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The Highest Value NHL Draft Classes (2000-2010)

With the 2014 draft upon us, we thought it would be interesting to look back at some prior years to review how teams have done in terms of value picks. A conventional review of a draft class would include a summary of points, usually of the guys at the top, to assess whether or not the class was a success.

In this column's approach, we've scaled the picks based on round/number selected so that a player chosen in the seventh round would be deemed more “valuable” than a player with the same points who was selected 1st overall. It’s more of a review on the scouting staff and their ability to find value after the top picks than anything else. 

Here's a quick rundown of the methodology:

- Forwards were graded based on points and games played in the NHL, with points holding more weight. First and second line forwards play more minutes and usually contribute more to wins than guys in the bottom six.

- Defensemen were graded based on points and games played in the NHL, weighted equally. (Most) Defensemen aren’t expected to produce as much offensively as forwards and the role of a shut-down defenseman would be diminished if the same grading as forwards was used.

- Goalies obviously are not valued on points, so games played was the only metric measured. I multiplied this by two as forwards and defensemen each had two stat categories.

- The players were then scaled based on when they were drafted – position picked over total number of players selected in a given year, and discounted so that each year is at the same level.

Some limitations should be evident at this point as advanced metrics were not analyzed. Plus/minus was not included as it is largely a function of a team’s success and I wanted to look at players on an individual basis. Save percentage wasn’t included for goalies either but this should be reflected in the number of games played over time – i.e. a goalie who lets in a lot of goals should, in theory, play less games. 

The following argument can (and should) be made: if a player was drafted by a bottom feeding team, they surely would have a better opportunity to play in games (due to worse rosters) and subsequently should generate more points.

Despite this, it was surprising to see that the top 3 teams in terms of value picks from 2000-2010 (1. Montreal, 2. Chicago, and 3. Los Angeles) were all semi-finalists in 2014. The bottom 3 (30. New Jersey, 29. Vancouver, and 28. Calgary) all missed the playoffs – I’d argue that these teams are heading in the wrong direction due to a lack of organizational depth as well.

This trend would suggest that players on teams that are drafting well may also be finding success elsewhere in the league when the opportunity presents itself via trade or free agency.

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In addition to the above, there were several other key takeaways for me in the analysis which may be worth exploring in more detail at a later time. I’ve briefly highlighted them below:

1) Offensive defensemen can be found late in the draft

Jared Spurgeon (2008, round 6), Andrew MacDonald (2006, round 6), Keith Yandle (2005, round 4), Mark Streit (2004, round 9), Dustin Byfuglien (2003, round 8), Tobias Enstrom (2003, round 8), Dennis Wideman (2002, round 8), Marek Zidlicky (2001, round 6), and Lubomir Visnovsky (2000, round 4) were all drafted in mid-to-late rounds.

2) Drafting a goalie in the first round is very high risk/reward

For every starter picked in the first round there is a goalie who failed to play even a few games in the NHL. From 2000 to 2008, 22 goalies were selected in round 1. Out of those 22, 11 have played more than 100 NHL games (this 11 also includes some goalies who are no longer in the league: Rick DiPietro, Pascal Leclaire, and Devan Dubnyk). The 2006 goalie class provides a nice case and point of this boom/bust quality with two (Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier) becoming solid NHL goaltenders and the other two (Leland Irving and Riku Helenius) no longer being in the league. 

3) The “KHL factor” may be a blessing in disguise for scouts

Fewer players are being selected out of Russia in round 1 yet the ones who are, appear to be more productive. The sample size is admittedly small post-KHL inception but Vladimir Tarasenko and Evgeny Kuznetsov both appear as though they’ll have productive NHL careers. Pre-KHL inception, and excluding the elite talent taken at number 1 or 2 overall, there are numerous examples of picks not panning out: Nikita Filatov at number 6 in 2008, Nikolai Zherdev at number 4 in 2003, Alexander Svitov at number 3 and Stanislav Chistov at number 5 in 2001, and too many busts to list in 2000. This would suggest that teams are only going to draft top-level talent out of Russia in round 1, given the additional level of risk.

4) Bad “GM’ing” can trump good scouting

I’m using bad “GM’ing” pretty liberally here but I’m really referring to bad trades or not signing a pick who pans out. There are countless occasions of late round, or even first round, value picks producing for a team that didn’t draft them. Examples include Patrick Sharp going to the Flyers in round 3 (2001), Matt Moulson going in round 9 to the Penguins (2003), or Jared Spurgeon in round 6 to the Islanders (2008). 

