Since people are talking about it, this is all the players drafted while Mark Hunter was with the Leafs and where they are now.
2015-2017 Maple Leafs drafted players (Hockey Reference)
|2015||6||155||Stephen Desrocher||CA||D||19||Rights no longer held|
|2015||7||185||Nikita Korostelev||RU||RW||18||Rights no longer held|
|2015||3||68||Martins Dzierkals||LV||LW||18||Was on AHL contract|
|2016||4||101||Keaton Middleton||CA||D||18||Rights about to expire|
|2016||5||122||Vladimir Bobylev||RU||RW||19||Rights about to expire|
|2016||6||179||Nicolas Mattinen||CA||D||18||Rights about to expire|
|2016||6||152||Jonathan Walker||US||D||20||Rights no longer held|
To put this in perspective, it’s way too soon to judge on the performance of picks outside the first round because most of them dating back to just 2015 are not in the NHL.
Only one player chosen outside the first round has played more than 10 NHL games. He is Sebastian Aho, the defender on the Islanders, and he was drafted at age 21 and has played 22 games.
Five players have played any NHL time who were drafted outside the first round here: Alex Debrincat, Jesper Bratt, Samuel Girard, Victor Mete and Maxim Mamin. Mamin was 21, all the rest were 18.
There are 18 players from outside the first round in 2015 who have played at least 10 games in the NHL (In order of games played): Sebastian Aho (the Carolina Forward), Brandon Carlo, Markus Nutivaara, Denis Malgin, Christian Fischer, Vince Dunn, Dominik Simon, Travis Dermott, Daniel Sprong, A.J. Greer, Brendan Guhle, Filip Chlapik, Anthony Cirelli, Ethan Bear, Rasmus Andersson, Andrei Mironov, Christian Wolanin, Andrew Mangiapane.
Mironov, Simon and Nutivaara were all drafted at 21, Wolanin at 20 and Mangiapane at 19. Everyone else was 18.
How do you define success?
Based on NHL games played, the Leafs record is slightly better than or exactly the same as every other team at this point. If you subjectively define draft success because of how much you agree with the players taken, fair enough, but it’s still way too soon to make a claim that Hunter drafted well outside the first round or that he whiffed. I’ve seen both claims made, and there’s simply no evidence for either position that isn’t based on opinion of players based on nothing much other than some point stats in other leagues.
It is somewhat interesting how many of the later round picks from 2016 and 2015 who are already in the NHL are defencemen. There might be something meaningful to ponder there, but it’s not about Hunter so much as it’s about no one guessing very well on defenders. We know that’s true; the success rates for forwards historically shows better drafting overall than anyone does for defenders or goalies.
There are two really good defenders who were taken well after the famous Alex Debrincat — Sam Girard and Victor Mete. The Leafs could have had either of those two if they, like everyone else, hadn’t been wrong about them.
What about Failure?
At the opposite end of the spectrum from NHL playing time, there are three players, so far, whose rights are gone. They are all sixth or seventh rounders. There are not high-round busts here unless you use your crystal ball.
There are three players whose rights are about to expire in a week or so. They are all fourth round or later picks, and while Vladimir Bobylyov is never getting an NHL deal, Nicolas Mattinen is busy in the Memorial Cup, and Keaton Middleton was, at last report, working out with the Marlies. See update below on that last point:
It’s all about Expectations
Success or failure in drafting is the ultimate small sample size problem. None of you reading to this point know how much luck plays into a team’s draft record. I sure don’t. It’s also impossible to ever separate development from drafting. Some teams work with draftees from the second they’re drafted. Some of them never speak to them.
If you set your expectations high enough — a seventh round steal every year — every team fails. If you are satisfied with the average success that a player gets a cup of coffee in the NHL by draft round, that’s easy to achieve, particularly when a team is bad and picks early in each round.
Anyone with Bob McKenzie’s list of draft rankings should be able to get an NHL player in the top half of the first round. It’s all the rest of it that’s tricky, and my opinion on Mark Hunter is simply that I have no idea if he’s any good or not, but that’s a very large number of draft picks playing in the AHL out of the 2015 draft. On the other hand, the team was bad, had a good draft position and some extra picks. Oh, and scouting department that is so big the Ottawa Senators wouldn’t know what to do with it. And of course, to further complicate things, no one actually knows how much influence Hunter had on that draft.
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