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Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel / USA TODAY Sports

Is Calgary’s drafting out-performing expected pick value?

Drafting in the National Hockey League is in many ways a crap-shoot. Teams gawk at teenagers from afar for 12 months, chat them up here and there, and generally attempt to gather as much useful information as they possibly can. Then they choose players for seven rounds and cross their fingers that some of them turn out.

A couple years ago, TSN’s Scott Cullen conducted an examination of draft picks to determine the expected value of picks. More precisely, how likely was it that a selection would be successful? Given the expected values of the various draft picks, how well have the Flames done recently when compared to those expected values?

At a glance

For the sake of comparison, we’ve collected the draft picks made by Jay Feaster (2011-13) and Brad Treliving (2014-16) as general managers in order of their overall pick placements. Besides the usual information, we’ve included the likelihood that a player selected at that spot would hit 100 NHL games (noted as %100), as well as their NHL and AHL regular season games played with the Flames organization. (AHL games are included because I’m sympathetic to the “at least they played pro in the organization somewhere” argument for late-round picks.)

Pick Year Player %100 NHL AHL
4 2014 Bennett 85.7 159 0
6 2013 Monahan 81.0 319 0
6 2016 Tkachuk 81.0 76 0
13 2011 Baertschi (1) 66.7 66 109
21 2012 Jankowski 71.4 1 72
22 2013 Poirier 60.0 8 160
28 2013 Klimchuk 47.6 0 125
34 2014 McDonald 32.4 0 1
42 2012 Sieloff (2) 39.0 1 102
45 2011 Granlund (3) 39.0 86 85
53 2015 Andersson 33.3 1 54
54 2014 Smith 33.3 0 88
54 2016 Parsons 33.3 0 0
56 2016 Dube 28.6 0 0
57 2011 Wotherspoon 28.6 30 218
60 2015 Kylington 28.6 1 107
64 2014 Hickey 33.3 0 0
66 2016 Fox 33.3 0 0
67 2013 Kanzig 33.3 0 9
75 2012 Gillies 26.7 1 46
96 2016 Lindstrom 23.8 0 0
104 2011 Gaudreau 19.0 232 0
105 2012 Kulak 19.0 30 117
124 2012 Culkin 16.5 0 83
126 2016 Mattson 16.5 0 0
135 2013 Roy 16.3 0 0
136 2015 Karnaukhov 13.3 0 0
156 2016 Tuulola 15.6 0 0
157 2013 Harrison 15.6 0 0
164 2011 Brossoit (4) 15.6 0 2
165 2012 Gordon 15.9 0 0
166 2015 Mangiapane 15.9 0 66
166 2016 Phillips 15.9 0 0
175 2014 Ollas Mattsson 15.9 0 9
184 2014 Carroll 10.3 0 99
186 2012 DeBlouw 10.3 0 0
186 2016 Falkovsky 10.3 0 0
187 2013 Rafikov 10.3 0 0
196 2015 Bruce 8.2 0 0
198 2013 Gilmour 8.2 0 0

Some Notes:

  • Baertschi was traded for the pick used to select Andersson, which would bump his totals to 67 NHL games and 163 AHL games.
  • Sieloff was traded for Alex Chiasson, which would bump his totals to 82 NHL games and 102 AHL games.
  • Granlund was traded for Hunter Shinkaruk, which would bump his totals to 100 NHL games and 154 AHL games.
  • Brossoit was traded (along with Roman Horak) for Ladislav Smid and Oliver Roy; if you assign all of Smid’s games to the Brossoit pick, it would be 109 NHL games and three AHL games total.

The breakdown

Hit 100 games:

Three picks have hit 100 games without any weird qualifying statements: Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau. Two of those guys are Feaster picks. If you allow for the games played by assets acquired with the player selection, then that figure bumps up to five with Markus Granlund/Hunter Shinkaruk and Laurent Brossoit/Ladislav Smid also qualifying. That means that three of the five picks made in 2011 resulted in 100+ NHL games played.

On track:

Four more selections seem like fair bets to hit 100 NHL games in the near future. Matthew Tkachuk is a lock to hit it early next season. If Rasmus Andersson cracks the Flames roster and plays 33 games, the Sven Baertschi pick hits 100 games. (If you focus on Andersson’s pick alone, he’s more of a toss-up figure.) If Alex Chiasson remains with the club, the Patrick Sieloff pick will hit 100 games next season. Finally, if Brett Kulak remains with the Flames he also seems like a safe bet to crack the NHL roster full-time and approach 100 games over the next few seasons.

Toss-up:

Four more players seem almost equally likely to make it or not right now. Mark Jankowski, Oliver Kylington and Jon Gillies have all dipped their toe into the NHL pond, but aren’t quite yet far enough along that you can pencil them into the Flames roster for awhile. Tyler Wotherspoon is in a different situation, as he’s older than Kulak (who has played as many games) and seemingly could be on his way out of the organization.

Doesn’t look good:

There are a lot of players that, based on their age and stature within the organization, don’t seem like strong bets to hit 100 NHL games. Those players are Emile Poirier, Morgan Klimchuk, Mason McDonald, Hunter Smith, Austin Carroll, Keegan Kanzig and Ryan Culkin.

Nope:

Eight players have either left the organization or headed to Europe, and therefore likely will not hit 100 NHL games anytime soon. Those players are Eric Roy, Pavel Karnaukhov, Tim Harrison, Coda Gordon, Matthew DeBlouw, Rushan Rafikov, Riley Bruce and John Gilmour.

Too soon to tell:

Finally, it’s too soon to tell how a bunch of the 2014 (Hickey and Ollas Mattsson) 2015 (Mangiapane) and 2016 picks (everybody but Tkachuk) will do.

Judging GM performances

Let’s ignore the “too soon to tell” group, for obvious reasons. That leaves 20 players to judge Feaster’s drafting and nine players to judge Treliving’s drafting.

From Feaster’s crop, four picks resulted in 100 NHL games (or more) while another three seem like solid bets. That’s a roughly 35% success rate, which seems pretty solid. Treliving’s converted one pick at 100 games so far, with another seeming like a solid bet. That’s a 22% success rate. That said, 11 of Treliving’s picks are “too soon to tell” and so that success rate could go up – maybe even by a lot.

Sum it up

Under Darryl Sutter’s regime, the Flames’ drafting was actively bad. It’s definitely improved over the past decade, to the point where they seem to hit on their first round picks with regularity. During the period we examined, they had six selections that had a 50% (or higher) chance of hitting 100 NHL games; four of ’em have hit that mark or are good bets, while a few of their later, lower-percentage picks hit that mark. They’re a far cry from the best in the league in terms of their ability to turn junior talent into pro talent, but they seem to be on their way.