2010 Draft Class

Top 3 Classes: 1. Carolina, 2. Anaheim, 3. Edmonton
Bottom 3 Classes: 30. Phoenix, 29. Dallas, 28. NY Rangers

Best/Worst Explained:

It’s tough to get a great read on this draft as we’re only four years removed from it. Most of the value picks in the later rounds would not have gotten a shot in the NHL at this stage. Similarly, the top picks would have been given a chance out of the gate and therefore a team like the Oilers, with only Taylor Hall and Martin Marincin doing anything at the NHL level, showing in the top 3.

No doubts about number one and two though. Jeff Skinner was a great pick at number 7 overall and Justin Faulk has been a very productive second round pick for Carolina. Getting Frederik Andersen in the seventh round was also great value (although he wasn’t signed and was later re-drafted by the Ducks in 2012). Anaheim did well getting Cam Fowler at 12 overall, Emerson Etem at 29, and Devante Smith-Pelly at 42.

Vancouver actually had the lowest ranking here but with no picks in the first three rounds, they’re given a pass. Toronto’s in a similar situation with no first rounder. That leaves us with Phoenix whose four picks in the first two rounds have yet to pan out – Brandon Gormley (13), Mark Visentin (27), Phil Lane (52), and Oscar Lindberg (57). Gormley had a nice AHL season this past year and goalies usually take longer to develop so the verdict is still out on this class long term.

Best value pick in later rounds: Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens, pick 147 (round 5) 

2009 Draft Class

Top 3 Classes: 1. Colorado, 2. NY Islanders, 3. Nashville
Bottom 3 Classes: 30. Carolina, 29. Montreal, 28. St. Louis

Best/Worst Explained:

Colorado added some key pieces to their roster in the ‘09 draft which contributed to this year’s turnaround season. Matt Duchene (3), Ryan O’Reilly (33), and Tyson Barrie (64) are arguably three of Colorado’s top five or six skaters. Stefan Elliot is the one pick in the first three rounds who hasn’t been a regular with the Avalanche but he has posted strong possession stats at the NHL level and should compete for a roster spot this season. The NY Islanders’ class is largely tied to John Tavares at this stage but selecting Casey Cizikas in round 4 was a nice value pick. Nashville found a couple of solid players in Craig Smith (98) and Gabriel Bourque (132) in the later rounds.

The players that the bottom three teams chose haven’t shown much to date in the NHL. Montreal recently sent Louis Leblanc, their first round pick at 18 overall, to Anaheim for a conditional fifth-rounder. David Rundblad was selected 17th overall by St.Louis and has been bouncing around the minor leagues for a few years in the Ottawa, Phoenix, and Chicago systems. He put together a solid 2012-2013 season with the Portland Pirates in the AHL and St. Louis did received a first rounder in the 2010 draft from Ottawa, which turned out to be Vladimir Tarasenko. So by no means was this a completely wasted pick for them. Carolina selected Philippe Paradis at 27 who has yet to play an NHL game. Their second round pick, Brian Dumoulin, was packaged to Pittsburgh in the Jordan Staal trade and has played only five NHL games to date but may get a longer look in training camp this year.

Best value pick in later rounds: Craig Smith, Nashville Predators, pick 98 (round 4) 

2008 Draft Class

Top 3 Classes: 1. NY Islanders, 2. Los Angeles, 3. NY Rangers
Bottom 3 Classes: 30. Boston, 29. Carolina, 28. Chicago

Best/Worst Explained:

The New York Islanders rank high here for three reasons: 1) they had a ton of picks (13 in total), 2) they rushed some of their picks to the NHL (e.g. Justin Bailey), and 3) their scouting staff did a great job in the later rounds. They drafted Jared Spurgeon in round 6, Matt Martin and Kevin Poulin in round 5, Matt Donovan in round 4, and Travis Hamonic in round 2. This type of draft, where the team’s later picks outperformed most of their second and third rounders, makes an argument that having several late round picks may be more valuable than a single second or third[J4] . In addition to Drew Doughty at number 2 overall, the Kings added a top-4 defensemen in Vyacheslav Voynov in round 2. The NY Rangers also added several useful pieces including Michael Del Zotto (20), Derek Stepan (51), and Dale Weise (111).

