50 Percent On Draft Day

Inspired by Edmonton Oilers President Kevin Lowe’s comment that a real win for his organization at this summer’s entry draft would entail getting five solid NHL’ers with their 10 draft picks, I decided to see how many times between 1980 and 2004 NHL teams managed to hit the magical 50.0% plateau.

Knowing what a crapshoot the NHL Entry Draft is, I figured it would be a fairly rare occurrence. What follows are the team-by-team success rates over those 25 years. I’ve stretched the definition of “solid NHL’er” as far as I dare, including people like Gordie Dwyer and giving younger players like Mark Mancari the benefit of the doubt.

Team No. of Drafts 50%+ Drafts Last 50% Draft
Ducks 12 0
Thrashers 6 0
Bruins 25 2 2004
Sabres 25 2 2004
Flames 25 0
Hurricanes/Whalers 25 2 1993
Blackhawks 25 1 1980
Avalanche/Nordiques 25 2 1988
Blue Jackets 5 0
Stars/North Stars 25 0
Red Wings 25 1 1981
Oilers 25 1 1980
Panthers 12 0
Kings 25 1 1980
Wild 5 0
Canadiens 25 1 1998
Predators 7 0
Islanders 25 1 1991
Rangers 25 0
Devils 23 2 1990
Senators 13 2 2001
Flyers 25 0
Coyotes/Jets 25 0
Penguins 25 0
Sharks 14 1 2001
Blues 25 2 1995
Lightning 13 0
Maple Leafs 25 2 1990
Canucks 25 1 1981
Capitals 25 1 1984
TOTALS 610 25  

I ended up with a 4.1 success rate using this definition of success – in other words, the typical NHL team can expect to convert 50.0% of its draft picks into real life players about four times a century.

I’m all for high expectations from NHL scouts, but while it’s fine to hope for a 50.0% success rate, I certainly wouldn’t state it publicly because it’s an incredibly difficult bar to measure up to.

Comments (9)

  1. Lowe actually said that? That’s pretty funny. And also worrying that he doesn’t seem to know what a ridiculously high standard that is. Especially for his organization, who haven’t even managed to draft one solid NHL player in some draft years. Getting three players who are solid NHLers should be his goal.

    But I don’t understand a lot of team’s draft philosophies anyway. It seems like none of them actually pay any attention to the statistics when it comes to draft picks panning out. Why you wouldn’t go into a draft with the mindset of taking the consensus choice with your first pick, then going completely off the board with as many obscure Swedish guys who are talented but small & weak (like Zetterberg was in his draft year) or Kazakh backup goalies playing in the middle of nowhere with potential (like Nabokov in his draft year) instead of going with the prescribed lists of “sure things” from ISS and their own team scouts I’ll never know. The number of players you got would be almost as good, but you’d have more talented players.

    Why do guys who can’t score in junior and are never going to be more than fourth liners in the NHL even get drafted? Aren’t there enough of them floating around as free agents at any given moment already? Why wouldn’t you take the longshot Ukrainian kid who skates like the wind but is playing in the Russian fifth league, then just sign Kip Brennan or Liam Reddox as free agents for depth instead of bothering to draft the next Kip Brennan or Liam Reddox? Colin McDonald and JF Jacques were second round draft picks, for crying out loud. Why wouldn’t you take Tobias Enstrom or Joe Pavelski with those picks, guys who were taken in the 7th and 8th round that year and were undersized but clearly had talent, or better yet Jaroslav Halak who went in the 9th? If he pans out, you’re laughing, and if he flames out quickly, fine, it’s still better than waiting with baited breath for six years to see if Jacques or McDonald can fulfill the vast potential you’ve known was always there for them to be viable fourth line energy forwards or not. Roll the dice after the first round and fill in the plugger roles with free agents later. This bugs me a lot.

  2. Brian P, the Oilers have drafted Hemsky, Stoll, Greene and Gagner with many solid prospects coming up. I don’t like the idea of saying lets go draft small and weak players either but the idea of not wasting picks on pluggers seems reasonable. Overall they have been drafting quite well for the past couple years IMO.

    Even if you assume that Hall/Seguin will be solid NHLers going 4/9 is overly ambitious. Even in 2007 with 3 firsts they wont come close. 25% is a reasonable number.

  3. Well, obviously Lowe plans on trading for Boston’s 1st to get both Hall and Seguin.

  4. @ Sean: Yeah, but if you went by the strategy I’m suggesting they’d still have picked Hemsky and Gagner, they were first rounders. I’m not trying to pick on the Oilers, it’s a problem with virtually all teams. I just don’t like wasting picks on pluggers.

    The Oilers drafts have been all right in the last couple of years; they had a good start and a good finish last year (the middle 3 picks when they picked for size weren’t so good), 2008 got a good player (Eberle) and a longshot (Cornet) and that’s it (also basically picking for size outside of those two), taking Gagner in 2007 was a good idea but unless Nash and/or Omark pan out the rest wasn’t so good, 2006 all depends on Petry but was otherwise a waste, 2005 all depends on Cogs but isn’t looking real good, and 2004 was mediocre.

    Really, though, if you want to trace back one of the major reasons why they’re so bad now, it’s because they dealt several vets for picks in 2002 and 2003 in a mini-rebuild, had 27 picks those two seasons, drafted zero front line players with them, and have only four guys from those drafts on the team in any role (Deslauriers, Stortini, Jacques, Pouliot). Now, maybe they were unlucky in that the 2002 draft wasn’t that good, but 2003 was one of the greatest draft years of all time. More competent management would’ve turned those 27 picks, plus the two first rounders and two second rounders they had in 2004, into at least one front-line player and at least two, maybe three other guys who could’ve been building blocks for the team.

  5. Which is kind of a roundabout way of saying what David Staples has been wondering for a while, namely: why should fans actually believe that this management group can actually pull a rebuilding plan for the Oilers off and not mess it all up?

  6. Brian P: I agree with most of what you’re saying here, but Liam Reddox was probably a poor example. He was a very good junior scorer (better than Schremp at evens at the same age) and a smallish guy who had to completely change his game when he hit the pro level.

    He’s turned into a grinder, but at the time he was one of these boom/bust long-shot types that you’re talking about, albeit one playing in North America.

  7. Huh, the Oilers hit 50% in both 1979 and 1980, so I guess they could take the next 48 years off.

  8. Good call on Reddox, JW, that was a poor example. I must upgrade my opinion of that selection, Reddox was actually a pretty good choice for the fourth round.

  9. When someone says “a real win for his organization at this summer’s entry draft would entail getting five solid NHL’ers with their 10 draft picks” he is not laying out an expectation, he is stating a truth. Look, I’m all for criticizing Lowe on any number of things but this is just a plain statement. “A real win for us would be this, as would winning the Stanley cup soon.”

    You people are looking for ammo when there is none here. Any GM would make that statement. Obviuosly it is a near impossible task but it would sure be a real “win” if it did.

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