What is a Draft Pick Worth?

Not all draft positions have equal value. I think we can all agree that the first overall pick doesn’t have the same value as the last pick. There would be gradually decreasing value as the draft goes on. Sometimes, teams get criticized for not drafting as well as another team, but this context is often lost. If one team is drafting in the top 10 and another is in the bottom 10, how do you compare those? Which team is drafting better? One way to do it is to look at value for the draft position.

To figure out whether teams are getting value, first we need to know what is the value of each draft position, so I did that. Again, I used the “Point Shares” metric provided by Hockey-Reference. I don’t know that it’s the best metric, but it’s certainly better than something like games played as for one, goalies and skaters won’t have the same value with games played. For another, a 500 game journeyman is not the same as a 500 game star.

I pulled all the Point Shares numbers for every NHL first round pick* from 1979 through 2018. Anything more recent than 2018 is still too soon to have much value. Then I just put all the players together by draft position and figured out the average. So here’s the average Point Shares, by draft position:

1st: 87.32
2nd: 70.75
3rd: 53.22
4th: 53.78
5th: 53.88
6th: 42.33
7th: 39.73
8th: 31.84
9th: 35.59
10th: 24.48

11th: 37.38
12th: 30.83
13th: 29.54
14th: 32.00
15th: 31.23
16th: 24.81
17th: 25.43
18th: 18.63
19th: 26.42
20th: 25.45

21st: 20.11
22nd: 21.89
23rd: 23.67
24th: 24.39
25th: 19.04
26th: 25.77
27th: 22.58
28th: 18.34
29th: 15.77
30th: 13.69
31st: 8.53

How about a pretty graph of these values.

Now that we’ve set a baseline of what a particular draft position is worth, we can start to look at how each team (or General Manager) has done with their drafts. More to come!

* First Round Pick: I extended this to the first 31 picks in the draft for consistency. Some years had fewer than 31 picks, but as of 2018, the first round had 31 picks.

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Evaluating the Scouts

Some Bruins fans love to use their 20/20 hindsight and call out all the players the Bruins should have drafted. I’ve also wondered, what if the Bruins had just followed the NHL Central Scouting rankings for each draft, who would they have ended up with? Let’s take a look. Here’s the way it works, each year before the draft, the NHL puts out their own rankings of all the available players. I took that and I crossed names off as they were actually drafted and then when it was the Bruins’ turn to pick, looked at who is the best player available, according to the NHL scouts. Here’s how that went.

2015

We all know 2015 went really badly from the perspective that it was a very deep draft, there were a lot of good players available when the Bruins had three choices. Jake DeBrusk has turned out to be approximately what he was projected to be, around the 19th best player in that draft. Zach Senyshyn has been a huge miss, and then there’s Jakob Zboril. Due to slower development and injuries, the jury is still out. But those are the three guys they took. We always hear about Barzal, Connor, Chabot, Boeser and so many other players, but based on the 2015 NHL Central Scouting rankings, who would the Bruins have gotten? Yes, Matt Barzal and Kyle Connor, but the third one might surprise some people, Jakob Zboril. The best goalies available were Ilya Samsonov and Mackenzie Blackwood.

Let’s take it a little further and look at the second round where the Bruins took Brandon Carlo at 37 and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson at 45. The highest ranked players at 37 were Jansen Harkins, Michael Spacek, Blackwood or old friend Daniel Vladar. For the second pick, the same players were still available, but if the Bruins had taken Harkins at 37, then the next man up would be Filip Chlapik. Going as far as the third round, when they took Jeremy Lauzon, the best player in the rankings was Jeremy Roy.

2016

In 2016, the Bruins took Charlie McAvoy at 14, but according to the NHL Central Scouting, the highest rated available was Jakob Chychrun. Chrychrun is a pretty good player, but he’s not as good as Charlie McAvoy. That pick is a win for the Bruins. The Bruins also had a second first round pick at 29 where they took Trent Frederic. The highest ranked player was 21st, Alex Debrincat. He eventually went to Chicago, dropping all the way to 39. In the second round, the Bruins took a guy who is now an NHL defenseman, but was traded to the Rangers in the Rick Nash deal, Ryan Lindgren. He was drafted 49th. The highest ranked players at the time were Kale Clague and Carl Grundstrom. I feel pretty good about the Bruins scouting and drafting on that pick.

2017

This is the last year to look at as not enough players have had time to develop yet from 2018 on. But this year, the Bruins took Urho Vaakanainen at 18. The highest ranked players available according to the NHL Central Scouting were either Eeli Tolvanen or Klim Kostin. Meh. I’m not too excited about any of those players and I wouldn’t get too excited about “missing” on any of those. Looking into the second round, the Bruins took Jack Studnicka at 53 and the highest ranked players available for that pick were Rickard Hugg and Alexei Lipanov. To which I can just say “Who?” as neither of them have NHL experience and I don’t think either will ever get any.

There you have it, the answer to “What if the Bruins fired all their scouts and just used the NHL’s own rankings?” The thing to keep in mind though is for every Debrincat, all the other teams missed on him too. Each team has their own hits and misses including the Flyers, Stars and Capitals 2016 first round picks who have played a combined 15 NHL games.

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Setting a Low Bar For Draft “Success”

All of the draft analysis so far has been about whether teams took the best player available at their draft position and if they did not, how much did they miss by. That is the main point of a draft, to get the best players available to you. However, some people like to criticize teams for only having a certain number of players reach the NHL. I see criticisms that include “Barely any of your draft picks make it to the NHL!” However, let’s look at this another way.

