Every so often, a hockey rumour comes up that makes you sit in awe and confusion. Even rarer, you get the awesome plot twist of there being merit to the speculation. Usually, when that’s the case, it involves Flames GM Jay Feaster or Avalanche GM Greg Sherman. Occasionally, the two will band together to create the Watch The Throne of puck absurdity, like the Ryan O’Reilly offer sheet that nearly ended in waivers earlier this season. Fast forward to now, and we have another fun "what if" to discuss.
As reported across the hockey world, the Flames want to make a significant impact at this year’s draft. Since they weren’t able to completely tank, trading for the first overall pick is the best way to do it, and Colorado is the team in possession of that top spot. Feaster’s plan of attack? He offered picks 6 (Calgary’s original pick), 22 (from St. Louis) and 28 (from Pittsburgh) for first overall. Sherman and the Avalanche have since rejected it, but it’s lead to some debate. Should they have taken it? After all, three first round picks are nothing to scoff at. Here’s a look at every 1 for 6/22/28 scenario possible since the draft had at least 28 potential selections:
|Year||To Calgary (1)||To Colorado (6)||To Colorado (22)||To Colorado (28)||Win?|
|2013||Nathan Mackinnon||Darnell Nurse||Zach Fucale||Kerby Rychel||TBD|
|2012||Nail Yakupov||Hampus Lindholm||Olli Maatta||Brady Skjei||TBD|
|2011||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Mika Zibanejad||Tyler Biggs||Zack Phillips||TBD|
|2010||Taylor Hall||Brett Connolly||Jared Tinordi||Carlie Coyle||TBD|
|2009||John Tavares||Oliver Ekman-Larsson||Jordan Schroeder||Dylan Olsen||TBD|
|2008||Steven Stamkos||Nikita Filatov||Jordan Eberle||Viktor Tikhonov||TBD|
|2007||Patrick Kane||Sam Gagner||Max Pacioretty||Nick Petrecki||TCTC|
|2006||Erik Johnson||Derick Brassard||Claude Giroux||Nick Foligno||COL|
|2005||Sidney Crosby||Gilbert Brule||Matt Lashoff||Matt Niskanen||CGY|
|2004||Alexander Ovechkin||Al Montoya||Lukas Kaspar||Mark Fistric||CGY|
|2003||Marc-Andre Fleury||Milan Michalek||Marc-Antoine Pouliot||Corey Perry||COL|
|2002||Rick Nash||Scottie Upshall||Sean Bergenheim||Jonas Johansson||CGY|
|2001||Ilya Kovalchuk||Mikko Koivu||Jiri Novotny||Adrian Foster||CGY|
|2000||Rick DiPietro||Scott Hartnell||David Hale||Justin Williams||COL|
|1999||Patrik Stefan||Brian Finley||Maxime Ouellet||Kristian Kudroc||CGY|
|1998||Vincent Lecavalier||Rico Fata||Simon Gagne||Ramzi Abid||CGY|
|1997||Joe Thornton||Daniel Tkaczuk||Nikos Tselios||Brad DeFauw||CGY|
|1996||Chris Phillips||Boyd Devereaux||Jeff Brown||Pavel Skrbek||CGY|
|1995||Bryan Berard||Steve Kelly||Brian Boucher||Jan Hlavac||CGY|
|1994||Ed Jovanovski||Ryan Smyth||Jeff Kealty||Johan Davidsson||TCTC|
|1993||Alexandre Daigle||Viktor Kozlov||Anders Eriksson||Shean Donovan||COL|
|1992||Roman Hamrlik||Cory Stillman||Curtis Bowen||Paul Brousseau||TCTC|
|1991||Eric Lindros||Peter Forsberg||Dean McAmmond||Jim Campbell||TCTC|
|1990||Owen Nolan||Scot Scissons||Ryan Hughes||Brandy Semchuk||CGY|
|1989||Mats Sundin||Adam Bennett||Adam Foote||Jarrod Skalde||CGY|
|1988||Mike Modano||Scott Pearson||Troy Mallette||Paul Holden||CGY|
|1987||Pierre Turgeon||Dave Archibald||Brad Miller||Daniel Marois||CGY|
|1986||Joe Murphy||Vincent Damphousse||Adam Graves||Kent Hawley||COL|
|1985||Wendel Clark||Brad Dalgarno||Ken Spangler||Mike Richter||TCTC|
|1984||Mario Lemieux||Craig Redmond||Greg Smith||Doug Houda||CGY|
|1983||Brian Lawton||John Maclean||Todd Charlesworth||Jeff Jackson||COL|
|1982||Gord Kluzak||Phil Housley||Brian Curran||Rene Badeau||COL|
|1981||Dale Hawerchuk||Jim Benning||Scott Arniel||Steve Gatzos||CGY|
|1980||Doug Wickenheiser||Paul Coffey||Joe Ward||Steve Ludzik||COL|
|1979||Rob Ramage||Craig Hartsburg||Blake Wesley||Tim Trimper||CGY|
|1978||Bobby Smith||Behn Wilson||Curt Fraser||Glenn Hicks||CGY|
