Identifying The Deep Draft

2013 is supposedly a deep draft year, something rivaling the vaunted 2003 draft class according to many observers. By all accounts this is the year to sell the farm for as many first round picks as you can get and then just sit back and draft five or six future NHL stars and stalwarts.

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But is it, really? And even if it is a deep draft year, what exactly does that mean?

I love the draft, and have already spent considerable time poring over some advanced scouting reports and player descriptions trying to tease out some names to watch – I’m an Oilers fan, so I suppose there isn’t much else to do this time of year. For anyone who does this on their own time, as I do, one thing becomes abundantly clear – scouting is not an easy job and those who can do it, and do it well, deserve much more credit than they ever seem to get.

That aside, one thing that we can do from the comfort of our own computers is access that crystal-clear panorama that is hindsight.

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I decided to go back and take a look at the 2003 draft class and compare it to the three draft years immediately preceding and following – 2000 through to 2006.

Prior to the 2005 CBA, there were nine rounds in the draft (basically they just kept calling names until somebody said “Tsujimoto”). The new CBA set the maximum at seven rounds. As such, there is a slight discrepancy in the sample sizes before and after 2005 (a drop of approximately 60 names called), which I feel is mitigated by the extremely small number of NHL players that emerged from that far down in the draft. The overall percentages remain well within the historical average.

Also, while there has been an increase in the number of undrafted college or European free agents since implementing the seven-round model, something that may or may not be attributable to this move, it is a very small group and to date these players have not had any more appreciable an impact on the game than in previous years.

To outline my methods, I looked at the total number of selections made and counted the number of players who had played 200+ games in the NHL (or in the case of the more recent drafts, were in line to imminently do so). This provides a percentage of the players selected who became regular NHL players for the equivalent of three seasons, give or take injuries, etc. Then, extracted from that list are the players who had gone on to become what is loosely (and, with apologies, somewhat unmathematically) described as a difference-maker in the league. For example, Patrik Stefan was drafted 1st overall in 1999, the same year that Ryan Miller was selected 138th (5th round) by Buffalo. Stefan would play 455 games, but would not be listed as a difference-maker while Miller, with 481 games, would. Simply put, Miller is a very good player at his position, Stefan was not. These players will be termed impact, elite or core, players at various times in this article.

Looking Back

In 2000 there were 293 draft selections made. Of those players, 46 went on to have NHL careers of more than 200 games, giving us an approximate rate of 15.6%. There were nine players in that draft class who stand out to me as being the elite players of their draft class: Dany Heatley, Niklas Kronwall, Ilya Bryzgalov, Lubomir Vishnovsky, Henrik Lundqvist, Scott Hartnell, Marion Gaborik, John-Michael Liles and Brad Boyes.

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In 2001, there were 289 players selected. Of that group, 62 managed to play 200+ games in the NHL, for a rate of 21.4%, a good success ratio by most standards. This draft also produced a high number of core NHL players, twelve in all. This list includes Ilya Kovalchuk, Jason Spezza, Mikko Koivu, Ales Hemsky, Derek Roy, Fedor Tyutin, Michael Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec, Patrick Sharp, Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Clowe, and Jussi Jokinen.

2002 saw 291 players selected, 45 of whom made the NHL cutoff line of 200+ games, approximately 15.4%. Of those, I counted 9 that would qualify as excllent-to-elite from their class, including Rick Nash, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Semin, Kari Lehtonen, Cam Ward, Duncan Keith, Jiri Hudler, and Valterri Filpulla.

I’ll come back to 2003 at the end, but for now we’ll skip over that year and straight to 2004 in order to continue to establish a baseline.

In 2004, the last draft year under the pre-lockout-CBA that included nine rounds, there were 291 players selected, 48 of whom managed to reach my cutoff line for games played. The impact players in this group are Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Andrew Ladd, Travis Zajac, David Krejci, David Booth, Johan Franzen, Alex Edler, Mikhail Grabovski, Pekka Rinne, and Mark Streit – eleven in total.

The following year the draft was reduced to seven rounds and only 230 names were called. 40 of those prospects make the cutoff for 17.4%. The list of core players from that draft class is as follows: Sidney Crosby, Bobby Ryan, Carey Price, Anze Kopitar, Marc Staal, James Neal, Paul Stastny, Kris Letang, Jonathan Quick, and Keith Yandle. Ten players stand out amongst that group, although to be fair, in this draft year and the one following, there are at most one or two more who may yet emerge.

The final year of our draft scope is 2006 wherein 213 players were selected, and from which 33 have thus far managed to get into 200+ games. Again, we are now six years removed from the draft so there may yet be one or two more who emerge from this draft class. Also, in this year’s class I have counted players whose game totals are below 200 but are set to surpass that milestone imminently.  From that list, Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews, Niklas Backstrom, Phil Kessel, Kyle Okposo, Claude Giroux, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic make my list of impact players for a total of eight.