Montreal and Pittsburgh ranked lowest in 2008 but with only two combined picks in the first three rounds, they’ve been given a pass for the three teams listed above. Boston’s first pick, Joe Colborne at 16 overall, failed to stick with the Bruins or the Leafs. He put up 28 points this past season with Calgary and had pretty good advanced stats, but this can still be considered disappointing for a 24 year old former first rounder at this stage. Their second, third, and fourth rounders (Maxime Sauve, Michael Hutchinson, and Jamie Arniel) have yet to play more than a couple of games each with an NHL club. Both Carolina and Chicago ranked low as they failed to get much out of their first rounders (Zach Boychuk and Kyle Beach respectively). It should be pointed out that Chicago did have a nice pickup with Ben Smith in round 6.

Best value pick in later rounds: Jason Demers, San Jose Sharks, pick 186 (round 7)

2007 Draft Class

Top 3 Classes: 1. Montreal, 2. Los Angeles, 3. San Jose
Bottom 3 Classes: 30. Vancouver, 29. Boston, 28. Ottawa

Best/Worst Explained:

With most of the 2007 draft picks being 25 years old now, it’s easier to assess whether or not these guys will become NHL regulars. I’d argue that this is the age a player loses their “prospect” tag. The top three teams all had great classes here. Montreal got Ryan McDonagh at 12 (brutal trade to New York excluded), Max Pacioretty at 17, P.K. Subban in the second round, and a serviceable Yannick Weber in round 3. LA landed Wayne Simmonds in round 2 plus Alec Matinez and Dwight King in round 4, while San Jose selected Justin Braun in round 7, Nick Bonino in round 6, and Logan Couture at number 9 overall.

While Vancouver didn’t have a third or fourth round pick in 2007, their first two picks in this draft, Patrick White (25) and Taylor Ellington (33), haven’t played an NHL game to date. With no late round sleepers either, this draft can be considered a failed attempt. Same goes for Boston with no third or fourth rounder but their first two picks, Zach Hamill (8) and Tommy Cross (35), haven’t been able to produce in the NHL. Jim O’Brien, Ottawa’s first round pick at 29 overall, has played just over 60 games at the NHL level, while their second (Ruslan Bashkirov), third (Louie Caporusso), and fourth rounders (Ben Blood) have yet to play a game.

Best value pick in later rounds: Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars, pick 129 (round 5)

2006 Draft Class

Top 3 Classes: 1. Boston, 2. Washington, 3. Toronto
Bottom 3 Classes: 30. Calgary, 29. Tampa Bay 28. Nashville

Best/Worst Explained:

Boston’s 2006 class has certainly contributed to their recent success. At number 5 overall, they drafted Phil Kessel, in the second round, they drafted Milan Lucic, and in the third, they drafted Brad Marchand. While all three are no doubt polarizing players, they’ve all enjoyed production at the NHL level. Washington drafted Nicklas Backstrom at number 4 overall, Semyon Varlamov at 23, Michal Neuvirth in the second round, and Mathieu Perrault in the sixth. Toronto was also able to find value in the sixth round with Viktor Stalberg as well as in the fourth round with James Reimer.

Calgary’s first rounder, Leland Irving, was at one point considered their goalie of the future but is now playing in the KHL. None of their seven other picks have played a game in the NHL. Tampa Bay didn’t have many picks in 2006 but their first rounder, goaltender Riku Helenius, has only played one game in the NHL and their third rounder, Kevin Quick, only six. Dallas’ fourth rounder, Richard Bachman, has been a productive AHL goalie yet their other four picks, including first rounder Ivan Vishnevsky have played a combined 12 NHL games (although Vishnevsky did land them starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen via a trade with Atlanta).

Best value pick in later rounds: Andrew MacDonald, NY Islanders, pick 160 (round 6)

2005 Draft Class

Top 3 Classes: 1. Montreal, 2. Pittsburgh, 3. Los Angeles
Bottom 3 Classes: 30. Florida, 29. NY Islanders, 28. Calgary

Best/Worst Explained:

Despite not winning the Sidney Crosby sweepstakes, the Montreal Canadiens did a good job of finding value in this draft. Carey Price turned out to be a great pick at number 5, while Guillaume Latendresse in the second, Sergei Kostitsyn in the seventh and Matt D’Agostini in the fourth have all been solid NHLers. Despite going 1st overall, Crosby still ranks as one of the highest on the “value chart” in this analysis showing just how good he’s been since coming into the league. The Penguins also landed Kris Letang in round 2 and Joe Vitale in round 7. Two of Los Angeles’ more valuable players in this year’s Cup run were drafted in 2005: Anze Kopitar at 11 and Jonathan Quick in round 3.

