Numbers Game: First Round Value

Scott Cullen
6/18/2009 5:04:55 PM
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Before the NHL trade deadline, I tried to find some approximate values for NHL draft picks.  Now, leading up to the 2009 NHL Draft, using similar methodology and a larger sample size, here are some more detailed findings on the specific values for the Top 30 picks.

This time, I took the Top 30 selections for each of the last 30 drafts, starting with the legendary 1979 draft, from which 27 of the Top 30 played in at least 200 NHL games, and assigned simple 1-10 values for each player along these guidelines:

10 - Generational
9 - Elite Player
8 - First Line, Top Pair D
7 - Top Six Forward, Top Four D
6 - Top Nine Forward, Top Six D
5 - NHL Regular
4 - Fringe NHLer
3 - Very Good Minor Leaguer
2 - Minor Leaguer, maybe gets a shot in NHL
1 - No NHL games

A few disclaimers:
- It's difficult to properly evaluate players from the most recent drafts, as there is a certain amount of projection still required to determine where their careers are headed, so any evaluations from 2007 and 2008, in particular, tend to be conservative, making the percentage of players "Ranked 7 or better" lower in some cases.

- Players whose careers were shortened could be knocked down a point (ie. the top six forward who played 1000 games was generally deemed more valuable that the one that played 600).

- There are any number of reasons why a player may or may not make it to the NHL, so when I list players under "worst", there could very well be extenuating circumstances, whether it's injury or being stuck as a late first-round pick trying to make the Oilers in the 1980s.  Nevertheless, I've excluded George Pelawa (#16 in 1986), Alexei Cherepanov (#17 in 2007) and Luc Bourdon (#10 in 2005) from the evaluation as their pro careers weren't established enough before their tragic deaths.

Here, then, is a general idea of what kind of value an NHL draft pick has provided over the last 30 years (take note, the 2009 draft is considered to be a "good" draft class so, theoretically, their results should be better than the average).

No. 1
Average Rating:
Best: Mario Lemieux, Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby.
Worst: Gord Kluzak, Brian Lawton, Alexandre Daigle, Patrik Stefan.
Ranked 7 or better: 63%

No. 2
Average Rating:
Best: Evgeni Malkin, Chris Pronger, Brendan Shanahan.
Worst: Dave Chyzowski, Doug Smith, Andrei Zyuzin.
Ranked 7 or better: 60%

No. 3
Average Rating:
Best: Pat Lafontaine, Scott Niedermayer, Denis Savard.
Worst: Neil Brady, Alexandre Svitov, Aki Berg.
Ranked 7 or better: 57%

No. 4
Average Rating:
Best: Steve Yzerman, Ron Francis, Mike Gartner.
Worst: Alexandre Volchkov, Jason Bonsignore, Pavel Brendl.
Ranked 7 or better: 43%

No. 5
Average Rating:
Best: Jaromir Jagr, Scott Stevens, Thomas Vanek.
Worst: Daniel Dore, Ric Jackman, Stanislav Chistov.
Ranked 7 or better: 33%

No. 6
Average Rating:
Best: Paul Coffey, Peter Forsberg, Vincent Damphousse.
Worst: Scott Scissons, Brian Finley, Steve Kelly.
Ranked 7 or better: 40%

No. 7
Average Rating:
Best: Jason Arnott, Shane Doan, Darryl Sydor
Worst: Ryan Sittler, Alek Stojanov, Dan Woodley
Ranked 7 or better: 27%

No. 8
Average Rating:
Best: Ray Bourque, Grant Fuhr, Jeremy Roenick.
Worst: Jason Herter, Terry Ryan, Rocky Trottier.
Ranked 7 or better: 30%

No. 9
Average Rating:
Best: Cam Neely, Brian Leetch, Rod Brind'Amour.
Worst: Brent Krahn, Petr Taticek, Craig Duncanson.
Ranked 7 or better: 30%

No. 10
Average Rating:
Best: Teemu Selanne, Bobby Holik, Nik Antropov.
Worst: Dan Gratton, Mikhail Yakubov, Brad Ference.
Ranked 7 or better: 13%

No. 11
Average Rating:
Best: Jarome Iginla, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar.
Worst: Chris Govedaris, David Cooper, Dan Focht.
Ranked 7 or better: 33%

No. 12
Average Rating:
Best: Gary Roberts, Marian Hossa, Alex Tanguay.
Worst: Teemu Riihijarvi, Hugh Jessiman, A.J. Thelen.
Ranked 7 or better: 27%

No. 13
Average Rating:
Best: Mattias Ohlund, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Alexander Semin.
Worst: David Quinn, Lindsay Vallis, Michael Stewart.
Ranked 7 or better: 27%

No. 14
Average Rating:
Best: Brian Propp, Sergei Gonchar, Brent Seabrook.
Worst: Sasha Pokulok, Jim Malone, Michel Riesen.
Ranked 7 or better: 13%

No. 15
Average Rating:
Best: Al MacInnis, Joe Sakic, Alex Kovalev.
Worst: Alexander Kharlamov, Matt Zultek, Scott Kelman.
Ranked 7 or better: 13%

