The Hockey Prospecting model is a new and unique concept. It’s a whole different way of looking at players and evaluating who they are and their potential. It’s also a very new concept for NHL hockey operation departments. NHL teams that I’ve interacted/consulted with have many, many questions but there’s two things that teams always ask about:
- How do our best prospects look in this thing?
- Which players would you have drafted at x spot?
The second question comes up in different ways. “Who would you have taken with our 2nd round pick last year”, “if you picked 10th in every round of a certain draft, who would you have taken”. The questions are all a bit different but they’re all phishing for the same things: who would you have picked up on at the draft that we missed and how can this thing help us.
After receiving the question enough times, I undertook an exercise to answer it (and pitched it to a team). I not only looked at who a team could have had at one draft position in one draft, but looked at who a team could have drafted over the course of a decade with a moving draft position. In the exercise, I assumed that the team was getting better and better over time and was drafting at a lower and lower position each year.
Here’s the team the model drafted…
Methodology and Assumptions:
- The exercise follows the team for ten years (2009 to 2018)
- The draft positioning and team are hypothetical in this exercise however the team is assumed to be one of the 31 teams in the NHL.
- The team begins as a near-lottery team, drafting 5th overall, and gets better each year, becoming a division leader then a conference finalist to eventually becoming a Stanley Cup winner. What this this equates to is their draft position getting worse and worse.
- The team drafts at the same position every round. They never trade up or down.
- The team never acquires more draft picks or trades draft picks out.
- The team never drafts a goalie, only forwards and defensemen.
- The team doesn’t prioritize position based on need. They take the best player available.
- The best player available is based on how the player projects in the Hockey Prospecting model at the time of the draft while also considering age, runway left to improve and development pattern.
- While the exercise doesn’t prioritize one position over another, a D may be prioritized if multiple F have been taken in a row in a given draft and vice-versa. This only applied if player value between the F and D were relatively equal.
- This assumes, throughout the entire process, that Vegas doesn’t exist and there’s only 30 teams in the leagues. This is done simply because it keeps it cleaner.
2009 – Drafting 5th Every Round
|1||5||Oliver Ekman-Larsson||D||Star Producer|
|2||35||Tyson Barrie||D||Star Producer|
|3||65||Reilly Smith||W||Avg. Producer|
|4||95||Linden Vey||W||100 Gamer|
|7||185||Torey Krug||D||Star Producer|
2010 – Drafting 10th Every Round
|1||10||Vladimir Tarasenko||W||Star Producer|
|2||40||Tyler Toffoli||W||Avg. Producer|
|3||70||Jordan Weal||W||Repl. Producer|
|4||100||Artemi Panarin||W||Star Producer|
|5||130||Tim Heed||D||100 Gamer|
|7||190||Nikita Gusev||W||Possible Star|
2011 – Drafting 15th Every Round
|1||15||Nikita Kucherov||W||Star Producer|
|2||45||Adam Clendining||D||100 Gamer|
|3||75||Johnny Gaudreau||W||Star Producer|
|5||135||Alexey Marchenko||D||100 Gamer|
|6||165||Josh Archibald||W||Repl. Producer|
2012 – Drafting 20th Every Round
|1||20||Scott Laughton||W||Avg. Producer|
|2||50||Nikolay Prokhorkin||W||Probable NHLer|
|3||80||Charles Hudon||W||100 Gamer|
2013 – Drafting 25th Every Round (Division Winner Previous Year)
|1||25||Nic Petan||C||100 Gamer|
|6||175||Andreas Johnsson||C||Repl. Producer|
2014 – Drafting 25th Every Round (Division Winner Previous Year)
|1||25||David Pastrnak||W||Star Producer|
|2||55||Brayden Point||C||Star Producer|
|3||85||Daniel Audette||C||Probable Bust|
|4||115||Dysin Mayo||D||Probable Bust|
|5||145||Pavel Kraskovsky||W||Probable Bust|
|6||175||Sammy Blais||W||Repl. Producer|
|7||205||Joe Hicketts||W||Probable Bust|
2015 – Drafting 28th Every Round (Conference Finalist and Division Winner Previous Year)
|1||28||Nick Merkley||W||Probable Bust|
|2||58||Oliver Kylington||C||Probable NHLer|
|3||88||Kirill Kaprizov||C||Probable Star|
|6||178||Simon Bourque||W||Probable Bust|
|7||208||John Dahlstrom||W||Probable Bust|
2016 – Drafting 30th Every Round (Stanley Cup Winner Previous Year)