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Now, to contrast with what we have discovered thus far, we go back to 2003. Of the 292 players were called, 67 have to-date managed at least 200+ games, or 22.9%. That is the highest rate of the years we will revisit, yet outstrips the 2001 draft class by only five players. Looking over the impact players from that class though is what sets this year aside: M.A. Fleury, Eric Staal, Nathan Horton, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Suter, Dion Phaneuf, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, Brian Boyle, and Corey Perry were all selected in the first round alone. Add to that group Loui Eriksson, Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber, David Backes, Joe Pavelski, Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, and Jaroslav Halak, and you can see that this draft class had a wealth of high-end NHL talent to give – 25 in all.

It is important to note, though, that outside of the first round, the number of future NHL players selected in the later rounds reverted to the normal range produced per draft class. The depth of the draft is reflected primarily in the first round. The occurrence of a few outstanding individuals taken in the later rounds is common enough in countless previous draft years and cases like Nikolai Khabibulin, Pavel Datsyuk, Patrik Hornqvist and so on.

Obligatory Excel Table!

You can review everything here in this table for easier comparison.

I’ve highlighted in orange the close similarities that 2001 and 2003 have in their general player production to give an idea that it isn’t outside the norm for an occasional draft year to provide a bumper crop of prospects to the NHL. However, in the centre bottom in yellow is the number of high-end players that came out of the 2003 draft. That is where the strength of that draft class truly lies, not in providing the league with more Eric Nystroms and Zach Stortinis, but in that, with astonishing regularity, core players around which teams have been built were being selected all through the first round. The occasional hits on players like Shea Weber in the later rounds aren’t, as I mentioned earlier, outside the norm for any draft year, but when added to the phenomenal talent available in the first round alone, this draft class outshines all of its immediate contemporaries.

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Take special note of the areas in green. These two cells indicate the number of impact (referred to in the table as core) players taken outside of the first round. 2001, a very good draft year by any standards, has a high number of impact players taken in rounds 2 through 9, while 2004, a middling-to-poor draft year, has a disproportionate number of its impact players selected after the first round. In fact, while only boasting fewer than half of the total number of high-end players from 2003, it almost equals the number of similar players taken with depth picks.

Real versus Perceived Depth

So, given all of this, what can we deduce about the likelihood of this year’s draft class based on early comparisons about its depth? Well, for starters, let’s just forget about expecting another windfall of NHL talent like we saw in 2003. That draft year is often compared to the 1979, 1980 and 1981 drafts that saw players like Dale Hawerchuk, Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe, Al MacInnis, Grant Fuhr, Andy Moog, and a host of other Hall of Fame players taken all over the draft board. The two are worlds apart when it comes to how teams and scouts evaluate talent and collect data.

We are exactly ten years removed from the 2003 draft class and it is too soon in the evaluation process to compare that class to this. Also, we would be guilty of historical revisionism to suppose that even the boldest of forecasters predicted this much success from that one year’s (2003) worth of prospects.

The 2003 draft saw exceptional talent all through the first round (with a few glaring exceptions) but then quickly reverted to the norm in that players taken outside the first round were approximately as likely to become NHL players, and even occasionally high-end players, as in any other draft year. Without 2003, there are on average five impact players who are selected each year outside of the 1st round. Even once the draft is restricted in size, the numbers only drop off slightly from the earlier norm and are well within what could amount to a simple low end of variance in a larger sample size.

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If we wanted to draw radical conclusions about what to expect from the 2013 draft class based on overhyped expectations and the convenient symmetry of a decade later, we could argue that all of the value of this draft will be found in the first round, approximately 64%, based on our rough calculations.

But what if the hype is wrong? What if this draft year is closer to the norm and a team, having planned an expedited rebuild by loading up on first round picks for this draft year at the expense of veteran talent and other assets, were to be faced with hitting paydirt on only 30% to 40% of their 1st round selections? This happened to the Oilers in 2007 when they loaded up on 1st round draft picks for the 2007 draft and selected Sam Gagner, Alex Plante and Riley Nash. They hit on exactly 33% of their picks with only Sam Gagner turning into a bona fide NHL player (although Nash is getting some time in Carolina now). If a team has the means, then perhaps it is worth the gamble, but in the end the draft is just that – a gamble, and the winners and losers aren’t often known until well after the dust has settled.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are set to be the proverbial canary in the coal mine as they have three selections in the first round of this draft. Fortune has also provided us with several control groups in the Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets, all of whom have multiple selections in the second and third rounds. In approximately five to seven years’ time we should be able to determine if the 2013 draft class is closer to 2003 (abundance of elite talent in the 1st round), 2001 (above-average talent in 1st round with good balance in later rounds) or 2004 (poor 1st round talent but exceptional players in depth picks).

