Around this time of year, we see a plethora of articles discussing a particular team’s draft history. You may see something like the Carolina Hurricanes having drafted seven players out of the Plymouth Whalers franchise in the OHL since 2007. But maybe that same breathless headiline leaves out the fact that the relationship between the former Hartford Whalers and the now former Plymouth Whalers was due to them sharing an owner in Peter Karmanos. Karmanos has since divested the OHL organization from his portfolio allowing them to move to Flint, Michigan. Furthermore, between GM Ron Francis and assistant GM and director of Hockey Operations Mike Vellucci, the Hurricanes have new brains in two of the three main player procurement positions.
Similarly, with the wholesale turnover in the Buffalo and Boston organizations, looking at their historical draft records is not just useless, but counterproductive. With that in mind, this exercise proposes to look at the three positions most often in charge of setting the tone at the draft table for an organization: the general manager, the director of player personnel and the head of amateur scouting. Not all teams use those exact titles, and in some cases, it was not possible to identify the individual who carried the roles and responsibilities usually associated with those positions. For ten teams, it was not possible to identify a director of player personnel while the other roles had one instance a piece with a missing figurehead. With the key figures identified, we will then pore through their draft resumes, focusing primarily on first round picks to try to identify trends in their draft procurement philosophies.
As the draft kicks off with a Pacific Division team, the first part of this exercise will feature Pacific Division teams.
GM: Bob Murray
Director of Player Personnel: Rick Paterson
Director of Amateur Scouting: Martin Madden
With the trio of Murray, Paterson and Madden all in place since at least 2009, we can focus tendencies on their records with Anaheim. In those six drafts, the Ducks have had a total of eight first round selections. Full credit is due Bob Murray for valuing his first rounders even when his teams were obviously buyers at the deadline. One trend that immediately stands out is that six of the eight first rounders were taken from the ranks of the CHL, four of whom were drafted out of the OHL. All of the eight, even the blueliners, were deemed to have plus offensive potential. Finally, in only one of those cases, did they go off the assumed board, in what happened to be their highest pick of the current regime; the industry expressed some surprise when Hampus Lindholm was taken with the sixth pick in 2012, but there is currently an argument to be made that he has had the best beginning to a career of anyone in that draft class.
Other trends from the Anaheim draft room include the wide berth they give Russian players, having taking only Igor Bobkov in the past six drafts. They have also only taken one player from the Czech Republic and two from Finland. European adventures tend to be in Sweden with seven players drafted from the Scandinavian country. They have also drafted at least one player from the USHL or a US High School in each year of the triumvirate.
What to expect: Anaheim will take the highest ranking CHL skater in the tail end of the first round. They will take one player each from the USHL and from Sweden in the middle rounds. They also have not drafted a goalie in three years. Expect them to select one in the later rounds of the draft.
GM: Don Maloney
Director of Amateur Scouting: Tim Bernhardt
Arizona is one of the many teams for which it is not possible to identify a director of player personnel. While Maloney has been at the helm in the desert since the 2007-08 season, this is only Bernhardt’s second year in charge of the scouting department. Prior to that and two other years as a face in the crowd of the Arizona scouting room, Bernhardt was the director of amateur scouting for the Dallas Stars for a 12 year run, from 1999-2000 until 2010-11.
Like with his division rival in Anaheim, Maloney stays clear of Russia, not having selected a player from Putinland since former first rounder Viktor Tikhonov failed to adapt to the North American after scarcely more than a single season. Bernhardt had a similar flirtation with Russia in his first year with the Stars, drafting four Russians in 2000, and only a single one in his other 11 years in the Lone Star State. Maloney loves drafting from the CHL. In each of his past three drafts, each of the first three players drafted by Arizona were out of the CHL. Bernhardt has been more apt to trust the American amateur ranks; I his last five seasons running the Dallas amateur scouting department, he took a U.S. based prospect with one of his first two picks four times. That is mildly noteworthy as his first draft with Arizona saw them take two players from the CHL who had high level American amateur hockey experience before going to Ontario in Ryan MacInnis and Christian Dvorak.
Other trends of note: both Maloney and Bernhardt have experienced some success drafting Swedish players (Oliver Ekman-Larsson, John Klingberg, Loui Eriksson and Tom Wandell), but little luck elsewhere. Bernhardt started two drafts in three years with goalies (Jack Campbell, Tyler Beskorowany), but neither has turned out yet. Maloney also has drafted a goalie in the late first in 2010 (Mark Visentin).
