Draft Pick Value and the Leafs’ Stake in the Rest of the Playoffs

There’s at least one former Leaf on each of the four remaining teams in the NHL playoffs.  But the Leafs have a little more stake in what happens the rest of the way than just that.

You all know the Leafs own Pittsburgh’s 1st-round pick in this year’s draft courtesy of the Phil Kessel trade.  By now you’ve probably heard that if San Jose can reach the Stanley Cup Finals, the Leafs  get the Sharks’ 3rd-round pick in 2018 instead of a 4th-round pick as part of the James Reimer deal.  The Leafs also own the 6th-round pick of the Blues in this year’s draft thanks to last year’s Olli Jokinen trade, which you might’ve forgotten about.

But just how much value do the Leafs get out of a different playoff result for each of these teams?  How much-added value do the Leafs get in Pittsburgh losing in the Eastern Conference Final versus them winning the Cup?  What happens to the value of St. Louis’ pick if they were to lose out now or in June?

There’s no perfect science to determining this, but we can come pretty close.  Earlier this month I compiled a bunch of different research that’s been done on the value of NHL draft picks to determine whether or not it made sense for the Leafs to look to trade up in the 1st round with Pittsburgh’s pick.  Today I’m going to rely once again on one of those resources: the Shuckers Draft Pick Value Chart.

Basically, St. Lawrence University statistics professor Michael Schuckers looked at every draft pick between 1988 and 1997 and used NHL games played as a measure to assign an objective value to each pick.  The draft picks years observed likely makes the study a little outdated and the lack of measures used means it’s not going to give us a perfect answer here, but it’s better than nothing.

So, how much value is there to be lost as it relates to the final placing of St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and San Jose in the standings?

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 12.13.04 PM

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 12.13.04 PM

ST. LOUIS BLUES

Given the fact that St. Louis finished with more points in the regular season than either of the Eastern Conference Finalists, the Blues’ pick is guaranteed to be the 28th, 29th, or 30th pick in round 6.  Looking at the chart, the values assigned to those respective picks is 68, 68, and 67.  So, if the Blues won the Stanley Cup rather than either lose in the Stanley Cup Finals or Western Conference Finals, the Leafs would only lose out on 1 draft pick point.

In other words, it really makes little to no difference to the Leafs what happens to the Blues in the final two rounds of the playoffs.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Depending on how things shake out in both conferences, the Leafs’ second 1st-round pick courtesy of Pittsburgh could land anywhere between 27th and 30th overall.

Here are the values assigned to each of those placements:

  • 27th overall pick: 291 points
  • 28th overall pick: 283 points
  • 29th overall pick: 275 points
  • 30th overall pick: 265 points

In other words, the gap isn’t massive, but there is a gap that exists.  For example, looking at the various values on our chart, the difference between the Leafs picking 27th overall and 30th overall is the same gap that exists between picking 22nd overall and 20th overall.  Or, if we want to look further down the draft board, it’s roughly the gap between picking atop the 4th round and picking in the middle of the 4th round.

In other words, there’s some reason to care about Pittsburgh’s fate as it relates to the Leafs’ draft pick, but you shouldn’t lose too much sleep over it.  If anything, the difference between picking 27th and 30th matters more subjectively for the Leafs as a front office – a player that they like that’s available 27th overall might be off the board by the time the 30th pick rolls around.  Such a situation might matter on an individual basis (i.e. from draft to draft), but as we can see, that doesn’t matter too much when you’re looking at the big picture.

In any event, it’s certainly fair to care a little bit about this outcome.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

As was mentioned in the previous section, the gap between picking 27th and 30th is the same gap that exists between picking at the top of the 4th round and in the middle of the 4th round.  It might not surprise you, then, that the biggest gap in draft pick value for the Leafs lies not with the Penguins and the state of their 1st-round pick, but with the San Jose Sharks and whether or not the Leafs will be picking in the 3rd round or the 4th round come 2018.

For example, the gap between picking 61st overall and 91st overall is 47 points – a gap that’s a full 21 points bigger than the difference between picking 27th and 30th.

More examples: the difference between picking 70th overall and 100th overall is 66 points.  As we can see, the value of a 4th round draft pick quickly plummets the deeper into the round you go.

The difference between picking 80th overall and 110th overall is 62 points.  The gap between picking 90th overall and 120th overall is 43 points.  You get the idea.

I think the biggest thing I can say to this is that, if the Leafs moved up multiple spots in the first round, you’d get worked up over that.  Well, the gap in value between 3rd- and 4th-round picks, as this chart shows, is equal to doing just that.  So this is certainly something to care about.