2003 was a phenomenal year, and scouts, media and draft hounds like myself will probably always be on the lookout for the signs of another such infusion of elite level talent into the NHL. The truth is, however, that with perhaps a very few exceptions, it may not happen again for another decade and even if it does, none of us will likely ever recognize it until after the fact.

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  • supra steve

    To sum up:

    The draft is the place to find young hockey talent, but it is a crap shoot. Sometimes you get lucky, and on the other side of the spectrum there is the Calgary Flames.

    Nice piece Rex, read the whole thing.

  • supra steve

    And yet some teams always eem to draft poorly while others do fairly well.

    And how much do development systems play into it? IMO, proper development is just as important as drafting the right player.

    • Parallex

      Seem is actually the appropriate term, think about how large of a sample you need to acheive statistical significance then remind yourself that a team get’s only only 7 per year.

      As to the second part I think professional development is probably the less important of the two, not that the second is meaningless but by the time a team get’s a player into minor-pro I think they’re largely a finished product in terms of core skills with the AHL largely required for seasoning, conditioning, proving, and finishing touches more then actual skill development.

      I do think this is a deeper draft. Just a gut feeling though… I look at the top three ranked guys (MacKinnon, Drouin, and Jones) and ask myself would I rather have any of those guys or Yakupov and the answer is one of those guys.

    • RexLibris

      They complement.

      You can draft the guaranteed player in the first round every year, but if you don’t develop him well then he may only achieve 80% of his full potential. Then another team will find a player who can realize his potential to a greater extent and your pick looks like a bust.

      There also needs to be some accountability (limited, though, in my opinion) on the prospect. This is their career path. Some take it very seriously and have made certain decisions to pursue it. Others may get by on talent, or do it because they have been led in this direction for so long that other alternatives were never explored.

      There are a great number of factors that go into prospect identification, assessment, acquisition, development and eventually deployment. The best teams manage to do at least three or four of these well enough to get by.

      As Suba Steve said, there is a great deal of luck involved. However, the decisions of some teams in the past to eschew the draft in favour of other means of player acquisition has been shown, repeatedly, to fail. The draft isn’t perfect, but it is the best, and most equitable, system we have.

  • Parallex

    @ Parallex

    Then why do the Flame always seem to have prospects that look good in junior and then are unable to make them established NHL players?

    I think that they are two separate items but equally as important. Scouting and determining a players potential is only half way. Once he is drafted its how you help the player to train, how you develop his mental strength and expectations, how you follow up and mentor the player, and then how you coach and deploy the player once he gets to the minors.

    Last year Baerstchi looked like an elite level prospect. Great drafting job. This year he looks like a potential bust that has struggled to keep up with the game and has lost all confidence. Crap job in developing.

    If you were to go over the time period that Rex has you would find that certain team always have a higher percentage of drafted players in their lineups. And you would find that certain teams always had a higher percentage of impact players in their lineup. Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Edmonton will skew the results slightly because they picked multiple times at the top of the draft where you should not be able to make a mistake. But teams like the Devils or Flyers have somehow been able to make it work.

    How bad is it that there are still complete duds that get drafted so high: Jessiman-NYR-2003-#12, Tukonen-LAK-2004-#11, Thelen-MNW-2004-#12, Zagrapan-BFS-2005-#13, Polulok-WSC-2005-#14, Helinus-TBL-2006-#15, Hickey-LAK-2007-#4, Hamill-BSB-2007-#8, Glennie-DLS-2008-#8.

    You would think that with the resources and experience in the game right now that the first couple of dozen draft picks would be NHL players at the very least. Maybe not impact players, but regular NHL players.

    Picking in the top 10 then you get 1 star player, 3 pretty good players, 5 servicable NHL players, and 1 dud that never plays in the league.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Are you effing kidding me? The 20 year old rookie is given 4th line minutes for a handful of games and you think he looks like a bust? There are exactly eleven players from the entire 2011 draft who are in the NHL right now, and half of them have played less than 30 games. Let the pie bake a little longer before you decide whether it’ll taste good or not.

        • RexLibris

          My point exactly colin. Look at Backlund. A clear majority of the fans on this site were more than willing to get rid of him or next to nothing last year. Why? Because the Flames screwed up his development curve. He was not ready to be in the NHL his first or second pro seasons and yet that is where the organization had him for chunks of the time and then they played him on the fourth line. Had he been allowed to develop properly on the farm for a couple of years than I truly believe that his season last year would have gone much smoother.

          The point is that Baertschi did not look NHL ready when he came back from his concussion in the minors before the lockout ended. And yet the Flames still brought him up and kept him on the team and played him on the fourth line when everybody could see he was struggling. That is a poor development system.