So one night, your favorite team plays the game and later that night, someone asks “How’d they do?” and you answer “They scored 3 goals.” Is that good? Virtually anyone would ask “But what was the score?” or “How many did the other team score?” because how many goals a team scores is relative to the other team’s goals scored in determining who wins. If you score 1 goal and shut out the other team, you win. If you score 6 goals but give up 7, you lose. So just having information about one team doesn’t tell you much. You need to compare it to the other team. Same with draft results. Knowing how one team has fared means nothing unless you know how that compares to other teams. If you want to know which team is best at drafting by the Best Player Available method, I have that for you here: Which Team is Best at Drafting: Answered

But if you care more about whether a team’s draft picks reach the NHL, I have that for you here too. It’s a ridiculously low bar to use “to reach the NHL”, but it’s a standard many people use in evaluating a General Manager or a team’s drafting ability, so here we go.

How it Works

I took the draft results (data taken from hockey-reference.com) from every NHL draft, 2000 to 2017 and added up how many players for each team have reached the NHL. There have been 4212 players drafted in that timeframe and 1963 of those have reached the NHL for a league average of 46.6%.

From 2000 to 2004, the NHL went 9 rounds for their draft, selecting around 290 players per year. The league averages those years were:

200040.27%
200143.94%
200235.75%
200344.52%
200444.33%

Yep 2002, a year led off with Rick Nash and Kari Lehtonen was a tough one. Once the league dropped two rounds, the percentage improved.

200548.26%
200642.72%
200745.97%
200849.54%
200955.02%
201050.24%
201159.81%
201251.42%
201350.71%
201446.67%
201548.57%
201645.50%
201742.40%

Some people ask why I stop at 2017 and you can see the answer here. Players just haven’t developed yet to give an accurate and fair picture. The percentage drops off. Maybe no more players from the 2017 draft will ever play in the NHL, but the numbers indicate otherwise. If we look at 2018, it’d likely be even lower, so it’s not worth including yet. (Update: Ok, I did check 2018. 217 players were selected and as of July 2022, 67 players have reached the NHL for a 30.8%. In 2018, there were also 217 selections and 56 have reached the NHL for a 25.8%. In short, it’s too early to judge teams on these drafts.)

Some years for individual teams were particularly interesting like in 2008, the Canadiens had 5 picks and zero have played in the NHL. Vancouver had 7 picks in 2007 and none have played even a single NHL game. The Penguins and Capitals matched that in 2017. Pittsburgh missing on six picks and the Capitals missed on all four. The opposite has also happened in a number of years. All five of the Devils picks in 2015 have played an NHL game. In 2011, the deepest draft statistically, four teams graduated all players to the NHL. All seven of Anaheim’s picks, all five of Calgary’s, all five of Pittsburgh’s and all six of Tampa’s. The highest graduation total was the 2008 Islanders, 9 out of their 13 picks played at least one NHL game.

The Best and Worst

Who are the best teams using this metric? This is the total percentage for all drafts from 2000 to 2017 for the teams. Atlanta and Winnipeg have been combined.

Boston60.63%
Columbus52.94%
Los Angeles52.35%
Anaheim52.34%
Toronto51.45%
Ottawa50.37%
Philadelphia50.36%
New Jersey50.00%
Pittsburgh48.09%
San Jose47.69%
St. Louis46.90%
Carolina46.88%
Buffalo45.89%
Nashville45.70%
Calgary45.59%
Edmonton45.45%
Colorado45.39%
Florida45.21%
Minnesota45.11%
Montreal45.04%
NY Islanders45.00%
NY Rangers44.44%
Dallas43.88%
Washington43.80%
Tampa Bay42.48%
Atlanta/Winnipeg41.89%
Phoenix/Arizona41.73%
Chicago41.57%
Vancouver40.65%
Detroit36.69%

So there you have it, the Boston Bruins and their General Managers from Mike O’Connell to Jeff Gorton to Peter Chiarelli to even the current Don Sweeney, lead the NHL with drafting players who play at least one game in the NHL. Again, a ridiculously low bar, but it’s one that people choose for some reason, when they want to evaluate a team’s drafting ability and the front office.

If you have any questions about the data, let me know on twitter at @plaverty24 and I’ll do my best to answer.

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2017 Draft: Five Years Later

The quality of a draft is constantly changing, as the players’ value, or their “Point Shares (PS)” number changes when they play. The result of a draft isn’t really finalized until all the players have retired. On the other end of the spectrum, players can’t earn PS until they’re playing in the NHL. Evaluate these too soon, and it’ll be a very top-heavy draft as those players generally get to the NHL the fastest. For this reason, I waited until the end of the ’21-’22 season to put together the results of the 2017 draft. Here’s what we got so far.

A reminder of the methodology for this is here: “How This Works.”

First, here’s the 2017 first round:

1New Jersey DevilsNico Hischier
2Philadelphia FlyersNolan Patrick
3Dallas StarsMiro Heiskanen
4Colorado AvalancheCale Makar
5Vancouver CanucksElias Pettersson
6Vegas Golden KnightsCody Glass
7New York RangersLias Andersson
8Buffalo SabresCasey Mittelstadt
9Detroit Red WingsMichael Rasmussen
10Florida PanthersOwen Tippett
11Los Angeles KingsGabriel Vilardi
12Carolina HurricanesMartin Necas
13Vegas Golden KnightsNick Suzuki
14Tampa Bay LightningCallan Foote
15Vegas Golden KnightsErik Brannstrom
16Calgary FlamesJuuso Valimaki
17Toronto Maple LeafsTimothy Liljegren
18Boston BruinsUrho Vaakanainen
19San Jose SharksJoshua Norris
20St. Louis BluesRobert Thomas
21New York RangersFilip Chytil
22Edmonton OilersKailer Yamamoto
23Arizona CoyotesPierre-Olivier Joseph
24Winnipeg JetsKristian Vesalainen
25Montreal CanadiensRyan Poehling
26Dallas StarsJake Oettinger
27Philadelphia FlyersMorgan Frost
28Ottawa SenatorsShane Bowers
29Chicago BlackhawksHenri Jokiharju
30Nashville PredatorsEeli Tolvanen
31St. Louis BluesKlim Kostin