What to expect: Assuming they do not trade the number three overall choice, Strome/Marner will likely rank above Hanifin on their board. The rest of their draft haul will also be heavily weighted towards CHL prospects, but leavened by some USHL flair and a Swede or two.
GM: Brad Treliving
Director of Amateur Scouting: Tod Button
Another club without a stated director of player personnel, Treliving’s relative inexperience (this is his first full season in charge) is balanced by Tod Button’s 18 years’ service scouting for the Flames, the last 14 of which have been in a senior capacity.
Treliving came from Arizona, which, as we can see from the previous section, has drafted heavily from the CHL ranks. Button, on the other hand, has been all over the map. Under his stewardship, the Flames have used first round picks on players from the CHL, Europe, NCAA, BCHL and even the Canadian high school ranks. Many of his high picks have been a mixture of skill and character, although he has had better success with the skilled picks. He will draft from anywhere in Europe as well, although only once since 2002 has he drafted more than two Europeans in a single year. He has also not shied away from using high picks on netminders, including Leland Irving (1st round, 2006), Jon Gillies (3rd round, 2012) and Mason McDonald (2nd round, 2014). He has spent mid-round picks on giants (Hunter Smith, Keegan Kanzig) and mites (Johnny Gaudreau). In summary, anything goes.
What to expect: Calgary has nine picks, as of this writing, six in the first three rounds. Expect them to draft players from at least five different leagues.
GM: Peter Chiarelli
Director of Player Personnel: Bob Green
Director of Amateur Scouting: vacant (incumbent Stu MacGregor was fired on June 20, 2015)
Peter Chiarelli was one of the high profile front office hires of this off-season, joining the Edmonton organization after nine years in charge of the Boston Bruins, a period that include one Stanley Cup championship. Bob Green is also relatively new to Edmonton having joined in 2013 and only this past year taken on the role of Director of Player Personnel. As per the Edmonton Oilers website, Green’s job function seems to give more room for the amateur side to deal with the draft while his focus may be more on undrafted free agents. Prior to joining the Oilers, we had been a WHL executive since 1998. Recently fired Stu MacGregor had been in charge of amateur scouting for the Oilers for eight seasons a period that had seen him finger the number one overall choice four times including this year.
The most noteworthy trend of MacGregor’s time with the Oilers is that he drafted OK at the top, but has struggled to identify future NHL contributors in the later rounds. To put that in perspective, only one player drafted outside of the first round by Edmonton during his regime has played over 100 games in the NHL (Anton Lander, 2nd round, 2009), although Martin Marincin will double that sample next year. All but two of MacGregor’s drafts have seen the Oilers dip into Europe multiple times, which does not take into account Europeans playing in North America like Leon Draisaitl and Nail Yakupov. Also, other than his first year, each draft has seen Edmonton pluck a player from an American amateur league, whether the USHL, NCAA or the high school ranks.
Twice before, Peter Chiarelli has drafted in the top ten. Both times, with Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, he has drafted out of the OHL. Connor McDavid should make that three in a row. That said, he has lately been extremely Canada-shy, having drafted a single player out of the CHL in the last two drafts combined, instead investing heavily in the Swedish junior ranks and New England high schools.
What to expect: Connor McDavid. After that, it would not be at all surprising if the Oilers use their second first rounder on a Swedish prospect, but a draft like this could surprise. For example, there are a great number of promising defenders from the QMJHL who would fit around that slot, yet Chiarelli has only drafted two from the Q in his nine years fronting Boston. A more trend-following scenario sees the Oilers use that second first rounder on one of the USHL talents, like a Brock Boeser, or they try to trade up if Zach Werenski falls, with defenders being drafted in the second round and afterwards.
Los Angeles Kings
GM: Dean Lombardi
Director of Player Personnel: Mike Futa
Director of Amateur Scouting: Mark Yannetti
Although GM Lombardi was the head honcho of the interstate rival San Jose Sharks before taking the LA job in 2006, he has been around Southern California for so long, and experienced so much success, that it is fair to assume that any drafting trends from before his time with the Kings are irrelevant. Futa and Yannetti have been right alongside Lombardi since the 2007-08 season.
In seven years together, the Kings have made six first round picks. The six include two each from the OHL and WHL and one each from the USNTD and Sweden. They have drafted only four netminders, only once higher than the fourth round. Also noteworthy is that their drafts skew very, very heavily to the forwards. Looking at the last four years, among 29 total players chosen, only eight were blueliners. While they are not shy about drafting Europeans, as their most recent first round pick (Adrian Kempe, Sweden) would attest, they draft overwhelmingly from the CHL. Of the 44 players drafted in their last six drafts, 29 were CHL’ers. Finally, of note, while they do have a preference for bigger, beefier players in the higher rounds, they will draft small scorers in the late rounds, as they had with Jordan Weal and Brandon Kozun.
