There’s been lots of talk about rethinking the way we talk about prospects on TLN lately. Steve got the conversation started with his article and video on the prospect pyramid, and Jeff made a rebuttal that pointed out some of the weaknesses of the idea. I personally side more with Steve than Jeff, and think that the discourse surrounding draft prospects is incredibly arbitrary.
This can be applied to more than just prospect rankings within an organization. The other big, and much more common way that we talk about ranking prospects, is through the draft.
Every draft list without fail, until a given publication releases their full rankings, is a top 30 of that publication’s favorite draft prospects in a given year. The idea is that there are/were 30 teams in the league, so doing a top 30 represents the consensus first-rounders of a given draft.
It looks like some NHL teams even adhere to this practice. In 2013, the Philadelphia Flyers accidentally leaked the top portion of their draft board in a behind-the-scenes video (which now appears to be offline). You can’t see the video anymore, but as you can see from the forum post, the Flyers’ board was essentially just one long list, with no way to discern quality of prospect other than how high someone was ranked.
Now, here’s an example of doing it right (or at least better). The Dallas Cowboys accidentally leaked their draft board this year, and as you can see in the table below, they actually make at least some distinction in prospect tier, separating players by the round they think the player is worth going in.
Granted, I still think this can be improved upon. For example, tiers might exist within a given round (i.e., you might think the player first overall on your draft board is in a class of their own). I also think there are ways you can further conceptualize tiers, or categorize players in different ways. For example, putting players you think have high upside and a high probability of reaching their upside in one category, putting players you think have high upside but a low probability of reaching their upside in another category, and so on. This is something I might look at in a later post.
I should also mention I know that some teams already do this, at least to the same extent as the Dallas Cowboys. Others, through (like the 2013 Flyers) appear to be behind the curve. This is just another small way in which teams can seemingly improve what they’re doing.
And I think maybe more importantly, because the reach is far greater, draft publications should start doing the same. Doing top 30s make little sense and only mislead people. The suggestion that they make is that between 30 and 31 exists a gigantic gap. This isn’t practical or effective, and only makes hockey fans, and the conversations that we have, stupider.