Next, here are the top 31 players, based on their NHL “Point Shares”:

Draft PositionDraft TeamPlayerPoint Share
4Colorado AvalancheCale Makar30.2
3Dallas StarsMiro Heiskanen25.5
5Vancouver CanucksElias Pettersson25.4
1New Jersey DevilsNico Hischier19.8
39Dallas StarsJason Robertson15.7
20St. Louis BluesRobert Thomas14.9
26Dallas StarsJake Oettinger12.7
12Carolina HurricanesMartin Necas12.1
13Vegas Golden KnightsNick Suzuki11.3
19San Jose SharksJoshua Norris10.3
111Boston BruinsJeremy Swayman9.5
121Ottawa SenatorsDrake Batherson9
22Edmonton OilersKailer Yamamoto8.7
34Vegas Golden KnightsNicolas Hague8.6
29Chicago BlackhawksHenri Jokiharju8.2
49San Jose SharksMario Ferraro7.7
21New York RangersFilip Chytil6.7
50Anaheim DucksMaxime Comtois6.2
103Los Angeles KingsMichael Anderson6.2
8Buffalo SabresCasey Mittelstadt5.5
2Philadelphia FlyersNolan Patrick4.1
99Buffalo SabresJacob Bryson4.1
17Toronto Maple LeafsTimothy Liljegren4
45Columbus Blue JacketsAlexandre Texier4
15Vegas Golden KnightsErik Brannstrom3.8
30Nashville PredatorsEeli Tolvanen3.7
14Tampa Bay LightningCallan Foote3.6
47Ottawa SenatorsAlex Formenton3.5
11Los Angeles KingsGabriel Vilardi3.4
117Columbus Blue JacketsEmil Bemstrom3.1
9Detroit Red WingsMichael Rasmussen2.8

Next, we look at which teams had the best draft. As explained in the methodology, for the table below, a team wants fewer points. If the team drafted the best player available in their draft position, that earns a 0. If the best player is not taken, the team gets points added for the difference in PS between the player taken and the best player available. So fewer points are better.

TeamTotal PS# Picks
Washington Capitals11.24
San Jose Sharks17.46
New York Islanders19.55
Dallas Stars20.17
Pittsburgh Penguins22.36
Ottawa Senators22.84
Columbus Blue Jackets23.17
Calgary Flames23.45
Anaheim Ducks25.75
Boston Bruins26.26
St. Louis Blues28.76
Minnesota Wild30.36
New York Rangers30.77
Tampa Bay Lightning32.16
Nashville Predators32.96
Edmonton Oilers357
Toronto Maple Leafs35.27
Florida Panthers35.55
Colorado Avalanche37.47
Los Angeles Kings47.77
Winnipeg Jets48.28
Buffalo Sabres48.86
Vancouver Canucks48.98
Carolina Hurricanes508
Montreal Canadiens53.57
Chicago Blackhawks55.29
New Jersey Devils57.311
Arizona Coyotes67.79
Vegas Golden Knights72.612
Detroit Red Wings79.511
Philadelphia Flyers87.29

A team can get a better score in the table above, simply by having fewer picks. To adjust for that, here’s the average points per draft pick.

TeamAverage PS# Picks
Washington Capitals2.804
Dallas Stars2.877
San Jose Sharks2.906
Columbus Blue Jackets3.307
Pittsburgh Penguins3.726
New York Islanders3.905
Boston Bruins4.376
New York Rangers4.397
Calgary Flames4.685
St. Louis Blues4.786
Edmonton Oilers5.007
Toronto Maple Leafs5.037
Minnesota Wild5.056
Anaheim Ducks5.145
New Jersey Devils5.2111
Colorado Avalanche5.347
Tampa Bay Lightning5.356
Nashville Predators5.486
Ottawa Senators5.704
Winnipeg Jets6.038
Vegas Golden Knights6.0512
Vancouver Canucks6.118
Chicago Blackhawks6.139
Carolina Hurricanes6.258
Los Angeles Kings6.817
Florida Panthers7.105
Detroit Red Wings7.2311
Arizona Coyotes7.529
Montreal Canadiens7.647
Buffalo Sabres8.136
Philadelphia Flyers9.699

The numbers are a little misleading and we need to look into details. Both tables indicate the Capitals had the best draft, when actually, they’ve had zero players make it to the NHL. That is in part due to the fact that they only had four picks and their first pick was 120th overall. The remainder of their picks were 151, 182 and 213. Not many teams will hit on those.

Dallas on the other hand, had an outstanding draft. They drafted three of the top seven players getting the second-best player, Miro Heiskenen at 3 (25.5 PS), the fifth best player, Jason Robertson at 39 (15.7 PS) and the seventh best player, Jake Oettinger at 27 (12.7 PS). The Sharks grabbed 10th best Josh Norris at 19 and he’s at 10.3 PS and 16th best Mario Ferraro at 49 and 7.7 PS.

The Don Sweeney haters will be disappointed to see the Bruins had the 7th best draft, which was on the strength of the current 11th best player, Jeremy Swayman taken at 111, and his 9.5 PS. First rounder, Urho Vaakanainen was the 43rd best player in the draft so far, with his 1.3 PS score.

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First Line Centers

How does a team get a top line center? Let’s look at each team’s guy, using the depth charts from CapFriendly.com. Feel free to disagree on who the 1C is on each team, but that’s the data I’m using.

