Draft Facts

The new fad seems to be to get really pumped about the draft and all the great prospects that come along with it. Here’s a little bit of reality for you. Most of these players will become nothing, some of them will be come NHL regulars, and a couple will become stars.

Here’s a history lesson for you, and notice that history repeats itself, again and again, here:Everyone wants to draft this guy and that guy. Well I agree, getting two top ten picks for your team is great because there is a better chance that at least one of those guys will become something. But you’ll probably trade away better players and assets to land that guy, and you’ll probably lose the trade in the long run.

Here’s an example I’ll use because a lot of people are bringing it up. Let’s say the Leafs deal Kaberle to land another top 10 pick. So they get Dallas’s pick or even as high as Los Angelas at 5. This doesn’t guarantee much. Evander Kane or Brayden Schenn, or Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, etc. What are the chances these guys make the NHL or make a significant impact there? Let’s look at previous drafts.

I’ll start with the 1997 draft because its players we’re all firmiliar with now, who are relevant and should all be 28-29 years old.

1. Joe Thornton
2. Patrick Marleau
3. Oli Jokinen
4. Roberto Luongo
5. Eric Brewer
6. Daniel Tkaczuk (played 19 career games)
7. Paul Mara
8. Sergei Samsonov
9. Nick Boynton
10. Brad Ferrence
11. Jason Ward
12. Marian Hossa
13. Dan Cleary
14. Michel Reisen (12 career games)
15. Matt Zultek (0 career games)
16. Ty Jones (14 career games)
….. this round continues with more players who never made it or made it as long as “Ty Jones”. The only other 2 first round picks in 1997 who actually put together an NHL career were Scott Hannan and Brendan Morrow at the end of the round.

So if you use 1997 as a model, all you crazy fans dying for the Leafs to grab another pick so they can draft Kassian or Glennie, you’re basically hoping to trade Kubina for the next Ward, or Samsonov, or Boynton (potentially).

Of course this is just one year, lets take a look at the 1998 NHL entry draft for more comparisons:

1.Vincent Lecavalier
2. David Legwand (woohoo…)
3. Brad Stuart
4. Bryan Allen
5. Vitaly Vishnevsky
6. Rico Fata
7. Manny Malholtra
8. Mark Bell
9. Mike Rupp
10. Nik Antropov (wow best pick since Stuart)
11. Jeff Heerema (32 games)
12. Alex Tanguay
13. Michael Henrich (0 games)
14. Patrick DesRochers (11 games)
15. Mathie Chouinard (1 game)
16. Eric Chouinard (90 career games)
…. a few good guys go later in the first round including Simon Gagne, Mike Van Ryn, and Scotty Gomez. But a pretty underwhealming draft to say the least. Are you all hoping to trade Kaberle for the next Mike Rupp, or is it Fata or Malholtra you’re after?

Moving onto the 1999 NHL draft
1. Patrick Stefan (poor Atlanta)
2. Daniel Sedin
3. Henrik Sedin
4. Pavel Brendl (nice!)
5. Tim Connolly
6. Brian Finley (4 games)
7. Chris Beech
8. Taylor Pyatt
9. Jamie Lundmark (hey he’s back up in the majors now!)
10. Branislav Mezei
11. Oleg Sapryken
12. Denis Shvidki
13. Jani Rita
14. Jeff Jillson
15. Scott Kellman
16. David Tanabe
…… these future hall of fames continue for a while. Couple of notables include Barrett Jackman and Marty Havlatt at 26 overall. That’s about it for that round. Terrible round. So are we hoping to move Tlusty and our 7th pick to move up and snag the next Tim Connolly (one of the prizes of the draft)?

Let’s move on…. here’s the 2000 draft:

1. Rick Dipietro
2. Dany Heatley
3. Marian Gaborik
this draft looks pretty legit so far….
4. Rusty Klesla
5. Raffi Torres
6. Scotty Hartnell
7. Lars Jonsson (go Lars!)
8. Nikita Alexeev
9.Brent Krahn

Then at picks 10 and 11 Chicago had every fans dream. 2 high draft picks with which to build the team around, they selected:

10.Mikhail Yakubov (53 nhl games)
11. Pavel Vorobiev (57 games)

Their franchise is now set. This round contnued with more players who never really made much of an impact in the big show, but a couple guys did make it as NHL’ers and they are Ron Hainsey, Orpik, Frolov, Volchenkov, Hale, Boyes, Ott, Sutherby, Justin Williams, and Nik Kronwall. Overall this draft did produce a few more NHL regulars the the drafts in the previous couple of years, but the best players outside of the top 3 picks were all late first rounders.

