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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