TeamPlayerObtainedDraft PositionDraft YearMain Trade Piece
AnaheimTrevor ZegrasDraft92019
ArizonaBarrett HaytonDraft52018
BostonPatrice BergeronDraft452003
BuffaloTage ThompsonTrade262016Ryan O’Reilly
CalgaryElias LindholmTrade52013Dougie Hamilton
CarolinaSebastian AhoDraft352015
ChicagoJonathan ToewsDraft32006
ColoradoNathan MacKinnonDraft12013
ColumbusJack RoslovicDraft252015
DallasRoope HintzDraft492015
DetroitDylan LarkinDraft152014
EdmontonConnor McDavidDraft12015
FloridaAlexander BarkovDraft22013
LAAnze KopitarDraft112005
MinnesotaRyan HartmanTrade302013Draft picks
MontrealNick SuzukiTrade132017Max Pacioretty
NashvilleMikael GranlundTrade92010Kevin Fiala
New JerseyJack HughesDraft12019
NYIBrock NelsonDraft202010
NYRMika ZibanejadTrade62011Derick Brassard
OttawaJoshua NorrisTrade192017Erik Karlsson
PhiladelphiaSean CouturierDraft82011
PittsburghSidney CrosbyDraft12005
San JoseTomas HertlDraft172012
SeattleMatty BeniersDraft22021
St. LouisRyan O’ReillyTrade332009Package of assets
Tampa BaySteven StamkosDraft12008
TorontoAuston MatthewsDraft12016
VancouverJT MillerTrade152011Draft picks
Las VegasJack EichelTrade22015Tuch, Krebs, picks
WashingtonNicklas BackstromDraft42006
WinnipegMark ScheifeleDraft72011

First, consider that these are just the first line center on each of the teams, then think about whether certain guys would be the 1C or even 2C on your own favorite team. Some might not.

So how do you get your first line center? It looks like for the most part, you draft him. 18 out of the 32 players are Top-10 picks and 22 out of 32 are from the top half of the draft. If you’re drafting in the bottom half, your choices become pretty slim.

10 of the players were obtained by trades, and most of those were for a big name going the other way (Karlsson, O’Reilly, Hamilton, Pacioretty).

Here’s the same table, sorted by the round the players were drafted. This view emphasizes the fact that teams generally get their top center from the first ten picks in the draft.

TeamPlayerObtainedDraft PositionDraft YearMain Trade Piece
ColoradoNathan MacKinnonDraft12013
EdmontonConnor McDavidDraft12015
New JerseyJack HughesDraft12019
PittsburghSidney CrosbyDraft12005
Tampa BaySteven StamkosDraft12008
TorontoAuston MatthewsDraft12016
FloridaAlexander BarkovDraft22013
SeattleMatty BeniersDraft22021
Las VegasJack EichelTrade22015Tuch, Krebs, picks
ChicagoJonathan ToewsDraft32006
WashingtonNicklas BackstromDraft42006
ArizonaBarrett HaytonDraft52018
CalgaryElias LindholmTrade52013Dougie Hamilton
NYRMika ZibanejadTrade62011Derrik Brassard
WinnipegMark ScheifeleDraft72011
PhiladelphiaSean CouturierDraft82011
AnaheimTrevor ZegrasDraft92019
NashvilleMikael GranlundTrade92010Kevin Fiala
LAAnze KopitarDraft112005
MontrealNick SuzukiTrade132017Max Pacioretty
DetroitDylan LarkinDraft152014
VancouverJT MillerTrade152011Draft picks
San JoseTomas HertlDraft172012
OttawaJoshua NorrisTrade192017Erik Karlsson
NYIBrock NelsonDraft202010
ColumbusJack RoslovicDraft252015
BuffaloTage ThompsonTrade262016Ryan O’Reilly
MinnesotaRyan HartmanTrade302013Draft picks
St. LouisRyan O’ReillyTrade332009Package of assets
CarolinaSebastian AhoDraft352015
BostonPatrice BergeronDraft452003
DallasRoope HintzDraft492015

In the end, it looks like the best way to get a top center, is to miss the playoffs, endure a bad season and hope a guy is available at your spot and he develops.

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Consistency of Success

The opinions of some Bruins fans are often what lead me to dig into data. For example, most Bruins fans hate the 2015 draft and claim Bruins GM Don Sweeney is terrible at drafting, so I looked into data to see if that’s true. But another claim is that the team doesn’t win enough. They’re not consistent enough and they need to do more. Yes, I’d love for the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup more often, but how do the Bruins results compare to other teams? Do other teams win more? Are they consistently better than the Bruins? That leads to a question for fans of any organization. Would you prefer that your team is consistently good or would you prefer a team is that cycles between great and terrible?

In my head, I believed that the Bruins “hold on” after highly successful years more than other organizations. In 2011, the Bruins played Vancouver for the Cup and Vancouver has not been consistently good since then. In 2013, the Bruins played Chicago for the Cup and Chicago has not been consistently good since then. Even after 2019, the Blues have not continued on as a juggernaut of a team. But let’s look at how all teams do after they go to the Stanley Cup Final, both the Cup winner and the team they beat, since 2000, and look at what they did after. “How they do” is defined by regular season point totals and what overall place they come in. Also note, 2004-05 was the lockout year, so no standings and no Cup awarded.

My full data sheet is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1yNsrjg6hmTHkGFEry9fDUMB7ep2kYTpGbAybhwnqpbE/edit?usp=sharing

I’ll pluck out a few to make graphs with and release the data from all the teams. Let’s look at the first team in my timeframe, the 2000 (and 2003) Stanley Cup champions, the New Jersey Devils.


They won the Cup twice and then kept pushing for another six years before eventually the bottom fell out and the rebuild became necessary, starting in 2011. Over the last 11 seasons, the Devils have struggled to do much.

How about a team who won the Cup, had to take some steps back, rebuild and is back at the top. The Colorado Avalanche:

The Avs won the Cup in 2001, then drifted downward in the standings, finishing 4th, 6th, 10th, 13th and eventually the bottom fell out and the rebuild happened to get them the Cup in 2022. I see some Bruins fans lamenting that the Bruins front office can’t be more like Colorado’s and in looking at the 2010 to 2020 years, that’s a lot of suffering for a fanbase, and suffering that I’m not sure those Bruins fans would tolerate.

