How This Works…and Why?

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Which Teams Are Best At Drafting – Answered

This page is for explaining the methodology, and the why. And who I am. I’m just a Bruins fan who likes to learn facts to base my opinion on. I’m also someone who thinks words like “good”, “bad” and “sucks” are relative terms, meaning you need to have something to compare them to, to determine if something is good, or bad, or if it sucks.

The Goal of a Draft

The team’s goal when it is their turn to select a player is to take the best player available (BPA). The players drafted are usually 18 years old and a few years away from being NHL ready, so teams don’t really draft for current need. If the team needs a right shot defenseman, they’re not going to target that in the draft. That player could be multiple years away from being NHL-ready and if the team has a need for that type of player immediately, they’ll find other ways to fill that need. So teams will nearly always select the player they feel is the best player available.

In the first paragraph, I wrote about words that are relative. The word “best” is also relative, or at least requires some type of objective metric assigned to it. When I refer to the “best” player, it’s not my opinion, it’s using a metric, or a statistic.

The Metric Used

What I am doing here is using data to analyze NHL entry drafts. Until I find a better metric, the one that I am currently using to evaluate players is from Hockey Reference (https://hockey-reference.com) and called “Point Shares” and is described as “an estimate of the number of points contributed by a player.” If I find a better, more representative metric, then I’ll use that. Until then, it’s Point Shares, or PS.

Initially I used Games Played, but as pointed out by @CFPZach and Shawn Ferris at Evolving-Hockey.com, that’s not the goal of a draft. Shawn’s suggestion was to use a single metric that rates a player’s contribution to the team, not just how many games he played.

Ranking the Teams

To get an idea of how well or poorly teams do in the draft, I exported the PS for every player in the draft. To date, I’ve done this for the 2000 through 2016 NHL drafts. 2017 and more recent years still have a number of developing players yet to make their debut. Those will be added in the future. 2000 is almost back to where all the players have retired by now. We still have a few, like Zdeno Chara hanging on, so there are some before 2000, and I’ll also get to those soon.

Once all the players are exported with the PS, the team is next assigned a score for every pick. That score is determined by finding the BPA according to PS and subtracting the draft pick’s PS from the BPA’s PS. I know that’s some jargon and acronyms, so let’s look at an example.

In 2014, the first three players chosen were Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl. Without looking it up, you can probably guess that Draisaitl is the best of the three, and was in fact the best player selected in that draft. So Draisaitl is the BPA from the beginning. The Florida Panthers selected Ekblad first overall. Ekblad’s PS score (at the time of this writing) was 48.4. Draisaitl’s PS score was 63.5. If we subtract Ekblad’s score from Draisaitl’s, we get -15.1. The Florida Panthers get a score of -15.1 for their draft pick. Sam Reinhard was next. His PS was 30.4, so the Buffalo Sabres get a score of -33.1 (63.5 minus 30.4 is 33.1). Edmonton chose Draisaitl next, so they get a 0 for their draft pick. A zero turns out to be the best score available for a selection. No team can get a positive number. If you want to keep going with this draft, the next BPA was David Pastrnak, taken 25th by Boston, and he had a 58.4 PS score, so all draft picks from 4th (Sam Bennett to Calgary) all the way through Pastrnak’s selection are compared to Pastrnak’s score.

After this process is done for every pick in the draft, all the scores are added up by the team and we get a raw draft score. But some teams have drafted as many as 13 players in a year and some draft as few as 4. So using a raw score can skew things quite a bit. You can do really well with 13 picks and have a worse score than a team who missed on all four. The next step was to average out the score. I take the raw score and average it by the number of picks the team had that year. That gives me the team’s score for the year, and with those scores, I stack up all the teams to see who had a good year at the draft, and who didn’t.

What’s Next?

So what’s next from there? I guess some fun analysis. I can look at how individual teams did in their drafts. I can see how particular General Managers or Scouting Directors do. I can see how draft success (or failure) correlates to the overall league standings and how quickly the draft results are reflected in the team’s standings. I can also recreate drafts and see who teams could have or should have taken, if they were perfect at this art. I can also get an idea of just how hard projecting players and drafting the best players can be by looking at where the best players were actually drafted.

What’s Not Included?

An NHL team’s success or failure is not solely based on how they do at the draft. Drafting and projecting is just a part of the process. Player development/coaching also plays a part. A particular player may be a better “fit” with one team than another and his success may be reflected in that. Also, I’m rating teams based on how good the players are that they drafted. I’m not only looking at how the player helped the team who drafted him, but the team who drafted the player will get all the credit for that player’s success. If a player is traded, his drafting team receives all the credit for the purpose of this analysis. Also, team success and a General Manager’s success is based on more than the draft. It can also be quality of coaching, the medical staff and how well the team chooses free agents and the contracts assigned. This analysis does not look at any of that.

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