    • BurningSensation

      That’s a good point and as an Oiler fan I can contribute: I think the Oilers drafting from the mid 90’s to about 2008 was absolutely horrendus, and the assets they picked up ended up being almost all busts (with Hemsky, Dubnyk, and Gagner being the only guys who have turned out to be anything of note and Dubnyk and Gagner have taken a LONG time to arrive). I attribute that to being one of the main reasons for the Oilers decline, as they were not able to replace their vets who were being traded or retiring with young guys. For all of Tambelini’s faults, one of the best things he did was redevelop the scouting team (first pick was Eberle at #22, I’ll count that as a big success), then he created the development system. Oiler prospects for YEARS were being developed by other teams farm teams (ex: Wilkes/Barre Penguins or whatever). Further there was no WHL team to help bring them along or help them scout. So now we have Oklahoma Barons and the Edmonton Oil Kings. While neither team is creating huge successes as of yet, the chances are miles higher than they were before.

      As for Baerstchi, from and Oilers perspective, I’d say he’s still got a pretty good shot at being a top player in the NHL. He’s not that far removed from his draft year, and if he made it this year as so many Flames fans hoped, he’d have jumped over just about all the players ahead of him…ex: Huberdeau just made the NHL this year. It’s way too early to call him a bust.

      #1 overall picks if they’re forwards make the NHL almost always in their first year after the draft, but it’s still everyone else on the team that leads the team to victory (if that happens but usually not). Outside that top pick, allow for a year or 2 minimum of development.

      The top4 picks in this upcoming draft look outstanding, so it’s called a great draft. If you end up the 4th worst team but another team wins the lottery, all of a sudden you’re drafting in a much lower class of talent that takes that much longer.

    • Bikeit

      I think that a reasonable arguement could be made that the Calgary Flames just need to stop drafting players all together.

      From 1997 to 2009 (13 years) Calgary has only draft 9 players that have played any sort of meaningful games for the team. And some of those are Boyd, Kobasew, and Saprykin.

      Things look good now, but I remember when there were fans drooling over the possibilities of an elite first line of Fata-Tkaczuk-Saprykin.

      The Flames should just trade all of their draft picks every year for young players that are in their early 20’s. Much less disappointment and probably better returns on investment.

    • everton fc

      what qualifies as smaller for you? under 6?

      in that case since the lockout only 1 player in the first round has been under that. only 3 flames first rounders ever, actually.

  • Bikeit

    I remember watching the 2003 World Juniors and seeing Parise and thinking this guy is a future good NHLer. I am not a scout, moderate hockey knowledge yet it was about as obvious as it gets. Somehow scouts that do it every day missed what was dangling infront of their noses. Parise dropped down into the teens and wow would he have ever looked good as a flame. Sometimes it is not a crap shoot and if you get out of the weeds the answer is right there.

    • RexLibris

      Parise also dropped because most scouts were still working under the old NHL paradigm regarding size.

      The Oilers could have taken Parise, and were considering it, but already had two smaller centres in Marchant and Comrie. So they traded down. Nobody saw the new NHL coming save for a few wiser souls.

      Picking a smaller player was seen as a risk. It still is, why else would Gaudreau or Omark go in the 4th round?

  • RexLibris

    Or they could just fire Tod Button and the scouting department (perhaps Weisbrod as well).

    The main thrust of this article is to illustrate the point that a deep draft isn’t always because there are stars taken in round one, and that many factors can contribute.

    To put it into the Flames perspective, they are without their 2nd and 5th round picks this year. If this draft follows along the 2003 model, then drafting in the top five isn’t really that significant an acquisition relative to prospects available three or even six spots later.

    If it follows closer to the 2001 or 2004 model, then the loss of the 2nd round pick may prove more costly in the long run (especially if it becomes an early round pick).

    This would be an opportune year for the Flames to move some bodies and acquire a greater number of selections. And they don’t all need to be 1st round picks to have value.

  • everton fc

    since the last pre-lockout draft, a total of 8/71 picks have been under 6 feet tall. 6 of those 8 were 5’11.

    drafting smaller probably would’ve been better for the flames in terms of success rate.

  • RexLibris

    @smellofvictory – I don’t think shutout is calling Sven a bust. He is trying to make a point comparing Sven’s display last season with his mishandling this season.

    As for draft vs development split – it’s 100 percent drafting and 100 percent development, to be philosophical about it.

    @bikeit – I’m no savant, but the fact that I have a better draft record picking from the THN draft preview is shameful (nor do I think I’m alone in that).

