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Photo Credit: Alaney2k/Wikimedia commons

The Flames are pretty happy with their 2018 draft crop

We’re in the run-up to the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver at the end of June. In a pretty extensive interview with CalgaryFlames.com’s Ryan Dittrick, Flames head amateur scout Tod Button seems pretty happy with how the 2018 draft went.

The whole interview is worth going out of your way to dig into – and there’s an accompanying video feature, too – but this answer from Button about how their 2018 picks did in this past season is pretty interesting.

The one thing you’re always looking for is progress. But it always depends on what the situation is and what your experience level is like. The five guys we drafted, they all exceeded what we thought they were going to be, this early. Emilio Pettersen (6th round, 167th overall) went in as a freshman in Denver and was really good. Milos Roman (4th round, 122nd overall) is playing in the Western Hockey League final and has been a solid, solid guy. You mentioned Pospisil (4th round, 105th overall) and he played with the puck this year, he showed creativity, he played with more skill. There was progression, right? Zavgo (7th round, 198th overall) played on a really good team in Rimouski and he improved in every area. He stayed in Calgary all summer to work out, and that’s a boon for him, a boon for us. Demetrios Koumontzis (4th round, 108th overall) goes down to Arizona State and was a really good player for them. He’s still got a ways to go, but they all made steps. And sometimes kids don’t make steps, they regress, and the next year they make steps. But it was all positive to see that they all made steps in their first year after they were drafted.

The Flames had zero selections in the first three rounds and didn’t pick at all until 105th overall. But they continued a draft philosophy they’ve used since roughly the 2015 NHL Draft to look at value in their later rounds – taking swings at players that have high developmental ceilings and potentially the tools to make it there.

We’ll be digging more deeply into the team’s drafting and development philosophy as we get closer to the draft. Based upon how the 2018 crop looks so far – and the presence of several recently-drafted players on their NHL roster this past season – it seems likely that the Flames will stick to the same approach for the 2019 draft.

  • cjc

    Given Calgary’s draft position, I wonder if it would make sense to trade down into the second round. Hear me out.

    I did a bit of empirical modelling to see the average number of games a player has played, given their draft position. I looked at the last 15 drafts, so while many players are still active (and accumulating games), the same conditions apply for every draft position. It’s not the expected number of games a player drafted at a given position can expect to play in their career.

    I excluded goalies, but didn’t account for things like injuries or team depth. Still, the model is pretty good (explains ~80% of the variance). Based on the model, players selected 26th overall had an (expected) average of 169 GP. Of course in real life, players drafted recently might have zero games, while those drafted 15 years ago could be over 1000.

    However, drafting deeper into the second round doesn’t hurt your expectations much. The 32nd pick has an expected average of 144 GP. The 45th pick, 103 GP. That may seem like quite a drop off from the 26th pick, but consider that the drop off from first overall to 5th overall is nearly 200 GP. The difference in average value from 26th to 32nd or 45th isn’t all that much because it is a logarithmic decline.

    In that context, trading down makes sense if you can recoup 2 picks. For instance, might Ottawa give up their 2nd rounder (32nd overall) and the lowest of their three 2nd rounders in 2020 for Calgary’s 2019 first? The combined value of those picks (even if Dallas or Columbus ends up winning the Stanley Cup next year and the 2020 second rounder is 62nd overall) would be an expected average of ~210 GP, more than the 2019 26th overall alone.

    I think there is a lot of attachment to first round picks among fans that isn’t really justified by the data, at least when talking about late first round picks. Calgary has had a lot of success in the second round, too. Andersson, Kylington and probably Dube are all going to become useful players.