Here’s a look at Tampa’s path as well. They won the Cup in 2004 and then went the rebuild route to get back to where they are today. Here’s a look at their annual finishes:

As Bruins fans know, the last time they won the Cup was 2011. We’ve seen that in at least two examples here, it’s typical for a team to win the Cup, be decent for years and five to seven years, then the bottom falls out. As it’s now been eleven years since the Bruins won the Cup, there’s been enough of a sample for them to follow that pattern. Here’s their graph:

The worst the Bruins did was to drop to 17 which was in 2015 and that was the cap jail the team got into via Chiarelli and the attempted Cup run with Iginla. Since then, it’s looked pretty good. But also notice what’s missing. A bottoming out that requires a rebuild.

One other team has been similar. The Pittsburgh Penguins also have not needed a rebuild, but that’s probably what happens when you get Crosby and Malkin in back to back drafts:

The Penguins have a similar line to the Bruins, their worst finish was also in 2015 when they finished 15th. There’s no big drop-off and no rebuild that was necessary. The Bruins and the Penguins are generally the outlier among teams.

Here is the average, high and low finish for each Cup winner since 2000. The longer ago the Cup win was, the more data there is, as the data starts the year after the team won the Cup between 2000 and 2021:

Cup WinnerYearAverageHighLow
New Jersey200015.76329
Colorado200114.50130
Detroit200213.21131
New Jersey200317.44529
Tampa Bay200414.06130
Carolina200617.25326
Anaheim200713.80230
Detroit200816.64328
Pittsburgh20096.69215
Chicago201013.50127
Boston20117.91117
Los Angeles201217.40730
Chicago201315.33327
Los Angeles201419.63830
Chicago201517.71327
Pittsburgh20167.50212
Pittsburgh20178.60512
Washington20187.25413
St. Louis20198.67215
Tampa Bay20207.5078
Tampa Bay20217.0077

IN the case of New Jersey, we see a team who won, hung on for a few years and is still struggling with their rebuild. With Colorado, we see a team that won, did the rebuild and is back at the top. With the Bruins and the Penguins, we see two teams who haven’t bottomed out after winning the Cup and by looking at the chart, we can see that most teams do bottom out.

Cup Finalists

The data above only includes teams that have won the Cup since 2000. But what if we look at the same data for the teams who lost in the Cup Final. Some of these will also include Cup winning teams, but the main thing here is the same patterns emerge. Teams win, teams take some time to drop off, then the bottom falls out and the rebuild needs to begin.

Starting with the Cup finalist in 2000 and 2020, the Dallas Stars, here’s the path they’ve taken. Definitely some ups and downs in there.

Here is the Cup finalist in 2002 and a team that Bruins fans are all too aware that has finally made their resurgence, The Carolina Hurricanes. But it definitely was not quick, taking about 15 years to get to where they are now.

We’ve already seen how the Bruins have fared since 2011, so how has their opponent, the Vancouver Canucks done since then. Have they had as much continued success as the Bruins have?

It’s safe to say that no, Vancouver has not been nearly as competitive as the Bruins have since they met for the Cup in 2011.

Like with the Cup winners, here’s a table with each Cup finalist and their average finish after they went to the final, plus the highest and the lowest they’ve finished. The same patterns emerge, the same teams stand out.

Cup FinalistYearAverageHighLow
Dallas200013.67224
New Jersey200116.40429
Carolina200217.53330
Anaheim200313.61230
Calgary200415.76227
Edmonton200621.88830
Ottawa200720.471231
Pittsburgh20086.79215
Detroit200918.46631
Philadelphia201015.67429
Vancouver201119.09129
New Jersey201224.101429
Boston20138.33117
NY Rangers201415.50126
Tampa Bay20157.57118
San Jose201617.50629
Nashville201711.40119
Vegas201810.75217
Boston20197.00110
Dallas202016.001517
Montreal202132.003232

Most teams who have made it to the Cup final eventually really bottom out and end up at the very bottom of the standings. Even old friend Vancouver hit 29 one season, in 2017. But again, Pittsburgh has done well, never finishing below 15 and the Bruins never finishing below 17. Those two, along with Tampa Bay have enough of a sample size and still finish in single digits for average. While one number doesn’t tell a whole story, it does give an indication of the consistency of success for these organizations.

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Just Take the Best Player: 2008 – 2011

If you have the first overall pick in the draft, it should be easy to choose the best player available, right? Same for the top five or so. In this mini-series, I look at how teams did in the first five picks of the draft and whether they took the best player available. This is the third post on the topic, as I have posts that include 2000 to 2003 and 2004 to 2007.

2008

In the first post, I explained that the best player available has only been drafted first overall in nine of the seventeen draft years I analyzed. Roughly half. If teams struggle to take the best player available with the first overall pick, it becomes a little more understandable if a team misses on a later pick. In this year’s draft, teams nailed the top two picks. The only previous year when that happened was 2004. Tampa Bay had the first overall pick and selected Steven Stamkos. The Kings had the number two pick and landed Drew Doughty. A pretty good start for this draft. With the third pick, the Thrashers took Zach Bogosian, but the third best player available was Erik Karlsson, who was taken 15th overall by Ottawa. The Blues had the fourth pick and got the fourth best player available, selecting Alex Pietrangelo. The Maple Leafs had the fifth pick and took Luke Schenn while the Capitals got the fifth best player available taking John Carlson with the 27th pick in the draft.