  • BurningSensation

    I never said that Baertschi was a bust, or would be a bust. Just that he was looking like it. You have a 20 year old player in his first year of professional hockey that missed a chuck of games because of an injury and then you dont give him time to get his legs under him before you bring him up to the NHL. Playing on the fourth line at 5 minutes a game was completely stupid. In the first five games it was evident that he should be sent back. He his struggling and his game is getting impacted because of how he was used when he was here.

    I am glad that he was sent back to Abbotsford. That was a great move. But you have to know that part of the Flames management wanted to keep him on the NHL team just to show that they have a young player on the team and its not just aging stars.

    Maybe the Flames are learning and having Ward on the farm is helping them to make those decisions. Baertschi this year, Brodie last year. But too often (even with how they handled Backlund) the organization has tried to rush in young players and then played them minimal minutes on fourth line duties. How are you going to develop offensive players when you give them 5 minutes with fourth line grinders?

  • BurningSensation

    @Rex Libris:”Or they could just fire Tod Button and the scouting department (perhaps Weisbrod as well).”

    I think it should be clear by now given how the most recent drafts have gone under Button that Tod wasn’t the problem during the Dutter years.

    Dutter had a ‘no Russians’ policy, loathed skill players, and hyperventilated for ‘farmboy strong’ WHLers.

    Once Weisbrod arrived we finally had drafts with more than prospect emerging as a likely NHL caliber player, not to mention a Swiss born sniper who might play on a top line.

    • McRib

      I look at it in a completely different way. Todd Button is and always will be very lousy at scouting talent. How he still has a job as our head scout is beyond me… He must have pictures somewhere of somebody…

      Anyway Feaster hired Weisbrod solely for his ability to draft, as Feasters demise in Tampa Bay was that he couldn’t draft, has even admitted this on occasion. Sutter might even be better to be honest than Jay was in TB, as Pavel Kubina was the only player Feaster drafted on Tampa’s 2004 Cup Winning Team.

      So now that Weisbrod is in the picture, Todd Button has been swept under the rug and no longer makes the final decisions, because clearly Murray Edwards or/and Ken King cannot fire Button for whatever reason.

      Gaudreau, Arnold, Jankowski, Gillies, Etc… Were all Weisbrod’s guys (New England Area) and it has nothing to do with Button. As I just don’t buy that Sutter prevented Button from drafting absolutely everyone that he liked. GMs let area scouts for the most part once and awhile take a 6/7th rounder flyer, so not letting the head scout draft anyone with GMs approval is far fetched… The fact that NOBODY ever panned out makes me think it was the brutal talent analysis of Button and not Sutter.

    • RexLibris

      Sutter took Tim Ramholt, a Swiss League player in the 2nd round in his first draft. Nine different players were selected from overseas leagues during his tenure, including Mikael Backlund in the first round.

      In the drafting record, under Sutter’s tenure, there was no greater preference for Western Canadian kids than is often found in any other team. Franchises have geographical preferences, mostly due to limited resources and viewings.

      It is true that no Russian players were drafted by the Flames between 2003 and 2010, but keep in mind that with the KHL emerging and no transfer agreement for much of that time, many teams were leery of picking Russian born players, regardless of skill.

      Sutter may have made the call on a few prospects, but Button was almost certainly free to call his board as he saw fit.

      As for Weisbrod, the players chosen recently appear to have more skill, but is part of that due to the fact that the Flames drafting position has improved ever so slightly since Sutter’s departure? I’m not a strong believer in his scouting acumen just yet, and it will be his depth picks this year that will go a long way to further grading his abilities.

      I would hesitate in making any kind of deliberation on their career ceilings this early. Prospects don’t progress in a straight line, injuries happen, and you generally have success if two out of every seven or nine prospects can crack an NHL roster for more than 200+ games. The Flames have approximately nine NHL hopefuls by my count – Baertschi, Wotherspoon, Gaudreau, Gillies, Jankowski, Sieloff, Ferland, Brossoit and Reinhart. My money is on Baertschi and Gillies.

        • RexLibris

          I don’t think they are as strong a possibility to become NHL players as the others I listed. They could play in the NHL, but only if the Flames become desperate for bodies.

          Think of Robert Nilsson, or Robbie Schremp.

          Neither were real NHL players, but both got chances because of skill and a real desperation by the Oilers for them to become impact NHLers.

          Granlund may yet become a 4th line centre, his absolute maximum ceiling is looking more like a 3rd liner. But then you also have Max Reinhart who may or may not be better at that position than Granlund.

          We’ll have to wait and see, but right now I wouldn’t put either of those two ahead of the earlier names.

  • Parallex

    “Then why do the Flame always seem to have prospects that look good in junior and then are unable to make them established NHL players?”

    For the same reason that there are guys like Chris Bourque, Krys Kolanos, and Jamie Lundmark that mauled in youth league and in the AHL but whenever you see them in the NHL they just look like chumps… sometimes the skills just don’t translate to the next level. Look at any teams draft picks and you will see selected in the later round a litter of guys that pwned at the level they were drafted in and fizzled after that… Prospects: They’ll Break Your Heart.

