Via Sean Mort
You always hear about how size is an asset in the game. But do players with size actually have demonstrably better careers than their counterparts?
With the help of reader Byron Bader (who compiled the raw numbers and provided some analysis), we’re going to take a look and see if that’s the case or not.
There’s simply too many players for us to include everyone ever in this sample, so we’ve cut it down to players drafted between 1990 and 2012. There was a total of 3289 draftees in that amount of time, and this is how they break down:
|Below 5’10”||5’10” – 6’0″||6’1″ – 6’4″||Above 6’4”|
|Percentage of NHLers||6.25%||7.06%||7.23%||5.16%|
|Average Points of Players in Top 1000||532||510||507||560|
For the purpose of this exercise, “NHLers” are guys who are top-6 forwards and top-4 defensemen.
- Teams are much more willing to spend a draft pick on a bigger guy than a smaller guy, even if the smaller guy has better scoring stats. Based on the percentage of NHLers to come from each group, that seems like it may be a mistake.
- At first blush, it may seem as though drafting bigger players does come with an increase of points, but the small sample (only 8/1000 players) means the results can be skewed one way or another easily. Same with the smaller players.
- It is interesting that huge players, although they are a small percentage of total players, have the best average points. To me, this doesn’t so much speak to value of size as it does the value of other skills: there is no player that I observed who was 6’4″ and over who didn’t have at least adequate NHL-level skating ability and also appeared on the top 1000 list.
- Based on that, drafting a player simply for size while ignoring his lack of skating ability and/or offensive upside will only lead to a wasted pick.
- The sample is very small but it’s interesting that there’s an entire 2% separation between the huge group (smallest percentage of NHLers) and the big group (highest percentage of NHLers).
- Based on these numbers, it seems like it may be hard for the average GM to strike a balance between finding a player who has a high likelihood to make the NHL (typically in the mid-range) and a player who can score at an above-average rate (typically on the extremes).
- It seems to me that if you’re looking at 4 players in the CHL (one in each size bracket) who have identical scoring stats (i.e., like 45P in 50GP) you want to take the guy who’s between 6’1″ and 6’4. Highest likelihood to make the show.
- However, if the player is an elite scorer, obviously take the 6’4 and up player.
- Small players are seemingly undervalued a significant amount. They have a very good chance at making the NHL compared to their peers and they score at a high pace – but only 2.4% of draftees were in that bracket.
- Because of this, I can’t think of any reason why a GM would pick a player for his size (even though he has other deficiencies) over a player who can score.
It’s no secret that teams covet players with size. Everyone is trying to find “the next Milan Lucic” or “the next Zdeno Chara”. Unfortunately, the stunningly obvious reality is that not every player with size will make any sort of an impact at the NHL level. So then why do GMs continue to reduce their odds at finding NHLers?
It’s simple: the pursuit of the outlier is a much more attractive option to the average person than it is to settle for the medial. To me, that doesn’t really make sense – the point of an NHL draft is to maximize the amount of NHLers you can get your hands on. The farther away you go, the harder it is to find an NHLer. Thus, draft players who are already equipped with point scoring and skating ability before you draft for size.