|1||30||Alex DeBrincat||W||Star Producer|
|2||60||Vitali Abramov||W||Probable NHLer|
|3||90||Antoli Golyshev||W||Probable Bust|
|4||120||Cole Candella||D||Probable Bust|
|5||150||Matthew Phillips||W||Possible NHLer|
|6||180||Collin Adams||W||Probable Bust|
|7||210||Joachim Blichfeld||W||Probable Bust|
2017 – Drafting 28th Every Round (Conference Finalist and Division Winner Previous Year)
|1||28||Reilly Walsh||D||Probable NHLer|
|2||58||Andrei Atybarmakyan||W||Probable Bust|
|3||88||Lucas Elvenes||W||Possible NHLer|
|4||118||Leon Gawanke||D||Possible NHLer|
|5||148||Nick Campoli||D||Probable Bust|
|6||178||Ivan Chekhovich||W||Possible NHLer|
|7||208||Joseph Garreffa||W||Possible NHLer|
2018 – Drafting 25th Every Round (Division Winner Previous Year)
|1||25||Rasmus Sandin||D||Possible Star|
|2||55||Filip Hallander||W||Possible NHLer|
|3||85||Alexander Khovanov||W||Possible NHLer|
|4||115||Jack Perbix||W||Probable Bust|
|5||145||Danila Zhuravlyov||D||Probable Bust|
|6||175||Nikolai Kovalenko||W||Possible Bust|
|7||205||Marcus Westfalt||W||Possible Bust|
BONUS: 2019 – Drafing 30th Every Round (Stanley Cup Winner Previous Year)
|1||30||Arthur Kaliyev||W||Possible Star|
|7||210||Cole MacKay||W||Probable Bust|
BONUS: 2020 – Drafting 25th Every Round (Division Winner Previous Year)
The Results (2009 to 2018)
70 picks made in total
Stars: 10 – OEL, Barrie, Krug, Tarasenko, Panarin, Kucherov, Gaudreau, Pastrnak, Point, DeBrincat
Probable/Possible Stars: 3 – Gusev, Kaprizov, Sandin
Average Producers: 3 – Smith, Toffoli, Laughton
Replacement Producers: 4 – Weal, Archibald, Johnsson, Blais
100 Gamers: 6 – Vey, Heed, Clendining, Marchenko, Hudon, Petan
NHLers/Probable NHLers/Possible NHLers: 12 – Prokhorkin, Kylington, Bear, Mangiapane, Abramov, Phillips, Walsh, Gawanke, Chekhovich, Hallander, Khovanov, Garreffa
Busts: 14 – Avstin, Kozun, Lane, Kichton, Tommernes, Laleggia, Gordon, Bischoff, Ebert, Cammarrata, Subban, Dunn, Louis, Galimov
Probable/Possible Busts: 17 – Audette, Mayo, Kraskovsky, Hicketts, N. Merkley, Bourque, Dahlstrom, Golyshev, Candella, Adams, Blichfeld, Atybarmakyan, Campoli, Perbix, Zhuravlyov, Kovalenko, Westfalt
In total, 17 NHLers and 15 probable/possible NHLers were drafted. Additionally, 6 players reached the 100 game mark and may have turned into full-time NHLers in a different system. All told, we can expect a success rate (i.e., 200+ games in the NHL) of ~45% (league average success rate is 26%).
The exercise identified 10 stars and 3 possible/probable stars currently coming up through the system. That’s a 14% confirmed star rate with another 5% of the players trending towards being stars. Stars only make up 3.5% of all skaters drafted. Some teams go decades without finding one star (e.g., the current Detroit Red Wings). It is pretty astonishing a team would end up with this many stars over such a short period.
Flaws and limitations of the method
If you look at the players taken that made the NHL, what do you notice? The team is absolutely loaded with wingers, with more coming. But there wasn’t as much success realized from centers and defensemen. Part of the reason is centers and offensive defensemen are highly sought after and the really good ones often go early. For seven of the 10 years, the team is drafting outside the top 15. The majority of the really high impact centers and defensemen are gone when the team gets to choose. But look at what’s still left. Year after year, elite wingers that slip through the cracks!
Tarasenko Point Pastrnak
Gaudreau Johnsson Kucherov
Panarin Archibald DeBrincat
Smith Gusev Toffoli
Laughton Weal Prokhorkin
Blais Mangiapane Kaprizov
This team would have needed to acquire center and defensemen depth over the decade but, with the strength of their ever growing prospect pool, they would have been able to acquire those pieces, quite easily. Perhaps you could have traded DeBrincat and a prospect or pick for Ryan O’Reilly in 2018, when he was dealt to St. Louis. Barrie and Blais for Kadri in 2019, when he was dealt to Colorado. Gaudreau and a prospect or pick for Hamilton in 2015, when he was dealt to Calgary. You get the idea. The roster has holes but I don’t think there’s any question that the results here beat out the draft results of any team from the 2009 to 2018 period. And after a decade, the team would still be competitive, would still have a loaded prospect pool and would have little to no reliance on the free agent market.