    • loudogYYC

      It’s impossible to know what exactly allows each prospect to make it and to say it was this or that (drafting vs development). Except that when you listen to a guy like Ken Holland stress the importance of development and look at their ‘over-ripen” philosophy it’s no coincidence that they continute to turn out skilled prospects even when picking much later or without even having first rounders. That’s why I contend that both are vitally important and need to be stressed to the max.

      As for Tod Button – I think the team should move on, but it’s impossible to know how much interference certain GM’s did or didn’t have. Though I agree with McRib’s analysis – he was there before Sutter and the drafting has never been great.

  • McRib

    The most interesting thing about our turnaround in drafting is right after the draft in Minnesota, most of the Flames Area Scouts were fired…. Then Weisbrod was hired!! How do I know this?? I attended the Draft and it was big news that day, but never received much press outside of Minnesota. Some said the old Flames scouts were all pushing 60-70 and should have been gone years ago, hardly attended games anymore. The only one who wasn’t fired was Button, haha.

    Maybe this is the biggest change as last years draft was the best overall draft for us in more than a decade. And it at least installed some faith in Weisbrod and our scouting abilities for me heading forward.

  • BurningSensation

    @McRib:”So now that Weisbrod is in the picture, Todd Button has been swept under the rug and no longer makes the final decisions, because clearly Murray Edwards or/and Ken King cannot fire Button for whatever reason.”

    I think that’s speculation on top of speculation. I’ve heard on several occasions that Dutter was something of a control freak with regards to scouting (the ‘no Russians’, ‘WHL or Die’, etc), and that while Button was able to give input, it was Dutter’s tastes that took priority.

    With Weisbrod’s arrival it was clear that the scouting department was getting new marching orders. Are the recent successes solely the result of Weisbrod hand picking guys he’s seen himself? I doubt it. More likely is that the priorities given to the scouts are more rationally arrived at.

    The failures of the Dutter drafts shouldn’t be pinned on the scouts when they suddenly seem quite capable now that they report to Weisbrod.

    • McRib

      Your right Weisbrod and the scouts that he brought on after everyone was fired in Minnesota seem to be quite capable!!! Button’s role in all of that is very debatable… I think he is just collecting a paycheck until his contract ends to be honest. Because Button was also equally as bad, as a scout under his brother Craig!!!! Head Scouts bring reports to their GMs it isn’t the other way around and a dozen or so teams no longer draft Russians. Thats why only 5 to 10 go every year now.

      “Button was originally hired as an amateur scout in the summer of 1997 by then-general manager Al Coates” long before Sutter showed up!!!!

      Sutter might have been a control freak but even mediocre scouts can get past all that and still find talent late. Even grinders end up turning into scorers once and awhile. Milan Lucic is a great example.

  • schevvy

    I CANNOT believe you didn’t list Hugh Jessiman on your list of impact players from the 2003 Draft! C’mon Rex, you’re better than that 🙂

    Also: could you imagine if the Penguins took a guy like Eric Staal or Zach Parise or Jeff Carter or Dustin Brown or Tim Ramholt (ha!) instead of Fleury at #1? Holy hell, they’d be even better.

    • RexLibris

      You are right. Hugh Jessiman did have a significant impact on the New York Rangers. He very nearly cost Tom Renney his job.

      Just as the 2006 draft essentially ended Kevin Prendergast’s time as head scout for the Oilers, sometimes “impact” can also be defined as a craterous smoking hulk of a mess.

      And can you imagine if the Penguins had taken Toews instead of Staal. Crosby, Malkin and Toews? Who cares who the wingers are.

  • loudogYYC

    Honestly I can’t blame Sutter or Button or whoever for not drafting Russian kids anymore. Those kids are enigmatic at best and considering our luck with Fatty Medvedev and Andrei Taratukhin, it’s already a point of weakness for us.

    Regarding what @McRib is saying about Lucic being a grinder that turned into a scorer, he was a 30 goal scorer in his draft year. Granted big guys that score goals in junior are a risk, but Looch was an easy pick IMO.

    If Ferland turns into a 15-20 goal, 40 point player in the NHL, he’ll have to be considered Sutter’s best draft pick. That has to be one of the top 3 toughest skillsets to find in kids.

  • Parallex

    The Detroit “over-ripen” development narrative is just a myth I mean let’s look at their contributers…

    Filppula: 1 full year in the AHL Franzen: Zero years in the AHL Zetterberg: Zero years in the AHL Datsyuk: Zero Years in the AHL Kronwall: 1 full year in the AHL

    Even their guys further down the depth chart havn’t spent much extra time in internal development with Detroit with only Ericsson and Howard having spent more then 2 years in professional development.

