2015: The Sebastian Aho Penalty

Among Bruins fans, there’s often a loud group who hate General Manager Don Sweeney because of the 2015 draft. That draft was loaded with talent and while the Bruins ended up with multiple players who have contributed in the NHL, they could have done much better.

This led me to try to analytically figure out how good or bad Sweeney’s drafts have been. But to me, “good or bad” are subjective terms that need to be measured against his peers. So I am trying to compare his results to all other teams, and resulted in this, Analyzing Boston Bruins Drafts.

That led to some people enjoying it, some people deriding it and some offering alternative suggestions, including a path offered on Twitter by @CFPZach and Shawn Ferris of Evolving-Hockey.com. Shawn’s feedback was that games played is not best measure of a successful draft, it’s selecting the best player available at the time of the team’s pick. Let’s just agree that it is impossible for one team to always choose the best player available. With that in mind, the goal then is to minimize the losses and end up with a player who is still really good. Shawn’s suggestion then was to take a stat and compare the draft pick’s stat to the best player available (BPA) and calculate the “loss”. Then you can see how much loss one team took in a draft and rank those. Shawn’s suggestion for the stat was to use either “Wins Above Replacement” (WAR) or “Goals Above Replacement” (GAR).

I plan to use GAR for this analysis, but in the meantime, I did a quick check of the 2015 draft using the Point Shares (PS) stat from hockey-reference.com. I copied down two tables, first the order of the entire draft, and then the PS for every player in that draft. From there, I figured out for each draft pick who was the BPA at that moment. If it was the player selected (ie. Connor McDavid at #1 overall), then the team got a 0. As selecting the best player available is the goal, I don’t reward that, but the team does avoid a penalty. If the player was not the BPA, then I subtract the Point Share value of the Best Player Available, from the team’s draft pick. So how did it turn out and what is this “Sebastian Aho Penalty” mentioned?

As readers can guess, McDavid has the highest PS of any player selected in the 2015 draft, so the Oilers do get a 0 for that pick. Moving on to the #2 pick, Jack Eichel. Eichel has a 38.3 PS value, but is that the second best? Nope. The “Best Player Available” in the 2015 draft according to Point Shares is Sebastian Aho, who was taken 35th overall. This means that every player from Eichel through the 34th pick in the draft (Travis Dermott) is compared to Sebastian Aho, and his 40.9 PS score, at the time of this writing. Eichel is a great player with a great PS, but comparing him to Aho results in a -2.6 score for Buffalo. We see this penalty strongly come into play pretty quickly at the 3rd pick, Dylan Strome. Strome has a PS of 10.7 but counts as a -30.2 for Arizona in that slot.This penalty is truly amplified for the three first round picks by Boston:

  • Jake DeBrusk’s PS is 15.3, resulting in a -25.6.
  • Jakub Zboril’s PS is 2.0, resulting in a -38.9.
  • Zach Senyshyn has a PS of 0.2, giving the Bruins a -40.7 on his selection.

How the rest of the league fared:

Total Loss in Point Shares Per Team

Edmonton did extremely well by avoiding the Aho Penalty in the first round, the benefit of choosing McDavid. But one of the things that comes with the first overall pick is that you choose 31st overall. Aho was chosen 35th, so did Edmonton take the Aho Penalty in the second round? Nope. Their next pick was 117th overall, so they dodged it twice.

The Flames got extremely great value with Rasmus Andersson at 53 and a PS of 12.8, plus they got Andrew Mangiapane at 166 with a PS of 10.9. The Penguins also dodged the Aho bullet. Their first selection was 46th overall, taking Darren Sprong with a 6.2 PS and Dominik Simon at 137 and a 4.7 PS. The Bruins had 10 picks in this draft and their three first rounders don’t even combine for half of Aho’s value.

How did teams do if we average their loss per pick. Taking a look at the PS loss, averaged out:

Average PS Loss Per Pick

Not too much change at the top, Boston moves up a couple slots from the bottom but the big faller is the Capitals. They were 7th overall in PS loss but with only four picks, they were relatively big losses on each. They took Ilya Samsonov 22nd, who has a PS of 7.3 (-33.6) and they took Jonas Siegenthaler at 57. He has a PS of 3.2, resulting in a score of -11.8 to the Caps.

Each of the players that are the comparison, are considered “breakpoints”. Aho was the first breakpoint at 35th overall. But who were the rest? Next was Vince Dunn at 56th with a PS of 20.3, Markus Nuutivara at 189 with a PS of 15, Matt Roy with the Kings at 194th and a PS of 9.5, then Sami Niku of the Jets at 198th and a PS of 1.9 and the last breakpoint was Ottawa’s Joey Daccord at 199 and his PS of 1.1.

So there we have it. A first pass at figuring out how teams do when they don’t select the best player available. I’ll run these numbers again using the GAR value from Evolving Hockey and see how the standings change from here. As always, I’m open to suggestions for tweaks, as you can find me on Twitter at @plaverty24.@plaverty24