Another year, another draft, and unfortunately (fortunately?) a top 5 pick for our beloved Leafs. I look forward to one day writing a post about what the Leafs can expect with their 28th overall pick. But for now, here we are.
As a testament to my excel nerdiness and the amount of time I’ve spent on the internet with folks like yourself, this is the 4th installment of my draft database (available for download here). It’s basically an excel spreadsheet that compiles Hockey Reference’s draft and player data info into a format that’s easy to sort, filter, slice and dice, with a few extra tabs of built in (and customizable) analysis. If you’re a spreadsheet or data nerd like me - or if you’ve ever wondered the success rate of left-wingers drafted in the 5th round – I think you’ll enjoy it.
My past and somewhat inflammatory entries (which can be found here, here and here) focused on the drafting ineptitude of the Wings and Hawks, and examined the indisputable awesomeness of Phil Kessel. This year, at the suggestion of PPP regular Plea from a Cat Named Felix , I’m going to take a look at what the Leafs should consider doing at this year’s draft - staying put, trading up, or trading down. (I won’t contemplate a scenario where the Leafs trade their first round pick outright, it’s too upsetting to think about).
As you know the Leafs currently hold the 5th pick, so as a starting point I’ve expanded on the nice infographic over at mapleleafs.com and have shown all of the top 5 picks going back to 1994.
(Apologies again for the poor quality graphics. Clicking on them should take you to a better version.)
Not a bad group. Some great names in there (Vanek, Kessel, Price) some good names with flashes of brilliance in an overall respectable career (O’Neill, Langkow, Connolly), and some names that have shown promise but still need to prove themselves (L Schenn, B Schenn, Wheeler).
Next I’ve looked at all top 10 picks from 1994 – 2007 to see what their individual success rates have been, using 300 games as my ‘success ‘criteria, as well as showing total GPs, GP per player drafted, Pts scored, and Pts / game. I’ve also included the number of each position drafted at each spot to give some context around the points rankings.
As a whole it’s pretty evident that the top 10 draft picks fare well. All spots 1 through 9 have at least a 50% success rate (300 GP) or greater, with a GP average of 347 – 653. Even the 10th spot averages 299 games played.
What’s also evident is that historically the top 2 picks represent a pretty decent ‘premium’ versus the rest of the top 5 and 10, with a higher % success rate, GP/drafted, and Pts/game average. However, Burke mentioned yesterday that he was open to drafting up or down ‘a couple spots’, which if taken literally (which I know you should never do with Burke, but) means only moving up as high as 3rd or down as low as 7th. Looking at picks 3 through 7, you can see there isn’t a huge gap – the 3rd spot has a higher average GP and Pts/gm, but beyond that it’s fairly even. If anything, the 4th pick for some reason seems to be a bit cursed, but the rest seem to all fall into the same range.
For the sake of completeness, below is a list of all players drafted 3rd, 4th, 6th or 7th back to 1994. I’ll leave it to you to assess the quality of each, but to me it’s definitely a bit of a mixed bag. Take special note of the goalies selected with these picks... pretty impressive.
So there’s the historical background that we’re dealing with – but what are the other considerations?
First of all, and pretty obviously, every draft class is different. Some years are stacked, with huge talent throughout the top 5-10 (2003, 2006). Other years have a consensus number 1 (or maybe 2) followed by a bunch of question marks (2001,2002, 2004, 2005, 2007). By all accounts this draft year falls into the 2nd category. Yakupov is the consensus number one, generating almost the same kind of hype as recent names like Stamkos, Tavares, and Hall. Beyond that, there are some solid names, but no one else that seems to have ‘guaranteed stud’ potential. (Complicating things even further was the breaking news on Wednesday that it was in fact, OBVIOUSLY, a 4-player draft this year.)
There are also several D being mentioned in the top 5-7 as well, which I would almost always avoid drafting. Not because I think you can’t find decent D in the top 10 (you can), but the chances of finding high-end forward talent in the top 10 is greater than it is for finding high-end D talent, and I think identifying offensive talent in a 19-year old is easier than identifying defensive talent. (And if you’re a draft for positional need kind of guy - which I’m not - I’d argue the Leafs need more forward depth in their prospect pool than defensive depth.). This is why I think it's complete lunacy for Edmonton to even consider passing on Yakupov.
So to answer the question ‘What should Burke do?’ - I really don’t know. There are a ton of variables to consider here, and the decision won’t likely be obvious until the first couple of picks are made. In general, I’ll be happy if Burke drafts a forward at any spot, and I’ll be ok with a move up or down as long as the parts coming or going are reasonable.
(And in hindsight – and not even factoring in how he’s actually panned out – I’m starting to realize that Fletch trading to move up 2 spots to draft Schenn was really not the right choice.)
As an extra little bit of info , here’s a follow-up from last year, updating the top 10 from the 2006 draft class. Who’s that leading in GP and total goals – despite having shoulder surgery AND a testicle removed?? Your favourite akward goofball and mine, Phil Fucking Kessel. Suck it haters.
(I encourage you to check out the ‘Rank by Draft Year’ tab on the spreadsheet. It’s amazing to me to see how over time the top 10 for each draft is less and less made up of actual top 10 picks. Also how shitty some draft year's top 10 is.)
Things are busy these days so that's all I've got. Enjoy the spreadsheet and the draft Friday - fingers crossed nothing stupid happens.