No. 16
Average Rating:
Best: Dave Andreychuk, Markus Naslund, Gerald Diduck.
Worst: Kevin Cheveldayoff, Nick Stajduhar, Mario Larocque.
Ranked 7 or better: 7%

No. 17
Average Rating:
Best: Zach Parise, Brent Sutter, Kevin Hatcher.
Worst: Scott Allison, Brad Church, Alexei Mikhnov.
Ranked 7 or better: 14%

No. 18
Average Rating:
Best: Barry Pederson, Glen Murray, Robyn Regehr.
Worst: Ryan Stewart, Jesper Mattsson, Jens Karlsson.
Ranked 7 or better: 17%

No. 19
Average Rating:
Best: Ryan Getzlaf, Keith Tkachuk, Olaf Kolzig.
Worst: Jan Ingman, Alain Heroux, Niklas Sundblad.
Ranked 7 or better: 13%

No. 20
Average Rating:
Best: Martin Brodeur, Michel Goulet, Alexander Frolov.
Worst: Marty Ruff, Scott Metcalfe, Barrett Heisten.
Ranked 7 or better: 17%

No. 21
Average Rating:
Best: Kevin Lowe, Saku Koivu, Anton Volchenkov.
Worst: Peter Soberlak, Libor Polasek, Evgeny Ryabchikov.
Ranked 7 or better: 20%

No. 22
Average Rating:
Best: Adam Graves, Adam Foote, Simon Gagne.
Worst: Ken Spangler, Curtis Bowen, Jeff Brown.
Ranked 7 or better: 10%

No. 23
Average Rating:
Best: Ray Whitney, Todd Bertuzzi, Ryan Kesler.
Worst: Mike Perovich, Mikka Elomo, Craig Hillier.
Ranked 7 or better: 23%

No. 24
Average Rating:
Best: Daniel Briere, Mike Richards, Brad Boyes
Worst: Eric Lecompte, Luca Cereda, Gary Yaremchuk
Ranked 7 or better: 17%

No. 25
Average Rating:
Best: Brenden Morrow, Cam Ward, Patrik Berglund.
Worst: Mikhail Kuleshov, Eric Lavigne, Mark Major.
Ranked 7 or better: 10%

No. 26
Average Rating:
Best: Claude Lemieux, Zigmund Palffy, Martin Havlat.
Worst: Murray Duval, Nicolas Perreault, Kevin Grimes.
Ranked 7 or better: 17%

No. 27
Average Rating:
Best: Joe Nieuwendyk, Scott Mellanby, Scott Gomez.
Worst: Mike Heidt, Mike Speer, Ari Ahonen.
Ranked 7 or better: 10%

No. 28
Average Rating:
Best: Mike Richter, Corey Perry, Matt Niskanen.
Worst: Kent Hawley, Paul Holden, Brandy Semchuk.
Ranked 7 or better: 10%

No. 29
Average Rating: 3.47
Best: Teppo Numminen, Niklas Kronwall, Mike Green.
Worst: Dave Reierson, Rob Woodward, Chris Gotziaman.
Ranked 7 or better: 17%

No. 30
Average Rating: 3.17
Best: Sandis Ozolinsh, Mark Hardy, Patrice Brisebois.
Worst: Jens Johansson, Par Edlund, Rod Pasma.
Ranked 7 or better: 7%

Some observations:

- It's encouraging, in some respects, to see the number one pick net the highest value overall.  Also, take note, five of the top 20 scorers (Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Ilya Kovalchuk, Joe Thornton, Rick Nash) this past season were drafted first overall.  Second overall ranked next, with two (Evgeni Malkin and Daniel Sedin) in the top 20.

- The 10th overall pick has not yielded a lot of elite talent, with Teemu Selanne the only true star taken tenth in the last 30 years, and it drops off quickly.  The 11th pick, in fact, has provided better value overall -- good news Nashville ! -- though it's not likely many would trade last year's #11 pick (Kyle Beach) for the #10 (Cody Hodgson).

- If historical trends count for anything, the Ducks ought to be shopping that 15th overall pick for anything they can get.  It's an odd quirk that the pick in the middle of the range provides similar value to the 29th and 30th overall selections.  Part of the reason is that the bust factor at 15 has been downright spectacular since 1997.

Factoring in that Alexander Radulov was actually a good pick, before he left Nashville for the KHL, here are the No. 15 selections from 1997 through 2005:

1997 - Matt Zultek.
1998 - Mathieu Chouinard.
1999 - Scott Kelman.
2000 - Artem Kryukov.
2001 - Igor Knyazev.
2002 - Jesse Niinimaki.
2003 - Robert Nilsson.
2004 - Alexander Radulov.
2005 - Ryan O'Marra.

- While pick No. 21 was a dead zone in the 1980s, it's become a spot to get good value later in the round.  From 1996 through 2005, here were the picks at No. 21:

1996 - Marco Sturm.
1997 - Mika Noronen.
1998 - Simon Gagne.
1999 - Nick Boynton.
2000 - Anton Volchenkov.
2001 - Colby Armstrong.
2002 - Anton Babchuk.
2003 - Mark Stuart.
2004 - Wojtek Wolski.
2005 - Tuukka Rask.

There will be more draft info. coming before the festivities get underway in Montreal next Friday.

Scott Cullen can be reached at

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