    Actually… having looked over Detroit’s depth chart I notice a few things:

    1: Detroit probably has this over-ripen narrative about their developmental system not because they actually actively delay their prospects arrival in the NHL but because their prospects are older then most when they arrive.

    2: Detroit actually seems to outsource much of it’s development. Allowing their prospects to be developed by their euro league clubs or by the U.S. Collegante system moreso then their own minor-pro people.

    Detroit is a Grade A organization and they have an excellent draft philosophy (if what I see is deliberate and not happenstance), and very good talent evaluaters, and a man-sized lucky horseshoe shoved up their posterior. But some uber-great development stream?… I don’t see it. That’s not to say that it isn’t there but I don’t see anything they do differently from anyone else once a player enters their system.

  • RexLibris

    Detroit’s development philosophy does include letting their prospects spend considerable time in development leagues before coming to the NHL.

    As Parallex noted, many of those prospects are left to play in their respective overseas leagues until they are in their early 20s. Some prospects are left in the AHL for entire length of their ELCs.

    What has allowed Detroit in the past to turn over elite-caliber stars year after year was the initial beginning point of having a talented core of Yzerman, Fedorov, Konstatinov, Larionov and so on.

    From there they were able to shelter players for extended periods of time. Datsyuk and Zetterberg are the remaining echoes of that process, whose tremendous abilities are a combination of exceptional drafting and responsible, patient development.

    Great drafting with poor development will only get you so far (Anaheim, Columbus), poor drafting with great development processes will usually yield better results (Nashville, New Jersey). Poor drafting and sub-standard development only gets you one result (Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Atlanta).

    • Parallex

      Zetterberg and Datsyuk are mostly just luck no scout is going to see future HoF guys and say “wait until round 7-9 to draft them”. They were developed by their old teams in Sweden and Russia and jumped straight to the NHL thereafter.

      They got extremely lucky with those guys. Which isn’t to say that detroit is all luck but in those two cases it mostly was. I say mostly because you still need to have the talent to identify them as draft worthy but that’s all the cred I’ll give them there. I kind of hope that Feaster plays the long-game for the next few years and drafts heavily in Europe and NCAA bound players for the next couple of years (at least in the 2-7 rounds). He won’t have the same level of core that Detroit had but it’ll set up a graduation window where they can assemble a strong home-made team.

      • Parallex

        “In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.” – Obi-Wan

        Obviously, in hindsight, you wouldn’t take the chance on those players still being there. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t see anything in them and were just throwing darts at a board. After all, Detroit and not some other team, drafted them.

        And when you look at a lot of their top players, they’re later picks. So there’s a lot more to it than just chance.

        • Parallex

          Hence why I said that the only cred I give them is the cred to see them as draft worthy so I still give them some credit… just not much. They got extremely lucky. Honestly I see the fact that so many of their top players were low picks as more indicative that it is mostly by chance… if it wasn’t you’d see their high picks up there in equal or greater numbers since they come through the same process. I think they have a great draft philosophy “choose players coming out of streams where you can both outsource their development to someone else and have additional time to elect whether to sign them” and they obviously have a good scout/scouting in Sweden. But internally I don’t think they do any exceptional skill development.

          Personal Opinion: I don’t see leaving them in Europe as “development”. I see it as as making a development choice but leaving it (the actual development) up to someone else to do isn’t. My opinion YMMV.

    • Parallex

      Thank you Rex.

      Leaving a guy in Europe instead of rushing him to NA is a form of development.

      It’s not just about the AHL. Let tplayers mature where they’re comfortable. And that doesn’t mean that the team isn’t in contact with these guys either.

      But even now, look at prospects like Jarnkrok and Nyqvist (a top AHL scorer even last season). Out of 29 other teams, how many would have both of those guys in their line-ups already? And how many NHL coaches would have them stapled to the bench or watching from the press box until they’re declared a bust?

      Obviously the verdict is still out on these guys, but patience is still being preached.

  • Parallex

    Also, regarding Europe, Detroit plays a heavily European influenced system, so leaving them there is ceratinly by design. While other teams can’t wait to get their Euro prospects ‘on the smaller rink.’

  • Parallex

    Fans, scribes & bloggers become too impatient with drafts! Takes time to develop young hockey players & especially the D position! Gagner has taken time to develop but the Oilers also traded Nash from the same draft for defenceman Marincin & I think he still has a really good shot at becoming a steady NHLer & he just turned 21!

  • Parallex

    Scouts have to watch out for the Mario Lemieux effect as well. Sometimes awesome players will make those around them look amazing. See virtually all players that played with mario who pitt then traded away for good returns. That’s why I would way rather draft the star on a crap team then one of many on a powerhouse team. That’s just me though.

