Detroit isn't that great at Drafting (and other secrets): Draft Analysis 1994-2009

Editor's Note: After months of teasing us with hints about his magical spreadsheet daoust is ready to unveil the greatest draft analysis tool ever developed.

I’ve made passing mention of it a few times, but here it is, finally… the Daoust 94-09 Draft Database and Analysis Machine. I actually pulled this together in February or March of this year, then sat on it in hopes of updating this with 08/09 stats before posting it. Unfortunately isn't cooperating, so 07/08 stats will have to do for now. It'll be updated as soon as the data's available.

I've picked out a few interesting observations and trends to discuss here, but this post isn’t really the main event. It’s the spreadsheet hosted here:

It’s a bit on the nerdy side, with lots of ability for custom analysis, but if that’s not your bag, at the very least having a list of draftees in excel that you can sort and filter can be handy. Sample conversation:

"Who’s the best player of the last 15 years drafted 47th overall?",

/opens spreadsheet

"Kristian Huselius, obviously".

"How about the best defenceman drafted in the 8th round"


"7th round?"


Etc. Hours and hours of entertainment for everyone!

Just a note about the stats I've used to evaluate a team's draft success. I think we can all agree that "games played" alone isn't a great indicator of a successful pick - Aki Berg played 600+ games after all. But NOT playing at least 200 games is a pretty good indication that the pick didn't turn out so well. Say what you want about Aki, he worked out better than Jonathan Aitken, yes?

Points also aren’t a great indicator of draft success - defenceman, some forwards, and obviously goalies are regularly drafted without offence in mind. That being said, I think over any given period, it's probably fair to assume that each team will have the same holes to fill and will draft the same proportion of different players (scorers, goalies, stay at home D, etc) so that the total points their draft picks eventually get is at least a good indication of the team's success at drafting for offence.

Also, I should note that the spreadsheet is pretty customizable, so for all of the stats I'm showing below, you can pull the same stats for any period between 94-09 that you'd like.

And my apologies about the quality of some of the charts... converting excel charts into images and then getting them into here is easier said than done. I think you can click on them to bring up the full-sized image at least.

Observation 1 - Drafting is really really hard

The chart below summarizes all players drafted between 1996-2006, by team, showing what % made it to the NHL, what % went on to play more than 200 games, and how many points and games played each team had per every player they drafted.


Less than 10% of all players drafted between 96-06 went on to play 200 games. That's 1 in 10. Anything you can only do well 1 out of 10 times, I would classify as difficult. This chart breaks that down further by round:


So 40% of first round picks have gone on to play more than 200 games. 24% of 1st and 2nd round picks go on to play in 200 games. After that, only 5.5% do. That’s 1 in 20 players. It’s not quite a crap shoot, but it’s pretty damn close. Put another way, for every 20 post-third round draft picks traded away, only one of them will go on to play 200+ games in the NHL.

Observation 2 - 7th overall pick... Shane Doan or Lars Jonsson?

I think we're all hopeful that Burke will be succesful in his attempts to move up in the draft next week, but if he isn't, here's the type of players he can reasonably expect to pick.


Hmmm. A Shane Doan-type would be swell, and I could live with a Paul Mara or Joffrey Lupul. Let's hope we don't get a Lars Jonsson or Kris Beech.

Observation 3 - Detroit isn’t that good at drafting

I actually really like Detroit, but I'm going to pick on them here because there's just a bit too much hype about their drafting prowess for my liking. "Detroit has the best scouting department in the NHL" is one of most repeated phrases in any draft discussion, but I'm not convinced that's true. Player development? Top notch. But actually consistently drafting NHL-calibre players? Not their forte.

If you refer back to the first chart posted above, you'll notice that Detroit is DEAD LAST in 3 of the 4 categories (% that made it to the NHL, % that played 200 games, # of games played per player drafted), and 27th in the other. That’s not good. Of course, drafting 2 franchise players in the late rounds makes up for that, but when the bulk of your drafted players end up being "busts", that's not a good sign.

Here’s a look at the players Detroit drafted in the 1st round since 1994. First of all - let's count all of the first round picks in 97,99, 01,02,03,04. Oh my goodness – there are none! Where did they go? Someone must have stolen them, because the most well managed team in the history of the NHL would never trade away draft picks, esepcially first rounders, since they realize how important they are and that no team can have any success without them. Second of all - not an overly impressive bunch besides Kronwall (and weirdly, all defencemen except for last year's pick).


And here’s the full list of players Detroit drafted in 98 and 99 (the years Datsyuk and Zberg were drafted). There's no denying that they were both great late-draft steals, but given the other players selected by Detroit before and after, you could argue that they just got lucky. Really really lucky.


EDIT: A lot of people elsewhere have commented that it’s unfair to evaluate Detroit this way, since they always picked near the end of the first round. So here’s a look at how other teams did compared to Detroit with picks # 20 to 30 from 95 to 03 (to eliminate recent picks that wouldn't have had a chance to play 200 games yet).


See, it IS possible to draft well at the low end of the first round. Just not for Detroit, apparently.

Observation 4 - Drafting a D-man early... questionable?

I love the Schenn. He’s going to be an unstoppable force on the Leafs for another 15, maybe 30 years. My daughter’s first Jersey will have Schenn on the back. But recent history would indicate that if you’re looking for a bona fide stud defenceman, you’re not likely to find him in the top 10, although you will likely get yourself a very serviceable NHL-er. Here are all of the D-men drafted in the top 10 since 1994:


Pronger and Niedermayer were drafted top 5 (prior to 1994), but Lidstrom wasn’t. Neither was Chara, Boyle, Campbell, Kaberle, Markov, Green, Rafalski. I'm not saying drafting a defenceman early on is always a bad idea, but it would seem that you don't need to use a top 10 pick if you’re looking for a stud D.

Observation 5 - Drafting Goalies = Witchcraft

I think we all know this instinctively, but these numbers prove it - drafting a successful goalie is next to impossible. Between 1994 and 2004, only 6.4% of all goalies drafted went on to play 200+ games. That % is less than half of all wingers and defenceman, and less than 1/3 of all centres over the same period. If I'm ever a GM, I might never draft a goalie. Ever.


Observation 6 - 2002... the Leafs greatest draft triumph!

Let's ignore the fact that our #1 pick from 2002 (Steen) is widely considered a let down and is now playing for a different team. According to these stats, 2002 was one of the best years for the Leafs relative to the other Canadian teams, and the rest of the league. I know we'll all instinctively want to laugh at Vancouver's pathetic display, but let's remember who was running the team then. So let's laugh at Ottawa instead.



And finally... some great Top 10 Busts

We all remember the Daigles and Stefans, but here are few other disastrous top 10 picks that you may have forgotten about…


Ok, that's all I've got for now. Enjoy the spreadsheet, and be sure to let me know if you unearth any other interesting tidbits. 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