2016: Flip the Script

This is my amateur analytical way of analyzing NHL team drafts. I started with looking at first round drafts for all teams from 2015 to 2020 in my post Analyzing Boston Bruins Drafts and then a changed methodology that looked at all 2015 draft picks for all teams The Sebastian Aho Penalty.

In a nutshell, I’m trying to figure out which teams are better at drafting and whether teams actually are better than others at drafting. Is it all about luck, or just about draft position? This post is a follow-up to the 2015 article, as in this one, I just look at the 2016 draft for all rounds, all picks.

I went into the updated methodology in the Aho post, but in short, the goal of the draft is to get the best player available with a pick. It’s impossible for one team to always pick the best player available, so I look at just how much they missed by, using the Point Shares statistic published on hockey-reference.com.

In 2015, the team who did the best was the Edmonton Oilers, as they got Connor McDavid with the first overall pick and they avoided what I termed the “Sebastian Aho Penalty” with their second pick. The team that did the worst, largely because they had three first round picks and none ended up being Sebastian Aho, the Boston Bruins ended up at the bottom of the pile. Let’s see how the teams did in 2016.

The 2016 draft was headed up with Auston Matthews going to Toronto at 1, then Patrik Laine to Winnipeg at 2 and Pierre-Luc Dubois to Columbus at 3. We all remember the somewhat recent trade between these two players as Dubois is now in Winnipeg and Laine in Columbus. Just as in 2015, the first overall pick was also the best player available (BPA), so Toronto does not get penalized for taking Matthews. Who was the first breakpoint after that, meaning who was the next BPA? With a Point Shares (PS) score of 32.8, it was 6th overall pick Matthew Tkachuk to Calgary. But Laine has a PS of 32.7, meaning Winnipeg only gets a -0.1 score for that one. Dubois has a 20.8, resulting in a -12 for Columbus. At 4, Edmonton selected Jessi Puljujarvi with a PS of 7.1 and a -25.7 score for Edmonton. The biggest penalty of the first round comes at 6th overall when Vancouver selected Olli Juolevi and his 0.8 PS for a penalty of -32. Other early breakpoints include Charlie McAvoy to Boston at 14, then Alex DeBrincat at 39 to Chicago, Sam Girard at 47 to Nashville and Adam Fox at 66 to the Calgary Flames.

Here’s how the total scores broke down for the 2016 draft.

2016 NHL Draft Scores

The first thing to notice is the teams that did well in 2015 ended up at the bottom in 2016. Edmonton was the top team at the 2015 draft and dropped to the bottom in 2016. The main misses for the Oilers were taking Puljujarvi at 4 with Tkachuk on the board, then taking Tyler Benson at 32 (a -0.2 PS score) with DeBrincat available and Markus Niemelainen (0 PS) with Adam Fox the BPA.

Carolina’s draft included Jake Bean at 13 and his 2.7 PS score with McAvoy available, Julien Gauthier at 21 (0.4 PS) with DeBrincat available and Janne Kuokkanen at 43 (1.6 PS) with Sam Girard waiting to be picked.

In this draft, the top two teams got there almost by default, with a lack of picks. Minnesota only had four first round picks and relatively speaking, did ok with them. Their first pick was Luke Kunin at 15, immediately after the breakpoint of McAvoy had passed. Kunin has a PS of 6.5 resulting in a score of -21.5 for Minnesota and their other pick to have a PS is Brandon Duhaime at 106th with a PS of 0.5 and a score of -12.3. The breakpoint for the Duhaime pick was Jesper Bratt to New Jersey at 162 and a PS of 12.8.

The Rangers didn’t have a pick until 81st overall where they took Sean Day (0 PS) and Tarmo Reuanen with a 0.2 PS score. The Rangers didn’t acquire anyone in this draft who has truly contributed to the team. The Rangers did end up with a huge piece to their team from this draft, as they later trade for Adam Fox. Fox had been traded from Calgary to Carolina and then the Rangers sent a second and third round pick to Carolina for Adam Fox. Just to note, trades are not factored in to these numbers. Calgary gets all credit for drafting Fox in this project.

With Minnesota and New York getting to the top through a lack of picks, how did they do when we average out their PS per pick?

2016 Draft Average Score

The Rangers actually slide up to the top spot and Minnesota drops to 5th. The Canadiens rise up to 2nd place based on their decent draft where they got three players who have earned a PS score. Their best was taking Mikhail Sergachev at 9. He has a PS of 23.5 for a score of -5.2 from McAvoy. Their next pick with a score was Victor Mete at 100 with a PS of 9.9, not that far off from Bratt’s 12.8. Montreal’s other pick getting a score is Michael Pezzetta at 160th and a 0.2 PS score.

For the Bruins fans who love to deride Don Sweeney and claim he’s the worst GM at drafting, the Bruins finished the 2016 draft at 8th in total and 11th in average, both solidly in the top half of this draft. The Bruins hit the jackpot with McAvoy at 14 and his 28.7 PS, but they also got Ryan Lindgren at 49th (later traded to the Rangers in the Rick Nash deal) who has a 7.8 PS. With the 29th pick in the draft, the Bruins selected Trent Frederic. He has a -0.6 PS and earned the Bruins a -28.6 penalty, largely the reason for their drop in the average. One to keep an eye on is Oskar Steen. He was drafted at 165 and is getting a look in Boston right now. Point Shares is a score that changes game by game, so all of these scores and standings are subject to change as more players make it to the league and contribute. For this reason, 2016 is the last draft that I’ll do at this time. There aren’t enough players from 2017 on who have made it to the NHL to have a big enough sample size for comparison among teams.

Data for this was taken from Wikipediahockey-reference.com and the suggestion for using Best Player Available came from Shawn Ferris of evolving-hockey.com.