Florida’s first pick in 2005, Kenndal McArdle, scored a grand total of one goal in the NHL and played last season in Sweden’s second division. Their other seven picks in this draft, including second round goaltender Tyler Plante, have only played one combined game in the league. The NY Islanders’ 2005 first rounder, Ryan O’Marra, recently signed on to play with the Coventry Blaze in the EIHL. I hadn’t heard of them either. The Islanders failed to find any sleepers with their other six picks allowing them to join the Panthers at the bottom of the rankings. None of Calgary’s eight picks in this draft have amounted to much in the NHL, with their sixth rounder Brett Sutter proving to be the most valuable pick.

Best value pick in later rounds: Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes, pick 105 (round 4)

2004 Draft Class

Top 3 Classes: 1. Washington, 2. Montreal, 3. Pittsburgh
Bottom 3 Classes: 30. Atlanta/Winnipeg, 29. Los Angeles, 28. Philadelphia

Best/Worst Explained:

Back in 2004, the NHL draft had nine rounds allowing teams to find some even-later round sleepers like Pekka Rinne (Nashville, round 8) and Mark Streit (Montreal, round 9). Washington didn’t find a late round gem but Alex Ovechkin, similar to Sidney Crosby in 2005, has just been so good that their class ranks at number 1. Mike Green (29) and Jeff Schultz (27) also provided nice value for the Capitals as did Sami Lepisto in round 3. In addition to Mark Streit, the Canadiens scouting staff once again did a nice job of finding Mikhail Grabovski in round 5 and Alexei Emelin in round 3. Evgeni Malkin (2) and Alex Goligoski (61) highlight Pittsburgh’s 2004 class with Tyler Kennedy and Nick Johnson also adding value at picks 99 and 67 respectively.

The Winnipeg/Atlanta organization’s first round pick, Boris Valabik, last played in the NHL in 2010 and is currently playing in the Czech Extraliga. Their second round pick Grant Lewis and their other seven picks in this draft have combined to play two games in the NHL. Los Angeles didn’t fare much better as their first rounder, Lauri Tukkonen (11), hasn’t played a game in the NHL although they do get bonus points for taking Yutaka Fukufuji from Japan’s National Team in the eighth round.

Best value pick in later rounds: Mark Streit, Montreal Canadiens, pick 262 (round 9)

2003 Draft Class

Top 3 Classes: 1. Anaheim, 2. San Jose, 3. Chicago
Bottom 3 Classes: 30. Washington, 29. NY Rangers, 28. Phoenix

Best/Worst Explained:

The 2003 draft is known as one of the deepest drafts in recent history and is no different when scaled for value. Anahiem’s class ranks at the top as their first two picks (Ryan Getzlaf at 19 and Corey Perry at 28) are locks as Western Conference All-Stars and on Team Canada. They also found value in round 6 with Drew Miller and round 8 with Shane O’Brien. San Jose’s best pick, and one of the best over the decade, came in round 7 with Joe Pavelski. Pavelski makes up for their two first round picks, Milan Michalek (6) and Steve Bernier (16), being no better than average compared to the other first rounders in 2003. Matt Carle in round 2 also proved to be a valuable selection for the Sharks. Chicago had one of the best value picks in the decade with Dustin Byfuglen in round 8. Brent Seabrook (14) and Corey Crawford (52) have also been key components to their success the past few years.

Washington’s first pick, Eric Fehr (18), has been a solid fourth liner in the NHL but the selection could be viewed as disappointing in terms of relative value with the picks around him. None of their other picks in the 2003 draft have played more than one game at the NHL level. New York’s first rounder, Hugh Jessiman (12), has to go down as one of the worst in the decade with so many quality players going behind him. The only reason they’re ahead of Washington is because of Nigel Dawes (149) and Corey Potter (122) having played over 100 NHL games apiece. None of Phoenix’s eight picks have played a single NHL game but without a first or second rounder, it cannot be seen as disappointing as the two teams described above.

