There are some pretty bitter people on Hockey Twitter today, what with the Leafs drafting so many draft over-agers, not to mention a trio of defensemen with questionable offensive upside.
I’m not one of those bitter people though. The draft is such a crapshoot, and in reality, many of the players I would’ve preferred the Leafs to have taken at a given pick will in end up being absolutely nothing anyways. Such is the random nature of the draft.
There’s also another reason not to be too upset: the Leafs made 10 picks today. Given the aforementioned random nature of the draft, to me once you’re getting past the first couple of rounds it’s more important to have a quantity of picks rather than a quality.
In fact, if history is any indication, the Leafs probably did really well for themselves today. If history is any indication, the Leafs probably drafted at least one long-time NHLer.
What I did is this: I took the overall selections that the Leafs made this weekend (1, 31, 57, 62, 72, 92, 101, 122, 152, 179, and 182). Then I looked at the players those picks wielded in every draft between 2000 and 2009 (a time frame with a good mixture of recency and distance).
The results were even better than I expected. Below you’ll see a table in which I’ve compiled the results of each draft sorted by the player that wielded the most NHL games played, to the player that wielded the least amount of NHL games played (in this case we’re only counting the players that played at least 1 NHL game). In other words, I’ve sorted the collection of draft picks the Leafs made today by points per game in a given draft year.
Asterisks denote players that are still active in the NHL (defined as having played the majority of their games in the NHL this past season).
We should make careful consideration of the fact that 1st overall picks are being included here, so they make up many of the players with either the most or second most amount of games played in the NHL.
However, as we can see, quite literally 90% of drafts in this study wielded an NHL regular that wasn’t the 1st overall pick when considering the exact collection of 11 picks the Leafs made this weekend.
Now, using NHL games played can be deceiving when it comes to prospect evaluation, so I’ve listed the players by name in their given draft year, in the order in which they show up in the above table (i.e., most NHL games played to least NHL games played).
Paul Martin, Rick DiPietro
Jay McClement, Ilya Kovalchuk, Andrew Alberts, Matthew Spiller, Tom Kavanagh, Brandon Nolan
Rick Nash, Matt Stajan, Jeff Deslauriers, Andre Deveaux
David Backes, Marc-Andre Fleury, Bruno Gervais, Alexander Sulzer, Corey Pottery, Danny Richmond, Brad Murray
Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Nikulin
Sidney Crsoby, Kris Letang, Jared Boll, Jonathan Quick, Brendan Mikkelson, Matt Kassian, Brett Sutter
Cal Clutterbuck, Erik Johnson, Mike Weber, Jan Mursak, Tomas Kana
Patrick Kane, Paul Byron, Drayson Bowman, T.J. Brennan, Jon Kalinski, Mark Katic
Steven Stamkos, Mark Barberio, Jacob Markstrom, Dustin Tokarski
John Tavares, Casey Cizikas, Erik Haula, Anders Lee, Michael Latta, Anders Nilsson, Brandon Kozun, Mikko Koskinen, Anton Klementyev
As we can see, most drafts actually produced at least one pretty useful player. And in fact, a bit more often than you’d expect, the most experienced player out of a given draft using our collection of picks wasn’t even the first overall pick. If the Leafs can even get themselves a Cal Clutterbuck or Mike Weber out of today, that wouldn’t be amazing, but it would still be an upgrade on how they’ve done in recent years.
Obviously this isn’t an exact science and we can’t guarantee the Leafs actually got someone out of today. For example, the 2004 draft produced Alex Ovechkin and nobody else using the picks we’re working with.
Another obvious problem is the fact that these picks are spread across multiple teams, which allows for a more varied and diverse collection of scouting minds being considered. Would the same success rate of finding a player hold true if it were held across one team, working with just one list, working with just one scouting director?
Still, the results here are pretty encouraging. The draft is random, and if history is any indication, the Leafs’ plethora of picks today will likely wield at least one NHL regular. That’s most certainly a reason for optimism.