NHL Draft Day is here! 31 management and scouting teams have prepared for months while millions of fans await the big event. For some, it will be franchise changing while for others it is about adding to the future.
The top-two selections are all but official, with Jack Hughes likely to go first (Devils) and Kappo Kakko immediately after (New York Rangers). Where serious interest lies is in the following 10 picks. No one has any idea how it will proceed but there is potential to be very good prospects from pick 3-12. If your favorite team is picking in those spots, you should do just fine barring a reach. After that, the value drops significantly.
Regardless of how any draft concludes, there are always those, including NHL managers, that act like every first-rounder is gold. When it comes to trading one for a need, some act as if the whole future has been thrown away. As if they know player X, who is a cannot miss, will be available at pick 21.
For the most part, the top 3-5 picks tend to be the top end players, with everyone else being a crap-shoot in terms their roles. When seeing the beauty that is Twitter, several accounts act as if their 27th pick is destined to be a top-line sniper. Realistically, he may end up as bottom-six forward and has as much chance of pick 50 of making an impact. In the end, much of draft selection is how the board falls and a teams hunch. After that, no one really knows. There were people who thought Casey Mittelstadt (Buffalo) would have over 50 points. Yahoo Fantasy Sports projected 66 at the beginning of the year. The last I knew, 25 points is not that. Not to say he is a bust, but we all think we know how a pre-beer drinking kid will pan out.
So, what is a first-round pick worth and how does draft position factor into the equation? To evaluate how players have fared in the first-round in a more recent perspective, I reviewed draft years 2010-15. With all the discussion of the value of first-round picks, I was curious to see where players stand in terms of making the NHL (currently) and the typical role. Digging deeper, I reviewed the impact of top 10/bottom 20 selections, relating it to the percentage of players that land top 6 forward/top 4 defender roles. After crunching the numbers, I realized my thoughts were not totally off base regarding the players drafted in round 1.
General Draft Numbers (2010-2015)
- 180 Selected Players
- 122 Forwards
- 53 Defensemen
- 5 Goaltenders
- Over 76% over players drafted are currently in an NHL role.
- Over 75% of forwards and over 81% of defenders are in the NHL.
- 2 of 5 (40%) goalies selected in this time frame had an NHL roster spot.
- Over 18% of those drafted are currently in the minors.
- 6 draftees are currently in a league outside of North America while 5 others are either retired or a free agent.
Draft Position Impact
- Over 93% of all top 10 picks currently made the NHL; 94.7% of forwards, 90.4% of defenders.
- Of those selected in the bottom 20 of round 1, over 68% have an NHL role; 66.7% of forwards, 75% for defenders, 40% for goaltenders.
Player Role Breakdown
- Of the drafted forwards that made the NHL, 50% are playing a top 6 role; 75% of those were selected in the top 10.
- Of the defenders earning an NHL job, 58.1% are in the top 4 of their team; 71.4% were chosen in the top 10.
- 2 goaltenders are currently in the NHL; 1 is a starter and all goaltenders selected were in the bottom 20.
- Of the Top 6 forwards, 58.7% were chosen in the top 10 of their year; of the bottom 6 forwards, 80% went in the bottom 20 picks.
- 60% of current top 4 defensemen were a top 10 selection; 77.% of bottom pair/depth defenders were bottom 20.
- 25.6% of the total players selected are top 6 forwards, 25.6% were bottom 6, 13.9% were top 4-D, and 10% were bottom pair or depth defenders.
It is All About Making It
As expected, drafting a player in round 1 means that a prospect has a strong chance of making the NHL. And if a team selects in the top 10, they have an even greater probability of this as well as being an impact player. Outside of the top 10, that likeliness drops by almost a third. And for most bottom 20 selections, if they earn an NHL job, it is most likely in a bottom-six/bottom pair capacity. Note that this is not to detract from those in such a role but merely show the percentages and probability. With only 16.1% of bottom 20 selections being in a top-6 F/top-4 D role, that is evident.
Are First-Round Picks Overvalued?
Yes…and no. The draft is not an exact science but it certainly has its value. Realistically, not all first round picks are created equal. Drafting within the first 10 selection is significant. Most teams should not trade out of this spot unless the return is huge. Over 90% of those players typically have an NHL spot and 7 out of 10, at least, have a substantial impact. Nothing is certain but it is a high-risk move to trade out of this position. Moving a prospect selected in this spot is could also be regrettable.
When teams or fans get giddy on a lower, first-round draft spot or a 28th pick they think is a star, that is when it can get ridiculous. In a position that shows less probability of drafting an NHL player, there should be more openness to moves. Most selections, who have had great success in amateur leagues, are often not that player in the top league. There are those like Mathew Barzel (15th-2015) are a huge success, though this is more of an exception than a regularity. Of course, there is slight risk involved in a move but if receiving a known commodity that will instantly improve a team, it is worth making a move. And using a first on a goaltender, probably not the best decision.
In the end, it is mostly about draft position and where a franchise is. If a team has been drafting high for years and has extra first rounders, why not make a move? A 23 year old hockey player’s value is more certain than an 18 year old that may, or may not, be available. One might be more cautious with a top-10 pick (selection or prospect) but anything after that should be fair game. It is on management if they pass on an opportunity to trade for Nikolaj Ehlers because they “cannot part” with there 15th pick. All they need to do is review the percentages to make that decision.