After several hours of pawing through tons of mostly meaningless data, I have put together a team-by-team analysis of what I would consider successful draft picks from the years 2000-2008. Why that time frame? Because 2000 is a nice round number, and 2008 is probably the most recent draft class to have a shot at getting a noteworthy number of players into the NHL. It's a 9 year sample with roughly 2,300 players selected and most of them never played a game at the highest level. At the end is an explanation of how I separated the players.
This started as me wanting to put Ken Holland's late round drafting sucess into context against other teams as a response in a fan post recently. Then as I looked at the stats of players taken in those later rounds, I realized that across the league just how substantially more valuable draft picks in the first two rounds are and I wanted to change the scope to the importance of the first round. Feel free to discuss either here, as I will try to as well.
One conclusion I will draw before getting to the data: the Wings suffered from trading away their first-round picks. Some years were absolutely congealing with elite talent (2003, dear god) and the Wings didn't get to dip their wick. From 2000 to 2008, the Red Wings retained only 4 of their first-round picks. Ouch. Anyway, first is a look at my initial venture: the draft quality of teams from the 3rd round on...
|Columbus Blue Jackets||5||0||5|
|Detroit Red Wings||4||1||5|
|Los Angeles Kings||4||2||6|
|New Jersey Devils||3||0||3|
|New York Islanders||6||0||6|
|New York Rangers||7||1||8|
|San Jose Sharks||4||0||4|
|St. Louis Blues||3||0||3|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||0||0||0|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||6||0||6|
|Percent Top Line:||0.69%|
I'm sure everyone's eyes went straight to how the Red Wings fared, and the results were just above average. Holland's magic appeared to have run out comparatively, probably due to the expansion of scouting in Europe and Russia. Some teams were just downright dreadful, with 1 or 0 picks turning out to even be a competent NHLer. However at the end, we can see that these players are absolute crapshoots as only about 13.8% of them turn into players of any notable value to an NHL franchise.
Here I will admit I made an error in the presentation of the data. I should have breakdowns by round for the 3rd through 9th sheet, but I didn't realize I should do that until after I had it summarized like this, and there was no way I was going back to do it all again. So here is how the first two rounds turned out..
|First Round||Second Round|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||6||1||2||0||9|
|Detroit Red Wings||0||1||5||1||7|
|Los Angeles Kings||5||3||3||1||12|
|New Jersey Devils||3||1||1||0||5|
|New York Islanders||4||0||2||0||6|
|New York Rangers||3||0||4||0||7|
|San Jose Sharks||4||1||3||0||8|
|St. Louis Blues||4||1||3||0||8|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||0||1||1||0||2|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||5||1||2||0||8|
|Percent Top Line:||9.65%||16.67%||3.33%|
Year by year breakdown for both sets: First/Second Round, Third and Later. Some years have different amounts of players drafted based on compensatory picks and the elimination of the 9th round after 2004.
Well that's a dramatic difference. Not just in the first two rounds vs. the rest, but between the two of them. With roughly 61% of first round picks becoming solid, consistent, or elite players in the league, the draft looks a lot less like a crap shoot. While the second round is also strong, it's easy to see the tremendous drop off in talent available with only 22% being worth a paycheck.
As for the Wings, only one of their four first rounders over this time has been a consistent impact. Two of the other three (Kindl, Smith) look like they will be staples, but neither has played consistently enough to be a successful pick to me. The last, McCollum, is a bust. The Wings had 8 second round picks, with 6 of them becoming useful, and 1 of those being your freshly signed startinggoalie. The other 2 (Grigorenko, Axelsson) have never dressed in the NHL. That would make Holland & Co. 7 for 12 (58.3%), with potential to go 9 for 12 (75%) in upper round picks. Perhaps we should be applauding his high round picks as well as the glory of the late round picks from 14+ years ago.
Some other notes: Steve Yzerman's predecessors in Tampa were awful. Only 1 player (Stamkos) who worked out from their drafts of all rounds from 2000-2008. Talk about having a bare cupboard. Conversely, the Kings draft incredibly well, and earn my vote as best drafters over this time period. There's a lot of information in there, though. I have no idea how interesting this is to other people, but it's hypnotic to me. I hope others find this as insightful as I did. However, one thing is certain: first round picks are not a crapshoot. They will be successful most of the time, though maybe not the superstar you want (Eaves). Some years, the draft really is "deep" and produces a dozen all-stars in just the first round.
**** My separating of the players into two categories are incredibly subjective and completely open to my biases. I define an "impact player" as one who does not bounce between the AHL and NHL or is a healthy scratch. As a forward he can play as high as second line, defensemen who are solid but not all-around or not truly outstanding in any part of his game, and goalies who are career backup or average starters. For example: Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula, Jonathon Ericsson, and Corey Crawford fall into that category. Yes it's very broad, but I want to separate out the top-end talent versus the middle-to-bottom talent without getting too nit-picky.
For "top line" a forward has to consistently put up very good numbers of something like 25+ goals or be near a point-per-game, a defenseman must have a very good all-around game and be considered a #1 or a strong #2, and clear-cut #1 goalies. Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall (probably debatable, but I think he is a good #2), and Jimmy Howard are examples of what I put here.
If you want to argue that Lucic should be a top-line player and Kronwall shouldn't, fine whatever, the biggest point of the research is to find where the players who are helping their teams are coming from in the draft. This is the only easy way I could separate out the teams who are drafting nothing but Emmertons vs. the team who is drafting Ovechkin, Green, Semin, etc.
The biggest bias I have is that no pure enforcers made any list, nor did players with very low average TOI. Daniel Carcillo, Cam Janssen, Mike Brown.. to hell with them. They can have impacts, but generally they don't provide offense at all, don't play in key situations, and spend large portions of games sitting in the penalty box. Hustle and grit for 9 minutes a game, followed by a healthy scratch, just don't excite me statistically. Not to mention those players are pretty easily replaced.
This also does not take into effect players who were promoted to NHL jobs for long periods of time due to bad teams (Columbus), prospects who were traded, or prospects who failed with the initial team but succeeded with others. Only the original drafting team, games played, and conventional statistics were taken into consideration.