PickPlayerTeamPickPlayerTeam
1Steven StamkosLightning1Steven StamkosLightning
2Drew DoughtyKings2Drew DoughtyKings
3Zach BogosianThrashers15Erik KarlssonSenators
4Alex PietrangeloBlues4Alex PietrangeloBlues
5Luke SchennMaple Leafs27John CarlsonCapitals

2009

This makes back to back years that teams nailed the top two picks, taking the best player available. Even the subsequent picks weren’t too far off the mark, compared to other years. The Islanders had the top pick and took John Tavares and the Lightning had the second pick, selecting Victor Hedman. Both were the best player available for their draft spot. At three, the Avalanche took Matt Duchene but the third best player available was Oliver Ekman-Larsson, selected by the Coyotes at 6. Fourth was the Thrashers taking Evander Kane but the fourth best player available was the biggest jump into the top five, the Senators selecting Robin Lehner with the 46th pick. The fifth pick went to the Kings who took Brayden Schenn while Duchene has been the fifth best available.

PickPlayerTeamPickPlayerTeam
1John TavaresIslanders1John TavaresIslanders
2Victor HedmanLightning2Victor HedmanLightning
3Matt DucheneAvalanche6Oliver Ekman-LarssonCoyotes
4Evander KaneThrashers46Robin LehnerSenators
5Brayden SchennKings5Matt DucheneAvalanche

2010

This draft had a little bit of both, teams hitting on their picks and a wild miss. This was the year of Taylor/Tyler as Edmonton took Taylor Hall with the top pick, but should have instead took Tyler Seguin, as he has been the best player available. The Bruins did snag Seguin with the second overall pick but the second best player available was taken 187th overall by the Hurricanes, Frederik Andersen. The Panthers had the third pick and took Erik Gudbranson while Taylor Hall has been the third best available. At four, the Blue Jackets took Ryan Johansen but the fourth best available was Vladimir Tarasenko, selected 16th by the Blues. The fifth pick went to the Islanders who took Nino Niderreiter but the fifth best player available was Jeff Skinner, taken 7th by the Hurricanes.

PickPlayerTeamPickPlayerTeam
1Taylor HallOilers2Tyler SeguinBruins
2Tyler SeguinBruins187Frederik AndersenHurricanes
3Erik GudbransonPanthers1Taylor HallOilers
4Ryan JohansenBlue Jackets16Vladimir TarasenkoBlues
5Nino NiederreiterIslanders7Jeff SkinnerHurricanes

2011

This draft saw one of the biggest jumps into the top spot for the best player available. The Oilers had the first overall pick and took Ryan Nugent-Hopkins while the Lightning got the best player at 58, Nikita Kucherov. The Avalanche used the second pick on Gabriel Landeskog but the Bruins got the second best player available in Dougie Hamilton with the 9th pick. The Panthers took Jonathan Huberdeau at three and the Ducks got the third best available with the 39th pick, John Gibson. At four, the Devils took Adam Larsson while the fourth best player available was Landeskog. One thing to note is the margin of difference in the top picks for this draft is very small and point shares updates every game. Any of these players can easily move up or down a couple slots. At five, the Islanders took Ryan Strome but the fifth best player available was Mark Scheifele, selected 7th overall by Winnipeg.

PickPlayerTeamPickPlayerTeam
1Ryan Nugent-HopkinsOilers58Nikita KucherovLightning
2Gabriel LandeskogAvalanche9Dougie HamiltonBruins
3Jonathan HuberdeauPanthers39John GibsonDucks
4Adam LarssonDevils2Gabriel LandeskogAvalanche
5Ryan StromeIslanders7Mark ScheifeleJets

And the 2012 to 2016 draft updates are soon to come!

Just Take the Best Player: 2004 – 2007

How easy is it to draft the best player available? Should be pretty easy, but let’s see how successful teams have been. The first post about this covers 2000 to 2003, so let’s keep going with it.

2004

This draft seems to be a bit of a rarity as the teams nailed it on the first two picks but after that, a huge failure by every team, many times. With the first overall pick, the Washington Capitals selected the best player available, Alex Ovechkin. With the number two selection in this draft, the Penguins selected fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin. Great, so far the teams are two for two in nailing the best player available. But Chicago had the third pick and went with Cam Barker. Using Point Shares, the difference between Barker and Malkin is more than 108 points. Huge. Who was the third best player available? That would be the player who was chosen 258th, by the Nashville Predators, Pekka Rinne. With the fourth selection in the draft, the Carolina Hurricanes took Andrew Ladd, but the fourth best player was Devan Dubnyk, taken 14th overall by Edmonton. And to fill out our top five, the Phoenix Coyotes actually did take the fifth best player available, Blake Wheeler.

PickPlayerTeamPickPlayerTeam
1Alex OvechkinCapitals1Alex OvechkinCapitals
2Evgeni MalkinPenguins2Evgeni MalkinPenguins
3Cam BarkerBlackhawks258Pekka RinnePredators
4Andrew LaddHurricanes14Devan DubnykOilers
5Blake WheelerCoyotes5Blake WheelerCoyotes

2005

Just like in 2004, the best player available was selected first overall. After that pick, teams weren’t terrible but also didn’t exactly nail it either. The first overall pick went to the Pittsburgh Penguins and they took Sidney Crosby. Crosby has about a 100 point lead in Point Shares over the actual second selection in the draft. The Ducks took Bobby Ryan second overall. The second best player overall was taken fifth, by the Montreal Canadiens, Carey Price. The third pick went to the Hurricanes and they took Jack Johnson. Imagine if the Hurricanes had instead taken the third best player available, Anze Kopitar. Kopitar was actually taken 11th overall by the Kings. The fourth pick in the draft went to the Minnesota Wild and they took Benoit Pouliot instead of a goalie, the fourth best player selected, Jonathan Quick. Quick was taken 72nd overall by the Kings. So yes, the Kings got the 3rd and 4th best players in the draft with the 11th and 72nd picks. And as noted earlier, the fifth pick in the draft was Montreal taking Carey Price. Some segments of the Bruins fan population might not like to hear who was the fifth best player available, goalie Tuukka Rask, selected 21st overall by Toronto and later traded to Boston for Andrew Raycroft.