It should also be noted that the Leafs still have to give up 3rd-round picks for both Mike Babcock and Lou Lamoriello.  The Babcock pick has to be given up either this year or next, and the Lamoriello pick has to ve given up this year, next year, or yes, in 2018.  The Leafs own two 3rd-round picks in this year’s draft (their own and the Devils), as well as their own in 2017 and 2018.  If the Sharks were to make the Finals, the Leafs would have added flexibility as far as when and which picks to give up.  That’s no small thing – most notably, if the Leafs were to wait until 2018 to give up their 3rd-round pick for Lamoriello, they’d have the choice of giving up the lower pick between theirs and the Sharks.

CONCLUSION

Here’s the tl;dr version: there’s no real reason to care what happens to St. Louis the rest of the way, you should care a little about what happens to Pittsburgh but not that much, and you should certainly care a little bit more about what happens with San Jose, as it has multiple implications for the Leafs moving forward.

  • SEER

    General Fanager shows the Leafs not having those third round picks in 2017 and 2018 because the site has already “traded” them to the Wings and Devils. We would get to use San Jose’s pick in 2018.

  • Shawn Reis

    the draft order matters, because if teams are like me and most commenters, we ‘target’ a player, and guesstimate where they will get drafted, and must take them before that spot. the best example is ulf dahlen son jonathan. ‘hockey prospects’ has him in the 1st round, while ‘css’ has him 11th european, = available with the 56th or 61st pick. so even though he is 20th bpa, gamble that he’s still there, but no later. meanwhile, mascherin, who ‘mock’ has 20th, css around 44th, will definitely not be there by 56th, so we’d have to take him 29th/31st. also gamble niemelainen still there at 56th, vs taking him 31st, and assume Day still there 56th/61st. u18 worlds standouts kuokkanen (comparison = granlund) and wahlgren, assume kuokannen won’t go any higher than dzierkals or saarela last year, so could gamble on 70th spot. safely assume wahlgren and OA players wiederer (Q playoff standout) and rykov (world u18 and world junior standout) won’t go before 4th round, so take goalie and wahlgren 91st, or 101st, and OA players (though dzierkals, 65th last year, is a comparable) in late 4th, or 5th or early 6th. all the above players should become middle 6 forwards, or middle pairing d-men, never mind statistics of draft order.

    • Gary Empey

      Re- “the draft order matters”

      You are so right. These type of studies can only put a vaguely, general value to to each pick, years after the fact.

      Even if you set aside the trade value of the pick, you can bet the farm, that Hunter and the whole damn scouting team, really wants the 27th pick a hell of a lot more then the 30th. After all, this is the very reason the Leafs have aprox 30 people employed exclusively scouting draft picks.

      While the value of picking 1st or 5th will change in the later rounds, the importance of picking 31th or 35th is still there when the Leafs are sitting at the draft table.

    • Shawn Reis

      I don’t really think they do it that way, picking targets. They’ll rank the players. Then they pick the best available player (or one of the best, if maybe they already picked a goalie and don’t want another…). Occasionally they may pass on the best player on their list if they are confident no other team will pick him before their next pick (I do this in my hockey pools… Sometimes you get burned, but it’s a calculated risk, player is generally ranked 90th,, but I’ve got him ranked 60th, no point wasting 70th pick on him if I also have the 82nd pick). The Leafs won’t put as much effort into scouting players they expect will be picked 2-25th, but they’d be negligent if they didn’t have them ranked in case some of them fell to their pick.

  • SEER

    Don’t the pick that the Leafs have to give up to the Wings and New Jersey have to be their own or a higher pick. They couldn’t use the Sharks 2018 pick as compensation unless the Sharks finished worse than the Leafs.

  • Gary Empey

    Edit – “Shawn not Jeffler”- You mention professor Schucker’s statistics from 88 to 97 being “a little outdated”

    With the salary cap now in place it may be more outdated than one might think.

    So many teams are bringing entry level players up early to cope with the cap. This in turn has shortened the career of a lot of solid average NHL veterans.

    As you say this dated study is the best available.

  • Shawn Reis

    (Continued)

    If a team feels a player is undervalued by others, they can consider trading down to a more appropriate pick where they think they can still get him. This is probably the only way in which a team would actually have a plan to target a player. I imagine they have statistical models of where they think each player will be picked (25% chance by 40th, 50% chance by 50th, etc)

    Alternatively, if a team feels a player has fallen, they can trade up to get him, which is what Philly did last year to get Konecny (who by my measure has turned into a top 10 player from that draft!)

  • StubbleJumper

    There is one sentimental reason why Leafs fans might want to see the Blues exit stage right. St. Louis is the only other franchise – besides our beloved Leafs – that is closing in on a 50 year Stanley Cup drought. I know, I know, there are other expansion teams (post ’67, besides the Blues) that have NEVER won the Cup…. but at least at this point the Leafs share the 50 year ignominy with the Blues. If St. Louis wins, we stand alone.