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)
DOMINANT PLAYER (considered an elite player by fans/media outside their city)
I’m sure the biggest argument will come from who is listed as a dominant player. I didn’t put many players in the dominant category, even if they were first liners, Dion Phaneuf, on their own team for many years. I wanted to go as recent as possible with my ten-year window, but it is too early to tell how picks in 2006-2010 will develop, so I used the drafts from 1996-2005.
**If you want to add a player or two from the decent to the dominant player, I’m sure you can, but it won’t affect the amount of actual NHL players each draft year provided.***
Of course this isn’t a perfect system, because you will have guys who played 800 games and didn’t produce many points, and might have averaged only 13 minutes a night, lumped in with guys who played 1000 games and scored a fair amount of points. I’m sure we could try to come up with a formula to rank the importance of certain players by using salary, ice-time, points, special teams play and quality of competition, but unless you are a magician I doubt you’ll find a formula that we’ll all agree with.
This is just a guideline, and after seeing the results it seems clear that draft picks, outside of the first round, are over-valued in my opinion. The great news is even after reading this we will all still debate that if Kris Versteeg is worth a first and a third rounder, then Curtis Glencross must be worth something similar.
5th to 9th ROUND (158 picks) 133…Busts
10… Short lived
15… Decent players
2001 had 289 picks and two of them became first liners (0.7%), 50 turned into decent players (17.3%), 18 were short lived (6.2%), and 219 were busts (75.8%).
In the first round you had a 6.7% chance of getting a first liner, while 60% turned into decent players, 13.3% had short lived careers and 20% were busts.
The 2nd round produced a 31.4% chance of getting a decent player, while 3.0% were short lived and 65.7% turned into busts.
The odds of getting a decent player didn’t drop as much as usual in the subsequent rounds. In the 3rd 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.
1st ROUND (30 picks) 7… Busts
1… Short lived
1… Dominant player (Rick Nash)
5th to 9th ROUND (160 picks) 148…Busts
5… Short lived
7… Decent players
2002 saw 291 players drafted with two of them becoming first liners (0.7%), 44 turned into decent players (15.1%), nine were short lived (3.0%),and 236 ended up being busts (81.2%).
In the first round you had a 3.3% chance of getting a first liner, while 70.1% turned into decent players, 3.3% had short lived careers and 23.3% were busts.
In the 2nd round the chances of success dropped significantly from the first round. An almost equal 3.1% became dominant players, but now only 24.2% became decent players and 72.7% turned out to be busts.
Once again the odds of drafting a quality NHLer dropped to 15.1% in the 3rd 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.
1st ROUND (30 picks) 2… Busts
2… Short lived
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)
5th to 9th ROUND (156 picks) 135…Busts
8… Short lived
13… Decent players
***Loui Eriksson, Corey Perry and Patrice Bergeron are very close to being in the dominant category, which could make this draft look even better in a few years.***
2003 has widely been considered one of the greatest drafts ever, and that was mostly from an exceptional first round. There are lots of top-end players in this draft class.There was 292 players drafted with nine of them becoming dominant players (3.0%), 45 turned into decent players (15.5%), 19 were short lived (6.5%),and 219 ended up being busts (75%).
In the first round you had a 26.6% chance of getting a first liner, while 60% turned into decent players, 6.7% had short lived careers and 6.7% were busts.
In the 2nd round the success rate drop significantly. Only 2.4% became dominant players, while 23.7% became decent players, 10.5% had short lived careers and 63.4% turned out to be busts.
Similar to 2001, the later rounds produced more decent players than most years. The 3rd 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.
1st ROUND (30 picks) 8… Busts
6… Short lived
2… Dominant players (Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin)
5th to 9th ROUND (162 picks) 143…Busts
9… Short lived
10… Decent players
***Keep in mind I did some projections with this draft year. Guys like Dave Bolland, Kris Versteeg, Mikhail Grabovski and Alex Goligoski were only around 200 games, but I put them in the decent category, because barring an injury they all look like guys who will play well beyond 300 games.***
2004 saw the second Russian player go first overall and Alex Ovechkin has lived up to the hype of being the first overall pick. His draft year had 291 players taken, but it produced only two dominant players (0.7%), 41 turned into decent players (14.1%), 22 were short lived (7.6%),and 226 ended up being busts (77.6%).
In the first round you had a 6.7% chance of getting a first liner, while 46.7% turned into decent players, 20% had short lived careers and 26.6% were busts.
Once again the 2nd round produced a smaller return with only 20% becoming decent players, while 5.7% had short lived careers and 74.3% turned out to be busts.
Once again the chance of getting a decent player dropped, but not drastically, in the later rounds. The 3rd 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.
1st ROUND (30 picks) 10… Busts
1… Short lived
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)
5th to 7th ROUND (105 picks) 94…Busts
3… Short lived
8… Decent players
***Again I did some projections on players who look to pass 300 games and become decent players.***
2005 was the first year the draft dropped to seven rounds, but the numbers didn’t change that much. There were 230 players drafted with five of them becoming dominant players (2.2%), 37 turned into decent players (16.1%), 13 were short lived (5.6%),and 175 ended up being busts (76.1%).
In the first round you had a 13.3% chance of getting a first liner, 50% turned into decent players, 3.4% had short lived careers and 33.3% were busts.
In the 2nd round the success rate drop significantly, where only 22.5% became decent players, 12.9% had short lived careers and 64.5% turned out to be busts.
The 3rd 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.
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%)
302 were short lived or busts. (92.9%)
SIXTH ROUND (295 picks)
1 became a dominant player. (0.03%)
26 turned into decent players. (8.8%)
268 were short lived or busts. (90.9%)
SEVENTH ROUND (308 picks)
2 became a dominant player. (0.06%)
28 turned into decent players. (9.1%)
268 were short lived or busts. (90.3%)
EIGHTH ROUND (267 picks)
1 became a dominant player. (0.04%)
19 turned into decent players. (7.1%)
247 were short lived or busts. (92.5%)
NINTH ROUND (271 picks)
16 turned into decent players. (5.9%)
255 were short lived or busts. (94.1%)
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.***
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.