Best value pick in later rounds: Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks, pick 205 (round 7)

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2002 Draft Class

Top 3 Classes: 1. Detroit, 2. Chicago, 3. Toronto
Bottom 3 Classes: 30. Ottawa, 29. San Jose, 28. Vancouver

Best/Worst Explained:

Even without a first round pick, Detroit did a great job of adding solid players in 2002. Jiri Hudler and Tomas Fleischmann were chosen in round 2, Valtteri Filppula was selected in round 3, and Jonathan Ericsson in round 9. Chicago added another solid class picking Duncan Keith in round 2, James Wisniewski in round 5, and Adam Burish in round 9. In addition to drafting Alexander Steen at 24 overall, Toronto had nice value picks with Matt Stajan in round 2 and even more so with Ian White in round 6.

Ottawa’s first round pick Jakub Klepis (16) headlines a disappointing class with less than a full combined NHL season played between them. San Jose didn’t fare much better with the class combining for 4 total NHL goals (all by fifth rounder Kris Newbury). Their first round selection, Mike Morris (27), failed to suit up for a single game. Vancouver did not have a first rounder, but none of their eleven picks after the first (including two seconds and two thirds), scored a single NHL goal.

Best value pick in later rounds: Dennis Wideman, Buffalo Sabres, pick 241 (round 8) 

2001 Draft Class

Top 3 Classes: 1. Ottawa, 2. NY Rangers, 3. San Jose
Bottom 3 Classes: 30. Carolina, 29. New Jersey, 28. Tampa Bay

Best/Worst Explained:

Ottawa’s two first rounders in 2001, Jason Spezza (2) and Tim Gleason (23), have been mainstays in the NHL over the last decade. Throw in a couple late round value picks with Ray Emery in round 4 and Brooks Laich in round 6 and you’ve got a solid class for the Sens. The New York Rangers’ 2001 class could have been a lot better if it weren’t for goaltender Dan Blackburn suffering a career-ending nerve injury in his shoulder. Despite this, the team landed one of the best value picks of the draft with Marek Zidlicky in round 6 and Fedor Tyutin (40) has been a serviceable, if unspectacular, NHL defenseman. The Sharks found some nice late rounders in Christian Ehrhoff (round 4) and Ryane Clowe (round 6) to go along with Marcel Goc (20) in round 1.

Only Carolina’s second round pick did anything at the NHL level as Mike Zigmomani scored 21 career goals. Their first rounder, Igor Knyazev (15), never played an NHL game and has been jumping around the KHL over the last decade. Both Tampa Bay and New Jersey had a number of picks in this draft, 14 and 10 respectively, with none of their selections really panning out. The most disappointing being their first rounders of Alexander Svitov (Tampay Bay, 3) and Adrian Foster (New Jersey, 28).

Best value pick in later rounds: TIE – Marek Zidlicky, New York Rangers, pick 176 (round 6); Jussi Jokinen, Dallas Stars, pick 192 (round 6)

2000 Draft Class

Top 3 Classes: 1. Los Angeles, 2. Minnesota, 3. Ottawa
Bottom 3 Classes: 30. Chicago, 29. TIE – Florida, San Jose, Vancouver

Best/Worst Explained:

The Rick DiPietro draft goes down as a pretty weak one as it ranks lowest out of the drafts that were analyzed in terms of value. Los Angeles’ 2000 class however had some nice picks highlighted by Lubomir Visnovsky, who was selected in the fourth round. The Kings also drafted Alexander Frolov who scored 175 NHL goals at 20th overall and Andreas Lilja, who has played 580 NHL games, in round 2. A healthy Marian Gaborik, as evidenced by the King’s playoff run this year, can be a very effective offensive player and was a nice pick by the Wild at number 3 overall. Minnesota also added Nick Schultz, who has played close to 900 NHL games, in the second round. Ottawa drafted a few solid NHLers in this class with Anton Volchenkov (21) in round 1, Antoine Vermette in round 2, and Greg Zanon in round 5.

Despite having 15 picks in 2000, Chicago wasn’t able to find one regular NHLer. Their two first round picks at number 10 (Mikhail Takubov) and 11 overall (Pavel Vorobiev) combined for 12 NHL goals. Chicago edged out Florida, San Jose and Vancouver because of the two first round picks mentioned above but these three teams also had miserable drafts. The 22 players selected by these teams combined for 5 goals in the NHL; most notable in this group would be Vancouver’s pick at 23 (Nathan Smith) who failed to register a point in 26 games.

Best value pick in later rounds: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers, pick 205 (round 7)


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