PickPlayerTeamPickPlayerTeam
1Sidney CrosbyPenguins1Sidney CrosbyPenguins
2Bobby RyanDucks5Carey PriceCanadiens
3Jack JohnsonHurricanes11Anze KopitarKings
4Benoit PouliotWild72Jonathan QuickKings
5Carey PriceCanadiens21Tuukka RaskMaple Leafs

2006

In this draft, two top five best available were taken in the top five, but it wasn’t the top two picks. The Blues had the first overall pick and chose Erik Johnson. The Capitals were the fortunate ones, getting the best player available with the fourth overall pick, Nicklas Backstrom. The Penguins chose next and after hitting a home run the previous year with Crosby, took Jordan Staal. The Capitals got the second best player available in Semyon Varlamov with the 23rd overall pick. In spite of getting the top two best players in the draft, Varlamov wasn’t a part of the Caps’ Cup win. The Blackhawks chose third and took their current captain, Jonathan Toews. Toews has only been the fifth best player in that draft. The best available to the Blackhawks was Phil Kessel, taken fifth by the Bruins. Backstrom was next, taken 4th by the Caps, but the fourth overall best player in the draft was taken 71st, by the Bruins, Brad Marchand. Fifth overall was Kessel and fifth best was Toews.

PickPlayerTeamPickPlayerTeam
1Erik JohnsonBlues4Nicklas BackstromCapitals
2Jordan StaalPenguins23Semyon VarlamovCapitals
3Jonathan ToewsBlackhawks5Phil KesselBruins
4Nicklas BackstromCapitals71Brad MarchandBruins
5Phil KesselBruins3Jonathan ToewsBlackhawks

2007

In this draft, the first overall pick did nab the best overall player and then the rest of the top five is a bit of a mess. First overall was the Chicago Blackhawks and they did get the best available in Patrick Kane. Second was the Flyers who selected James van Riemsdyk. Definitely not a bad player but Jamie Benn has a higher PS score and was taken by Dallas with the 129th overall pick. Third was the Coyotes taking Kyle Turris instead of the third best player available, PK Subban, taken 43rd by the Canadiens. Next was the Kings, taking Thomas Hickey but the Canadiens did get the fourth best player available when they took Max Pacioretty at 22. Finishing out the top five was the Capitals taking Karl Alzner instead of the best available at this slot, Jakub Voracek, taken by the Blue Jackets with the 7th pick in the draft.

PickPlayerTeamPickPlayerTeam
1Patrick KaneBlackhawks1Patrick KaneBlackhawks
2James van RiemsdykFlyers129Jamie BennStars
3Kyle TurrisCoyotes43PK SubbanCanadiens
4Thomas HickeyKings22Max PaciorettyCanadiens
5Karl AlznerCapitals7Jakub VoracekBlue Jackets

More coming soon!

Just Take the Best Player: 2000-2003

Taking the best player available sounds pretty easy. Spend all that money on scouting and analysis, and then on draft day, have all the players ranked and take the best one that’s on the board. What if you even have the first overall pick? You’re the team who can have any player you want with no worry that some other team is going to grab the player before you get to pick. Should be really easy, right? How many times in the 17 drafts that have been analyzed here so far, did the team with the first overall pick take the best player available?

Answer: 9

So approximately only half the time, the team with the number one overall pick was able to identify the best player available. Some were even missed badly. Some years, every team whiffed on the best player available, as that player wasn’t even taken until after the first round. Let’s look at the players take and who should have been take first overall.

2000

The first draft I’ve tracked, 2000, was an interesting year. A goalie was the first pick in the draft and a goalie was the best player available in the draft. Sounds like it should be a slam dunk. You’d also think the best player would be taken somewhere in the first 200 picks. But he wasn’t. In this draft, Rick DiPietro from Boston University was selected first overall by the Islanders and in 2006, signed a 15 year contract. A contract that would have expired only this year. But the best player available was taken 205th overall, in the 7th round, by the other New York City team, the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist. The rest of the top five selected were Dany Heatley by Atlanta, Marian Gaborik by Minnesota, Rostilav Klesla to Columbus and Raffi Torres to the Islanders. The best players available after Lundqvist were Gaborik, Heatley, then Justin Williams by the Flyers at 28 and Lubomir Visnovsky, taken by the Kings at 118. We have two players selected after the top 100 and one that barely made it into the first round that were among the top five players.

PickPlayerTeamPickPlayerTeam
1Rick DiPietroIslanders205Henrik LundqvistRangers
2Dany HeatleyThrashers3Marion GaborikWild
3Marian GaborikWild2Dany HeatleyThrashers
4Rostilav KleslaBlue Jackets28Justin WilliamsFlyers
5Raffi ToresIslanders118Lubomir VisnovskyKings
2000 Actual Draft and Top 5 Best Available

2001

The 2001 draft was only marginally better, but by a slim margin. The top five players selected were: Ilya Kovalchuk to Atlanta, Jason Spezza to Ottawa, Alexander Svitov to Tampa Bay, Stephen Weiss to Florida and Stanislav Chistov to Anaheim at #5. These look like a couple pretty big whiffs at what should be some easy selections. The top five players available in this draft were, Craig Anderson to the Blackhawks at 73, Mike Smith to Dallas at 161, Spezza at 2, Kovalchuk at 1 and Jason Pominville to Buffalo at 55. That’s three players that any team could have easily had with their first round pick. We’re only looking at the first five picks in a draft and it already seems like it’s hard to take the best players.

