexLibris
April 15 2014, 11:44AM
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the-wolf wrote:

Buffalo seems interested in Draisatl as well. I buy your argument about the Oilers wanting to add another big forward to the top 6. So, if both teams want him, do you think the Oilers would be prepared to give Buffalo something to stay away from him? No idea what that would cost.

Also, how much truth do you put on the Spezza rumors?

I'm not sure they'd do much. Buffalo is interested in Draisaitl, but they have Grigorenko and Girgensons already. Reinhart looks to me like he is probably a hair above the rest and so I think they take him.

Florida isn't lacking size either after taking Barkov last year and Huberdeau earlier. They may look at Ekblad to pair with Campbell as a mentoring partnership.

The Oilers are picking 1st, 3rd or 4th, and only in the 4th slot do I think they have a serious chance of not getting Draisaitl.

Spezza to the Oilers has been a rumour since two hours after fire was discovered. It makes sense to a certain degree, but Spezza is a UFA next year and has some back injury history. I think this is somewhat a case of outsiders looking in and saying "we can give you a quick fix for that tantilizing asset that would serve our team so well".

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#70 the-wolf
April 15 2014, 11:59AM
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RexLibris wrote:

I'm not sure they'd do much. Buffalo is interested in Draisaitl, but they have Grigorenko and Girgensons already. Reinhart looks to me like he is probably a hair above the rest and so I think they take him.

Florida isn't lacking size either after taking Barkov last year and Huberdeau earlier. They may look at Ekblad to pair with Campbell as a mentoring partnership.

The Oilers are picking 1st, 3rd or 4th, and only in the 4th slot do I think they have a serious chance of not getting Draisaitl.

Spezza to the Oilers has been a rumour since two hours after fire was discovered. It makes sense to a certain degree, but Spezza is a UFA next year and has some back injury history. I think this is somewhat a case of outsiders looking in and saying "we can give you a quick fix for that tantilizing asset that would serve our team so well".

Agreed, I don't think Spezza appreciably improves the Oilers nor do I think he'd re-sign there anyways.

Correct re: Sabres too, but you can never have too many huge skilled centers.

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