What to expect: The Kings’ first rounder will be a larger player. I think they may buck recent trends and start things off with a blueliner, but that is just a hunch. Either way, that player would be from the CHL. They would love one of Crouse or Zacha to get to them, but Meier or Svechnikov would also be fits if they take a forward. In the later rounds, they seem like likely candidates to select one of the overaged, undersized scorers in Conor Garland or Andrew Mangiapane.
San Jose Sharks
GM: Doug Wilson
Director of Amateur Scouting: Tim Burke
Another team without an identified director of player personnel, Wilson and Burke have been together since 1997-98. In 17 drafts together, they have drafted 126 players, including 15 first rounders.
Taken globally, the pair have a shoddy draft record. Their first rounders include notable busts such as Jeff Jillson, Mike Morris, Lukas Kaspar, Ty Wishart, and Nick Petrecki. Many executives in their positions do not receive opportunities to wipe the slate clean from that many failed picks, but seeing as how the most recent of those was selected in 2007, we can rest assured that Sharks ownership is far more concerned with the club’s NHL success, which has been considerable over the years, than their drafting track record. Besides, one Joe Pavelski in the seventh round (2003) can make up for one or two first round flops.
Actually, Wilson and Burke have had a number of very successful late round picks beyond Pavelski, including Mikael Samuelsson, Douglas Murray, Ryane Clowe, Nick Bonino, Justin Braun, Tommy Wingels and Jason Demers all drafted in the fifth round or later. The Sharks are also very open to drafting European talent, taking at least one overseas players in every draft but one since 2007. In fact, their top picks from the past three drafts have all been European nationals in Tomas Hertl, Mirco Mueller and Nikolai Goldobin, although the latter of that group were plying their trades in the CHL. They very rarely draft goalies, with just one (Fredrik Bergvik, 4th round, 2013) since 2008. The Sharks also heavily scout the US amateur ranks. From 2008-11, their top picks in four consecutive drafts were from those lesser travelled waters. Last year was the first time in their shared history that the Sharks did not draft a player from one of those circuits.
What to expect: Europeans, Americans and one little offensive player in the later rounds. They should also think hard about drafting a goaltender at some point. The stereotypical Sharks pick in the first round would be one of the high end European imports playing in the CHL, like Timo Meier, Pavel Zacha or Ivan Provorov.
GM: Jim Benning
Director of Player Personnel: Eric Crawford
Director of Amateur Scouting: Ron Delorme
While Jim Benning is new to the Pacific Northwest, he does have a track record of scouting decision dating back to his role as director of amateur scouting with the Buffalo Sabres from 1998-2006, a period which saw the Sabres draft Dmitri Kalinin, Ales Kotalik, Ryan Miller, Paul Gaustad, Derek Roy, Chris Thorburn, Jason Pominville, Dennis Wideman, Daniel Paille, Thomas Vanek, Clarke MacArthur, Jan Hejda, Drew Stafford, Andrej Sekera, Nathan Gerbe and Chris Butler. That’s a lot of names, which serves to show that Benning was good at recognizing future NHL contributors of many stripes. High picks and low ones. Big guys, little guys. Forwards, defensemen and goalies. That is 17 players who have appeared in 500 NHL games or are very likely to do so soon in 9 years.
Ron Delorme, the director of amateur scouting for Vancouver since the turn of the century has only seven such players in 15 drafts. The most recent two Vancouver drafts, with Crawford and Delorme working together, have seemed promising, but other than Bo Horvat, nothing has yet to percolate up to the highest level, which is to be expected. In their small sample, Crawford and Delorme have chosen heavily from the CHL, with three Europeans selected, including one from Russia and two from Sweden.
Last season, the first with Delorme and Crawford under Benning, saw the Canucks drafts once again almost exclusively out of the CHL and Sweden, with the lone exception being goalie Thatcher Demko, taken out of Boston College in the second round. That was the highest collegiate draft pick by Vancouver since selecting Jordan Schroeder in the first round in 2009. Based on Benning’s background with Buffalo and Boston (see Edmonton section for details), that may be the start of a trend. Another thing to note with Vancouver is the tendency to draft guys who have two way games. Horvat certainly fits that bill, as did their two first round selections from last year in Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann.
What to expect: The Canucks will draft out of the CHL in the first round. Barring a trade, they will not pick again until round four, and the late rounders will include at least one player each from Sweden and the USHL or a US High School. They will not draft anyone thought to be a defensive liability.