PickPlayerTeamPickPlayerTeam
1Ilya KovalchukThrashers73Craig AndersonBlackhawks
2Jason SpezzaSenators161Mike SmithStars
3Alexander SvitovLightning2Jason SpezzaSenators
4Stephen WeissPanthers1Ilya KovalchukThrashers
5Stanislav ChistovDucks55Jason PominvilleSabres
2001 Actual Draft and Top 5 Best Available

2002

In 2002, we can say that three of the top five players were selected in the top 5. The draft order this year was Rick Nash to Columbus, Kari Lehtonen to Atlanta, Jay Bouwmeester to Florida, Joni Pitkanen to the Flyers and Ryan Whitney to the Penguins. However the order of the best players available in the top five is Lehtonen at 1, Cam Ward was taken 25th by Carolina, Duncan Keith at 54 by the Blackhawks, Nash 4th and Boumeester fifth. The sixth best player available in this draft was Dennis Wideman, who’d been selected 241st overall by Buffalo.

PickPlayerTeamPickPlayerTeam
1Rick NashBlue Jackets2Kari LehtonenThrashers
2Kari LehtonenThrashers25Cam WardHurricanes
3Jay BoumeesterPanthers54Duncan KeithBlackhawks
4Joni PitkanenFlyers1Rick NashBlue Jackets
5Ryan WhitneyPenguins3Jay BoumeesterPanthers
2002 Actual Draft and Top 5 Best Available

2003

This draft finally had the best player chosen first, but then a couple other misses. The Pittsburgh Penguins drafted first overall and got their franchise goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury. Next up was Carolina, taking Eric Staal, then Florida drafting Nathan Horton. At 4, Columbus took Nikolai Zherdev and Buffalo finished the top five by taking Thomas Vanek. If we look at the top five available, it starts with Fleury but then goes to Brent Burns, selected 20th by Minnesota, then Shea Weber taken 49th by Nashville. Nashville also got the fourth best player in this draft at 7 overall with Ryan Suter. In fifth place, and just barely beating out Staal is the 45th overall pick to the Boston Bruins, Patrice Bergeron.

PickPlayerTeamPickPlayerTeam
1Marc-Andre FleuryPenguins1Marc-Andre FleuryPenguins
2Eric StaalHurricanes20Brent BurnsWild
3Nathan HortonPanthers49Shea WeberPredators
4Nikolai ZherdevBlue Jackets7Ryan SuterPredators
5Thomas VanekSabres45Patrice BergeronBruins
2003 Actual Draft and Top 5 Best Available

Additional years coming soon.

“The Bruins are Ruined!”

Each year, all NHL teams are given seven draft picks, roughly in the reverse order of how they finished in the standings. Teams are free to trade those picks for other picks or for players. In a normal year, if you can get an NHL contributing player out of your first two rounds, you’ve done pretty ok for the team. Definitely not something that I’d consider a failure.

From the 2015 draft, the Bruins did exactly that, and more. They got at least two contributing NHL players from the first two rounds, Jake DeBrusk and Brandon Carlo. Jakub Zboril can also even be considered a bonus. However, some segment of the Bruins fan population like to claim that the franchise was ruined, destroyed, by that draft.

The Bruins franchise was NOT destroyed by that draft. Teams whiff on draft picks every year. There is no single draft that destroys a team. However, the Bruins could have done much, much better at the draft. There is no question about that. There were much better players available than they took. But being able to do better and destroying the team are two vastly different things. I do think that if they drafted better, the Bruins would be better. But again, that is totally different than “ruined the team.”

In 2015, the Bruins whiffed, and whiffed badly. Their picks of Zboril, DeBrusk and Senyshyn were not the best players available at the 13, 14, and 15 draft slots. This is not an apology for the Bruins draft that year (it was terrible!) but more of an explanation that yeah, teams miss. So let’s try this. With the 100% benefit of hindsight, let’s redo the 2015 draft and see who each team would end up with.

In past articles, I’ve explained the system I’m using based off the Point Shares metric from Hockey Reference. If we’re going to use the narrative that the Bruins should have been perfect and nailed all three of those picks in 2015, then let’s be consistent and use the narrative that every team nailed their picks too. So either “stuff happens” and teams miss on picks (as the Bruins did) or “everyone should be perfect” and we’ll see what the first round of the 2015 draft looks like, if every team took the Best Player Available.

Redrafting 2015
Redoing the 2015 NHL Draft

There we have it. The Bruins should have ended up with Timo Meier, Thomas Chabot and Vince Dunn. No question, that’s still far better than what they ended up with, but all the clamor that they should have Barzal or Connor or Boeser doesn’t hold water. We can’t expect the Bruins to be perfect and not expect that everywhere else.

Some of the other interesting spots, DeBrusk isn’t even the highest ranking Bruin. Brandon Carlo was one spot after the Bruins selected, going to Winnipeg. And DeBrusk, rated as the 19th best North American skater by the NHL’s Central Scouting rankings is the 19th best player from the 2015 draft, just five spots lower than he was actually selected.

We see that McDavid and Marner were selected right where they’ve turned out. But imagining Carolina with Mikko Rantanen instead of Sebastian Aho. Imagine Kyle Connor on Broad Street with the Flyers. Noah Hanifin going to Colorado, instead of Rantanen. The emerging Mangiapane in Anaheim. And imagine Roope Hintz in Montreal instead of in Dallas.It’s a fun exercise and sure, yell and scream for Don Sweeney to be fired. But to claim that the team was ruined by this one draft is just nonsense. If someone wanted to make the argument that the Bruins have been more harmed by the four years of 2017 to 2020 first round draft picks being:

  • 2017: Urho Vaakanainen
  • 2018: No pick
  • 2019: John Beecher
  • 2020: No pick

then that could hold more weight. The team is still waiting on Urho to develop into an NHL player, Beecher is still in college and when you give up your first round pick, you’re hampering the team’s ability to add young, cheap talent later.

The Boston Bruins are far more hampered by these four draft years than it is from the result of the 2015 draft.