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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