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How Important Is Drafting?

It seems like we get dragged down in a lot of talk about how important lottery picks and ELCs are, but I think we mostly agree that it's pretty difficult to plan around those.  So I decided to look at something that you can plan around - drafting.  How important has drafting and internally developing players been to the Stanley Cup champions since the lockout?  Maybe someone has made a post like this before, I haven't been here long so I'm not sure, but I think this is interesting info anyway.

I only wanted to look at key players, but I wanted to do this as objectively as possible.  Since playoff performances are ultimately what wins championships, I'm going to do this based on playoff rather than regular season stats.  I'm going to rank the top 6 forwards by playoff points, the top 4 defenceman by playoff minutes-per-game, and the top goalie based on wins.  This may seem like it ignores the role of the checking forward, but when you see these lists you'll notice that checking line players actually appear for multiple teams (which also proves how important depth is in case your top players get shut down by opposing teams).

I've listed the way each player was acquired - through the Draft, as a Free Agent, through a Trade, or as an Undrafted Free Agent.  Personally I would consider an Undrafted Free Agent to be the equivalent of a draft pick in that they were picked up by the team's scouting staff and developed internally, but I've listed them seperately for the sake of accuracy.

* * *

 

2010 Chicago Blackhawks

 

Forwards

1. Jonathan Toews - Draft

2. Patrick Kane - Draft

3. Patrick Sharp - Trade

4. Dave Bolland - Draft

5. Marian Hossa - Free Agent

6. Kris Versteeg - Trade

 

Defence

1. Duncan Keith - Draft

2. Brent Seabrook - Draft

3. Niklas Hjalmarsson - Draft

4. Brian Campbell - Free Agent

 

Goalie

1. Anti Niemi - Undrafted Free Agent

 

* * *

 

2009 Pittsburgh Penguins

 

Forwards

1. Evgeni Malkin - Draft

2. Sidney Crosby - Draft

3. Bill Guerin - Trade

4. Ruslan Fedotenko - Free Agent

5. Chris Kunitz - Trade

6. Maxime Talbot - Draft

 

Defence

1. Sergei Gonchar - Free Agent

2. Rob Scuderi - Draft

3. Brooks Oprik - Draft

4. Hal Gill - Trade

 

Goalie

1. Marc-Andre Fleury - Draft

 

* * *

 

2008 Detroit Red Wings

 

Forwards

1. Henrik Zetterberg - Draft

2. Pavel Datsyuk - Draft

3. Johan Franzen - Draft

4. Jiri Hudler - Draft

5. Mikael Samuelsson - Free Agent

6. Tomas Holmstrom - Draft

 

In fact, if you go down the Wings' depth chart that year, virtually their entire forward corps was drafted and developed internally. People aren't exaggerating when they say the Wings have great player development.

 

Defence

1. Nicklas Lidstrom - Draft

2. Brian Rafalski - Free Agent

3. Niklas Kronwall - Draft

4. Brad Stuart - Trade

 

Goalie

1. Chris Osgood - Free Agent, though originally a Detroit draft pick

 

* * *

 

2007 Anaheim Ducks

 

Forwards

1. Ryan Getzlaf - Draft

2. Corey Perry - Draft

3. Teemu Selanne - Free Agent (Trade earlier in career)

4. Andy McDonald - Undrafted Free Agent

5. Travis Moen - Trade

6. Samuel Pahlsson - Trade

 

Defence

1. Francois Beauchemin - Trade

2. Chris Pronger - Trade

3. Scott Niedermayer - Free Agent

4. Sean O'Donnell - Trade

 

No, that's not a misprint, Beauchemin played more minutes than Pronger or Niedermayer the playoff year that Anaheim won the Cup.

 

Goalie

1. J.S. Giguere - Trade

 

* * *

 

2006 Carolina Hurricanes

 

Forwards

1. Eric Staal - Draft

2. Cory Stillman - Free Agent

3. Rod Brind'Amour - Trade

4. Justin Williams - Trade

5. Matt Cullen - Free Agent

6. Mark Recchi - Trade

 

Defence

1. Bret Hedican - Trade

2. Aaron Ward - Trade

3. Mike Commodore - Trade

4. Frantisek Kaberle - Free Agent

 

Goalie

1. Cam Ward - Draft

 

* * *

 

OK, so with that information listed, what conclusions can we draw?  I actually think the results here are less clear than I was expecting.  I thought that the results would show that drafting was the only way to build a successful team, but it turns out that it's not.  While the past 3 Cup winners have all been based heavily on draft picks, the 2 champs prior to that were built largely through trades and free agents.

 

One interesting point is that, while most people argue that the 2007 Ducks are the best example of what the Leafs are trying to do, I'd argue that the 2006 Carolina Hurricans are probably a better example.  The Ducks were lead by Getzlaf and Perry, and the Leafs haven't drafted any players of that quality for a while.  Going into the playoffs in 2006 only one prominent player on the Hurricanes - Eric Staal - was developed internally.  Cam Ward became the second one when he took over the starting job from Gerber.  The team was almost entirely put together by GM Jim Rutherford based on some savvy trades and a couple of key free agent signings; this is actually the model the Leafs are following at the moment.

 

One interesting thing to note is that all 5 teams had their leading scorer as someone they drafted.  In fact, aside from the Flyers last year, this is true of the Stanley Cup finalist who loses as well.  That means 9/10 Stanley Cup finalists since the lockout have been lead in scoring by a player drafted and developed internally.

 

One other point I'd note is that it looks like drafting goalies is not nearly as important as drafting well at other positions.  3 of the past 5 Stanley Cup winners have won with goalies they gained through means other than drafting.

 

So, what do you think after looking at this information?

PensionPlanPuppets.com is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of PensionPlanPuppets.com.

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