Tag Archives: NHL

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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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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