  • Parallex

    Anyone hear the KK ieterview on Fan960 yesterday?

    “No meddling, have never told a GM they can’t make a move they wanted to and never told them they had to make a move they didn’t want to.”

    No questions back like, “so if Jay told you last year he was trading Jarome you would just shrug your shoulders and say ‘do what you think is best?’”

    That’s our MSM, KK must screen his questions before agreeing to interviews.

    KK indicated the team is going for the playoffs again. I truly despise the man.

    Well, Gaborik is available, I wonder if they can free up enough room to go after him? Send Baerstchi out. That sounds about right.

    • RexLibris

      Fan960 is the rights holder, correct?

      That same scenario plays out regardless of the location. Ask some Oiler fans what they think of Bob Stauffer’s insights and the coverage of the team on 630 CHED.

      I have nothing against Stauffer’s journalistic abilities, and I think he knows more about hockey than most of us will ever hope to, but the appearance of bias does nevertheless exist.

  • RexLibris

    Regarding development overseas, it seems to get a bad rap sometimes. I think it has its place, depending on the situation.

    Here is an example. Martin Gernat, Slovakian defenseman, drafted 5th round. Nearly a ppg player last year for the Oil Kings and by all accounts a highly-touted offensive prospect. He injured his shoulder in junior this year and went back to Slovakia to have surgery and get it healed up. Why? He could have simply had the same surgery here where the team could observe his progress and rehab.

    He went home because he is 18/19 years old, facing major surgery that could impact his career, and wanted to have his family nearby to help with the healing/recuperative process.

    He was blasted by many here in the media for the decision, but when he came back you could tell that he needed those surroundings. His doctors and nurses spoke the language, the food was the same, and his family was right there.

    Datsyuk, Franzen, Zetterberg and others spending their formative years post-draft overseas in familiar territory does give up some control the team has over their deployment and minutes, but so long as scouting staff are in continual communication, it may actually improve their chances of becoming an NHL player. The skill is mostly there, all the team needs to do is create a space wherein the prospect can develop.

    This is why I tend to place a great deal of significance on development models.

  • I’m still baffled why Feaster had to give a second round pick in this year’s draft to Montreal for the Cammelleri-Bourque trade, after he did the same thing during the Regher trade to Buffalo. I got a feeling this one will come back to haunt the Flames. It doesn’t appear that Ramo warranted a second round. And in the end Feaster still went to draft some other high-end goaltending prospects in Laurent Broissoit and John Gillies, though they look like they may have some potential.

    Either way Montreal must be happy that they will getting a pretty high second round pick in this year’s upcoming draft, which is frankly not much different than a late first rounder.

    • RexLibris

      Preaching to the choir here. When the trade happened I was very vocal (as many here will attest) about this trade. Cammalleri for Bourque is generally a win, but the extra cap hit is problematic.

      As for adding the 2nd round pick, that has become something of a trademark for Feaster. When a simple move can be made he seems to show a tendency to overcomplicate the issue. Take the Regehr trade for instance. Technically it was two trades, but they were, for all intents and purposes, part of a single move. Feaster may have felt that he couldn’t get back a potential career AHL player for Regehr and so he increased the payout to include Kotalik wrapped in a 2nd round pick in order to get back two marginal players.

      The fact that Kotalik quickly chose to go and play overseas, thereby letting Buffalo off the hook for his cap hit only makes the move more embarrassing.

      As for the Montreal trade, Feaster sent away a draft pick during a period when he ought to have been accumulating them. The Flames are essentially teetering on the edge right now and any move that isn’t intended to rebuild the organization is only delaying the inevitable. So instead of simply exchanging players, he also depletes the Flames future assets.

      Ramo appears promising, but a young-ish goaltender playing overseas is almost as uncertain an asset as a 2nd round pick.

      Cammalleri does have some value in trade, but his contract is large and the lowering salary cap may diminish some of his trade value. Either way, he is still a more valuable asset than Bourque, so in the main body of the trade the Flames won, albeit by a slim margin. The details of the move look to be a net loss for the organization.

  • RexLibris


    Thanks, I definitely recall Kotalik shortly fleeing overseas and I was thinking what the hell just happened!

    I’m just curious what do you think the Flame should do with Matt Stajan given his recent reincarnation/revival? He is effectively a third line center with a cap hit of $3.5million (though actually dollars) and one more year to go. I’m just wondering if the Flames should be per chance get offered a second round draft pick in return, should management go for it?

    I could see teams viewing him as center-line insurance like what Chris Kelly provided Boston when Ottawa traded him away for a second rounder in 2011.

    Personally, I would deal Stajan away in heartbeat even though I think he has been one of the Flames best forwards this year but he simply doesn’t have consistent 1st or 2nd line center line potential at his age.