I’ll be frank: I don’t know anything about pre-draft player analysis. Nothing. I don’t watch any sub-NHL level hockey other than the occasional Marlies or World Junior Championship, and even then, I’m not really paying that much attention. I could tell you who the Leafs should or will draft this year, but I'd just be making it up.
What I can offer to the pre-draft chatter though is the slicing and dicing of draft results (with the benefit of hindsight and actual NHL results) via this Draft Database I created. It's an excel spreadsheet that includes draft results going back to 1994, with player career statistics updated as of the end of this season as well as a bunch of supplemental analysis. If you have any interest in draft history or results, consider saving the file and keeping it handy. You never know when you’re going to get into a debate about 8th overall picks being a ‘sure thing’ (they’re not) or whether or not drafting a goalie early on is a good idea (not usually).
The first two years I posted this (here and here) I took some potshots at the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. This year I thought I’d be less confrontational and instead look at the top 10 players from every draft year and see where they were drafted . Sordid details after the jump….
The charts below show the top 10 players from each draft class from 1994 to 2007, ranked based on games played, goals, assists, and points. (I didn’t include 2008-2010 – with so few players with actual NHL results there isn’t much to see.) There are obvious shortcomings to these top 10 rankings – stay at home defencemen won’t really rank well other than in games played, which Aki Berg proved can be a flawed stat. And goalies of course won’t crack any of these lists, so keep in mind high-profile goalie draft picks like Luongo, Dipietro, Fleury, Price, etc etc when looking at these charts. Still, I think the info here is fairly interesting...
(click on charts for a larger version)
A few random observations (with a bias towards Leaf content).... feel free to make your own in the comments:
I spilled the beans in the title of this post, but I’ll say it again: Phil Kessel has more goals than anyone in his draft class. He’s also 3rd in total points. First of all, fuck yeah Phil Kessel. Second, do you know who else is 3rd in points in his draft class? Paul Stastny (2005). I’m not saying it’s like Burke has a pattern of trading for guys like this or anything. I’m just saying.
Look at Tomas fucking Kaberle. Leader of his draft class in assists with 445, a full 115 more than the next closest player in his class. It’d be nice if the narrative just for a minute switched from "Kaberle doesn’t shoot" (which has been proven to be untrue) to "Kaberle is a world-class set-up man", but that kind of perspective would be too much to ask. Also worth noting, Kaberle is now 2nd overall in points in his draft class, and is 10th in assists for all players drafted since 1994 - the only defenceman in the top 20. We were lucky to have him.
Nikolai Kulemin - 8th in goals in the 2006 draft class. Nice.
I’ve made this point in previous posts, but look at the 2002 draft class. DISASTER. Remember kids, that first round pick your team traded that ends up being 5th overall could very well end up being the 5th best player of their draft class - which could very well end up being someone like Matt Stajan. Drafted 57th overall by the Maple Leafs, he’s the 5th highest scoring player of his class at just under a 0.5 point per game pace. Draft shmaft indeed.
Henrik Sedin ended this regular season with 666 regular season career points. Then his team went on to win the President’s Cup, lose game 7 of the Stanley Cup, and Vancouver nearly burned to the ground as a result. Coincidence?
Patrick Kane was a GIFT to the Blackhawks, an absolute fucking gift. Replace him with any one of the other mopes from the top 10 of the 2007 draft class and the Hawks don’t win the cup. They may not have even made the playoffs. The "Chicago model" my ass.
If you look at the full list from 94-07, on average 62-67% of the top 10 players in their draft classes will have been drafted in the first round, versus 33-38% in rounds 2+. But if you look at just the earlier years of the database (94-02) , you’ll see that the numbers change a bit, and instead of a 65/35 split it moves to a 55/45 ish split between first rounders and late rounders. This could mean that those draft years had weaker first rounds than the last 5 or 6, or it could mean that over time, players from the later rounds emerge as stronger, more durable players, while earlier flashier picks lose steam as their careers progress. Time will tell...
Ok.... that's all I've got for now. Enjoy the spreadsheet, and the draft on Friday.