Can You Measure A Team’s Draft Success?June 6, 2011, by
Every year around draft time there’s always countless articles debating how well teams draft and derivative reviews of every organizations prospect pool. Some major websites such as ESPN or TSN get a little crazy with their labeling of which organizations are good at drafting, while claiming others are terrible at it.
For example, last season ESPN’s EJ Hradek professed that the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks were the 2nd-4th best teams in the league when it comes to drafting. His examples to back these claims were Crosby, Malkin, Staal, and Fleury for the Penguins, Ovechkin and Backstrom for the Caps and Toews and Kane for Blackhawks.
For those of you who don’t remember where they were drafted, lets recap:
Sidney Crosby (No. 1 in ’05), Evgeni Malkin (No. 2 in ’04), Jordan Staal (No. 2 in ’06) Marc-Andre Fleury (No. 1 in ’03) Alexander Ovechkin (No. 1 in ’04) Jonathan Toes (No. 3 ’06) and Patrick Kane (No. 1 in ’07).
Do we see a similarity here? Each and every one of them was a number 1, 2, or 3 pick.
Can you really say that an organization is the best at drafting when the cornerstones of your franchise are built with top picks? There isn’t a GM, Scout, or Blogger (who wishes he was a GM) in the world who wouldn’t take these guys. Additionally, the only reason why these teams had so many top picks to begin with was because they were god awful for so long.
So maybe the best way to evaluate a team’s drafting ability is to look beyond the first round.
Well, of course ESPN had that covered as well. Last year they nobly tried to take a whack at this by looking at which teams were able to draft players after the 1st round who not only made it to the NHL, but contributed on the stat sheet as well.
So what was the takeaway?
From 2000-2010, only 15% percent of picks taken after the first round have played 82 NHL games. These players on average put up 28 points per 82 games. For forwards this average increased to 33 points per 82 games, which is about equal to a third line player and decreased to 15 points per 82 games for defensemen.
According to ESPN, the five best teams with picks taken after thefirst round who have put up more than the average 28 points per 82 games were the Buffalo Sabres (36.3 pts per 82 games), the Montreal Canadiens (35.3 pts per 82 games), the St. Lois Blues (32.9 pts per 82 games), the San Jose Sharks (32.1 pts per 82 games), and the Los Angeles Kings (30.9 pts per 82 games).
My problem with this rationale is that they base everything on quantity and not quality. Are you going to tell me that the Rangers don’t draft well because guys like Michael Sauer (2nd round pick) don’t put up more than 28 pts per season? C’mon man!
Also, noticeably absent from this list were the Detroit Red Wings, who industry insiders believe are the best drafting team in the NHL due their ability to go off the charts and turn late round picks into stars. Knowing this, how were the Red Wings not on the list?
Well, because only 11.5 percent of players drafted by Detroit (from ’95 to ’06) have stuck around to play in 82 games, which is good for last in the league!
And really, what success has Montreal, St. Louis, and Buffalo had with all of their picks anyway?
All of this leads me to my main point. You can’t measure a team’s draft success by player stats or appearances. Even if you could, it doesn’t account for the team’s ability to retain that talent or tie it to post-season success. In my opinion, I don’t need the Rangers to be on anyone’s top ten list. At the end of the day, the only measurement for draft success is post-season wins with a roster you built from scratch.