With the NHL draft behind us, fans are wondering whether their teams have succeeded in finding another Zetterberg-type diamond in the rough, or if they at least didn't mess up by taking a Patrik Stefan type player first overall. Having developed a methodology for analyzing teams’ success in the draft a couple of weeks ago, the question I am asking myself is: which teams have been successful in the draft for the last decade or so, and which ones have somehow managed to miss more often than not?
As my analysis period, I have started with the 1993 draft and gone until the 2007 draft. My choice of 1993 was mainly because the period 1989-1991 was what I consider a “non-equilibirum” period, with the transition from almost uniquely North American players to an influx of Europeans rewarding teams that saw it coming, which I do not consider to be an expression of drafting skill. 1993 to 2007 gives us 15 drafts, a large enough sample on which to judge success or failure.
I simply summed, using the same methodology I described two weeks ago, each of the 30 NHL teams’ expected GVT, based on the position of their draft picks and the strength of that year’s draft, as well as the discounted GVT of the players drafted. I paid no attention to whether or not the team traded away the player later on or not (the drafting team gets full credit), and I didn’t care how teams obtained their draft picks. Some teams draft higher, or trade to obtain picks; those teams are expected to obtain more player GVT. Players are only judged on GVT accumulated so far in their career, so Washington only gets credit for 80 discounted GVT for Alexander Ovechkin even though he is likely to hit 150 over the course of his career.
I will count them down from 30 to 1.
Rank Team Exptected Obtained Value Best Players Drafted
30 Lightning 546 339 -206 Vincent Lecavalier, Brad
Richards, Daymond Langkow,
29 Coyotes 418 221 -198 Shane Doan, Daniel Briere,
Michal Grosek, Trevor Letowski
28 Flames 459 307 -151 Derek Morris, German Titov,
27 Panthers 590 445 -145 Ed Jovanovski, Jaroslav
Spacek, Radek Dvorak, Nathan
Horton, Jay Bouwmeester
26 Capitals 508 384 -124 Alexander Ovechkin, Jason
Allison, Andrew Brunette,
Alexander Semin, Mike Green
It’s not very surprising to find the Lightning at the bottom of this list. In 1993, despite an exceptionally good draft and the third pick, they couldn’t do better than Chris Gratton (in fairness, at least they won’t be remembered for picking Alexandre Daigle first), and their other picks played a total of 47 games in the NHL. Their only successful draft was 1998, in which they picked Vincent Lecavalier first and Brad Richards in the third round. Ever since they’ve been coming up empty: from 1999 to 2007, the best player they drafted over 9 years was Paul Ranger, who is a decent defenseman but hardly a once-a-decade franchise player.
The Coyotes are another team that is notorious for coming up empty in the draft, which partly explains the precarious position in which the franchise finds itself today. It says something when the third best player you’ve drafted over 15 years is Michal Grosek.
The Flames are a bit of a surprise here, since they’ve iced a competitive team for a few years, but they were a terrible team from 1996 to 2002, partly because they had to trade away their big-name players to wealthier teams and partly because they couldn’t draft. Remember also that the two architects of the Flames recent resurgence, Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, are not products of the Flames system. They do finally seem to have struck gold with Dion Phaneuf in 2003.
The Panthers, by virtue of their low finishes most seasons, have had a lot of good picks over the last several years, and while they didn’t waste them all they certainly didn’t make the best of them. 1999, 12th overall, Denis Shvidki; 2001, 4th overall, Stephen Weiss; 2004, 7th overall, Rostislav Olesz. Unfortunately, because of the weak team they’ve iced as a result, the few good players they did draft don’t want to stay, such as Jay Bouwmeester.
Had I stopped this analysis in 2003, the Capitals would probably have ranked last overall. In 1994, 1995 and 1996 they had two first-round draft picks, numbers 10, 15, 17, 23, 4 and 17: the best player of these 6 was Jaroslav Svejkovsky, so I don’t need to elaborate there. Since 2002 they’ve started to make up for it, and have drafted Alexander Semin, Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom, building an exciting young offensive core.
Rank Team Expected Obtained Value Best Players Drafted
25 Blackhawks 462 339 -123 Eric Daze, Patrick Kane,
Duncan Keith, Jonathan
Toews, Brent Seabrook
24 Oilers 585 510 -75 Jason Arnott, Miroslav
Satan, Ryan Smyth, Tom Poti,
Ales Hemsky, Mike Comrie,
23 Rangers 442 369 -73 Henrik Lundqvist, Marc
Savard, Todd Marchant,
Marek Zidlicky, Kim Johnsson
22 Canucks 434 369 -65 Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin,
Mattias Ohlund, Brent Sopel
21 Blue Jackets 207 148 -59 Rick Nash, Nikolai Zherdev,
The Blackhawks are another team that had a horrendous draft run and have started to make up lost ground. Three years ago the Blackhawks were arguably the worst team in the NHL, the product of over a decade of awful drafting that had produced only one quality player, Eric Daze, among a minefield of duds. Amazingly, their second-best draft pick since 1993 is Patrick Kane, who has only played 2 years in the NHL! However, since 2003, the Blackhawks have managed to draft significant talent, both on defense (Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook) and up front (Kane, Jonathan Toews). Look for the Blackhawks to be strong for many more years, especially if they continue their recent streak of drafting success.
