The Value of a Top 5 Pick


via (Image fromthe national post)

With Turris trade rumours flying and the ever present discussions of trading lottery picks, I recently found myself in a discussion about whether "1st rounders are overrated." I made a comment to the effect that top 5 picks probably aren't overrated, but later 1st rounders probably are. However, after making that comment I realized that I have never seen an analysis of top 5 picks by anything besides games played. I thought this could be a useful exercise, so have attempted to do so here. If this sounds interesting, please read on.

To analyze this I looked at the top 5 picks from 1996-2005, a ten year period that ends long enough ago that we should be able to see the quality of these players. I then used a pretty subjective analysis of the specific players using the following guidelines (if you disagree with any of my rankings, please outline why in the comments).

(Note: you can click on all the images to zoom in)



Here is what I came up with:



Before I further analyze the data a couple players I had trouble ranking (or who you may disagree with):

  • Joe Thornton. I decided to call him generational because he was the leading point scorer over the first 10 seasons of the 2000s by 80 points (roughly a 10% lead over 2nd place)
  • Vishnevski. I simply didn't know that much about him.
  • DiPietro. With so many GP it could be argued he is a good NHLer, but frankly besides one or two seasons 5 years ago he has barely been a 0.900 goaltender
  • Malkin. He's on the line for generational and may be able to take that mantle soon.
  • Kari Lehtonen, Marc Andre Fleury, and Carey Price. I had a lot of trouble with this one. Price has the best career save %, followed by Lehtonen, followed by Fleury. I think Lehtonen is pretty underappreciated, particularly because he had injury problems early in his career. I think Fleury is fairly overrated by being on a team better than him. Over the last 4 or 5 years he has been very inconsistent year to year, with a 0.912 and 0.905 seasons. However, in the last year (from late fall until today), he has really picked up his game, particularly last winter carrying the team while it was missing its stars. In the end it appears to me that Price and MAF have gotten the recognition as all stars and Lehtonen still has to prove himself.

I then looked at how many players of each rankingwere drafted at each position and overall:




A couple things I notice:

  • With the number 1 and 2 overall pick you have a pretty good chance of getting an allstar or better (14/20 or 70%). But that still means 30% were worse than that and consists of the Chris Phillips, Andrei Zyuzins, and David Legwands of the world (and of course Patrik Stefan...hehehehe).
  • After the top 2 you still have a good chance of getting an NHL player who is good or better (20/30 or 66.6%), but there is also a reasonable likelihood (33%) that you are getting a par NHLer or worse. As well, there are no generational players (big deal), only 6 allstars (20%), and only 7 (23.3%) great NHLers. So picks 3-5 give you a good chance of getting a player who is more than a poor NHLer (24/30 or 80%), but not that good a chance of getting you a game breaker.
  • Overall its a pretty even split between great NHLer and better (28/50 or 56%) and good NHLer or worse (22/50 or 44%). However, the skew is pretty heavy to the first two picks, with later picks not necessarily being as good.
  • Specifically looking at the third picks to compare to Turris (which is obviously a bit of a silly exercise), there were a bunch of great and allstar NHLers (Nathan Horton, Marian Gaborik, Henrik Sedin, etc (6/10)), but there are also 2 players who were pretty questionable (Cam Barker and Alexander Svitov).

What do you think? 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