|1977||Dale McCourt||Doug Wilson||Jeff Bandura||Don Laurence||COL|
|1976||Rick Green||Don Murdoch||Reed Larson||Bobby Simpson||COL|
|1975||Mel Bridgman||Don Ashby||Brian Engblom||Brad Gassoff||CGY|
|1974||Greg Joly||Doug Hicks||Bryan Trottier||Guy Chouinard||COL|
|1973||Denis Potvin||Andre Savard||Peter Marrin||Jean Landry||CGY|
|1972||Billy Harris||Michel Larocque||Tom Cassidy||Stan Weir||CGY|
|1971||Guy Lafleur||Ron Jones||Rick Kehoe||Curt Ridley||CGY|
|1970||Gilbert Perreault||Chuck Lefley||Errol Thompson||Michel Archambault||CGY|
|1969||Rejean Houle||Bob Currier||Art Quoquochi||Willie Brossart||CGY|
For the sake of debate, I used MyNHLDraft’s mock draft with alterations to 1 and 6 for this season. Best player available is usually the way to go, but with 1-3 and 6-8 being close together, strengths and weaknesses can be considered. I believe that Calgary is more keen to getting an elite centre, so Mackinnon would be their player of choice. Colorado, who seems to be geared to Jones at #1, would likely look to defence again at 6 and select Darnell Nurse.
I’ve also marked the last five drafts as "To Be Decided" in outcome. These players are still young and developing, and results could still go either way, though I’m all but certain that 2010 and 2008 are going to end up with 1st overall being the better choice. Now, with that considered…
- In the 35 remaining drafts, having the 1st overall pick is the better choice 20 times (58.8%).
- Scouting has gotten a lot better over the years. From 1987 to 2006, just 4 of 20 times does pick quantity win over quality. By comparison, quantity won out 6 of 10 times between 1974 and 1983. The first pick has become a much safer place over time.
- 2000 goes in favour of quantity, but Rick DiPietro’s injuries play a huge role in that. If he continued to be a top 5-10 goaltender, this wouldn’t be a discussion.
- I find it funny that despite Patrik Stefan becoming a bust, he would’ve been the right option in 1999. I guess 7 year old Jeff was wrong about Maxime Ouellet being a sure-fire superstar goaltender.
- 1990 is probably the most lopsided year. Owen Nolan had a fantastic career, whereas the three players that would’ve been sent the other way combined for 6 games played and 0 points. Nolan was picked by Quebec, who are now Colorado, making it especially fitting.
- Similarly, 1997 is pretty lopsided, with Joe Thornton going first and nothing of value being taken at 6/22/28. Daniel Tkaczuk was actually a Calgary pick at 6th, like Rico Fata the net year.
- Six of these trades are "too close to call", but in most coses, it’s a matter of just one of the three panning out to be about as good as the #1 pick, and the other two being scraps, rather than a case of overpowering amounts of talent.
While the rumour was a fun one, it looks like Colorado made the right decision here. This also means there was a method to Feaster’s madness, and that putting all your eggs in one basket is smart, as long as the basket is made of diamond. First overall picks are becoming increasingly harder to mess up. Picking a superstar off of a late first rounder is more lucky than it is good scouting. The types of players you pick in those spots are good to have in your core, but are available via free agency much more often than the average first overall pick (Kovalchuk being the only one to really hit the open market in his prime, and even he eventually returned to New Jersey).
With that said, knowing the luck of these two teams, Colorado will pick up the next Stefan. Calgary will respond by picking the next Forsberg at 6, next Trottier at 22, and next Perry at 28, but all three will struggle out of the gate. You know, until they break out after being traded to re-acquire Jarome Iginla for a farewell tour in three years.