Oilers bloggers often complain about how their team has wasted its draft picks in recent years, and the numbers confirm their complaints. Most of the good players the Oilers drafted were in 1993 and 1996, which is why the Oilers remained competitive for so long despite suffering from the small-market syndrome that affected so many teams in the 1990s. However many draft years were failures: in 1994 they drafted Jason Bonsignore 4th overall, and in 1995 Steve Kelly 6th overall.
The Rangers’ best draft pick was a discreet 7th round pick, 205th overall in 2000, but what a pick it was, as Henrik Lundqvist has turned out to be the best thing to happen to the Rangers in quite some time. However, the Rangers for the most part have been a team of free agent signings. Aside from Lundqvist, few of their stars are homegrown talent, and most of the strong talent they do draft ends up traded to other teams. Marc Savard, Todd Marchant and Marek Zidlicky are very good players, but they’ve never been very good Rangers.
Amazingly, the Canucks two best picks of the last 15 years were taken one right behind the other in the famous 1999 draft where they traded to get the #2 and #3 picks. After a somewhat slow start in the NHL, the Sedin twins have been as good as advertised. Sadly, other than the Sedins and Mattias Ohlund, Vancouver has drafted very few quality NHLers over the years.
The Blue Jackets have only participated in 8 drafts in this analysis, yet they’ve still managed to underperform. Their one big success has been Rick Nash, but most of their other drafts have been mild disappointments. The jury is still out on many of their most recent draft picks, some of whom, like Derick Brassard, could turn out to be gems.
Rank Team Exptected Obtained Value Best Players Drafted
20 Ducks 539 487 -52 Paul Kariya, Oleg Tverdovsky,
Ryan Getzlaf, Martin Gerber,
Matt Cullen, Corey Perry
19 Predators 282 240 -42 David Legwand, Scott Hartnell,
Martin Erat, Dan Hamhuis, Shea
18 Penguins 440 407 -34 Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin,
Jan Hrdina, Michal Rozsival,
Ryan Whitney, Jordan Staal,
17 Thrashers 271 247 -23 Ilya Kovalchuk, Dany Heatley,
Kari Lehtonen, Patrik Stefan
16 Kings 473 486 14 Lubomir Visnovsky, Cristobal
Huet, Alexander Frolov, Kimmo
Timonen, Olli Jokinen
We’re now in the range of teams that have performed more or less as expected in the draft. Anaheim’s first draft pick ever was Paul Kariya, and he became the face of the franchise for a decade. This was followed by a series of mildly disappointing drafts, in which the Ducks didn’t do too well despite often picking in the top 10. Then, in 1999, despite not drafting higher than 44th, they drafted Jordan Leopold and Niclas Havelid, and in 2003 they struck gold, getting Ryan Getzlaf 19th and Corey Perry 28th. Thanks to this draft, the Ducks may have the face of their franchise for another decade.
The Predators are a team with a reputation for being well-managed, but they’ve performed only average in the draft so far. The Predators have always done decently, getting NHL caliber players each year, but they’ve never managed to land a franchise-type player despite 5 picks in the top 7 in their first 6 years. They were also somewhat cheated when one of their strong draft picks, Alexander Radulov, bolted for Russia in 2008.
I’m sure the Penguins score will look better 5 years from now, as their four top-2 picks from 2003-2006 (Fleury, Malkin, Crosby and Staal) continue to excel. However, one can only give the Penguins so much credit, as many of these picks were no-brainers, and the choice of Fleury in particular, given the quality players available in 2003, is debatable. However, the Penguins are finally drafting well after years of not only picking late but picking poorly.
For a team that gets such a bad rap, the Thrashers have actually done pretty well in the draft. While Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley may seem like no-brainers in retrospect, maybe Patrik Stefan did as well. Sadly, only one of their picks of the last 5 years, Bryan Little, is now an NHL regular.
The Kings would also rank as one of the worst teams in the league were it not for 2 straight years, 2000 and 2001, where they had the inside scoop on everyone and could do no wrong. In 2000 they picked Alexander Frolov, 20th overall, Andreas Lilja, 54th overall, and Lubomir Visnovsky, 118th overall. In 2001 they turned their 2nd round pick into Michael Cammalleri and their 7th round throwaway into Cristobal Huet. 2002 to 2004 were bad years, which is one reason why the Kings are still out of the playoffs, but in recent years with Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty they’ve gotten some more quality players.
Next: The Top 15!
Tom Awad is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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