Here’s 2001:

1.Ilya Kovalchuk
2.Jason Spezza
3.Alexander Svitov
4.Stephen Weiss
5.Stanislav Chistov
6. Mikko Koivu
7. Mike Komisarek
8. Pascal Leclaire
9. Tuomo Ruutu
10.Dan Blackburn (could have been good, but career ending injury)
11. Fredrick Sjostrom
12. Dan Hamhuis
13. Ales Hemsky
14. Chuck Kobasew
15. Igor Knayzev
16. RJ Umberger
17.Carlo Colaiacovo
18.Jens Karlsson
19.Shaone Morrison
20.Marcel Goc

This round continues, its actually pretty decent. Novotny, Gleason, Krajicek, Perezhogin, Bacashiua, and Woywitka would follow in that order. So some NHL regulars come out of this draft, some busts. Which would prove against my negative point because in a stong draft year there could be a number of future NHL players. How many of these guys are real building blocks though? After those top 2 picks, there is a whole lot of average in there.

2002 draft is interesting because these guys are all 25ish, so there is still time for late bloomers and a lot of guys are still considered to have “potential” which is why I’ll just do this one and one more draft.

1. Rick Nash
2. Kari Lehtinen
3. Jay Bouwmeester
4. Joni Pitkanen
5. Ryan Whitney
6. Scottie Upshall
7. Joffrey Lupul
8. Pierre-Marc Bouchard

Next, after having already selected Jay-Bo, the Panther’s were living the dream with another top 10 pick. As you all know, this is the best way to build a franchise. The future in Florida is bright because they used the 9th overall pick to do this:

9. Peter Taticek (3 career games… so far!)
10. Eric Nystrom
11. Keith Ballard
12. Steve Eminger
13. Alex Semin
14. Chris Higgins
15. Jesse Ninnimaki
16. Jakub Klepis
17. Boyd Gordon
….. not much else here. Grebeshkov, Bergenheim, Dan Paille, Ben Eager, Alex Steen, and then the steal of the round Cam Ward. But as far as the Paille and Eager etc. are concerned, they have made a bit of a splash but are nothing to get excited over. The top 10 includes some decent players but most of them are nothing to drool over, exactly like in previous years.

Last one I’ll do is 2003, because then we’ll be dealing with guys are still 23 and could still be something more then they are. So here’s how it went down in ’03:

1.MA Fleury
2. Eric Staal
3. Nate Horton
4. Nik Zherdev
5. Tomas Vanek
6. Milan Michalek
7. Ryan Suter
8. Brayden Coburn
9. Dion Phaneuf
10. Andrei Kostitsyn

Best looking top 10 I’ve seen all day. But if Horton doesn’t turn into a star which he hasn’t yet, and Zherdev doesn’t, and Michalek doesn’t (good support guy don’t get me wrong) and neither does Suter… etc. These guys are all pretty good but not star players and not really building blocks.

Carter goes at 11 which is a great pick, Dustin Brown a few picks later, and late in the first round Getzlaf and Parise are drafted, way later than Michalek and Kostitsyn were picked.

So my point here is to not get too obsessed with the whole “drafting is the way to go” thing. Yes, you need to draft well and draft smart. I find it interesting looking through the old draft archives that New Jersey and Detroit are the most consistant at drafting players who go on to become contibuters at an NHL level. If you think that landing another top 10 pick is the best thing the Leafs can do, then you are probably wrong. There is an excellent chance that that top 10 pick will become nothing, or will becom
e Vitaly Vishnevsky or someone of that calibre, and you’ll have given up good assets to get the pick.

Best thing to do is hold onto what you’ve got and draft well and smart. Stock piling lots of draft picks is a smart thing to do because its like buying more lottery tickets. Most of these players become nothing but the more tickets you have the better chance you have of holding a winner. It’s amazing how many players drafted in later rounds turn out much better than first rounders. And to grab 3rd and 4th round picks you don’t have to trade the sun and moon to other teams. Jamal Mayers and Mike Van Ryn calibre guys could be moved for more draft picks.

The draft is a crap shoot, scouts can only do so much, and players mature differently. Let’s not get too carried away and hype up these prospects too much. Just a little perspective for all of you, hope you enjoyed. Sorry for doing it from a Leafs perspective if you’re not in the GTA, but if you’re a hockey fan you’re used to it by now. ;)