One of the fascinating aspects of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft is that there will be a couple of sets of teammates going very early in the proceedings.
According to Bob McKenzie's consensus rankings, Windsor Spitfires teammates Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler are ranked first and fifth overall, while Portland Winterhawks teammates Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter are ranked sixth and seventh, respectively.
Two pairs of teammates, four players, that could very well go in the first seven picks of the draft.
That got me to wondering about the track record when NHL teams select players from the same team. The concern was, effectively, that the draft is so unpredictable that players who are taken later could just as easily turn out to be the ones with the more fruitful careers.
So I dipped into the NHL drafts since 1990, looking at the first 30 picks in each draft and compared any of the selections that came from the same team; most were Canadian major junior teams, but some were European clubs as well.
In the analysis, there were 73 instances in which teammates were selected together in the first 30 picks and, by my count, in 39 of those 73 instances, the higher drafted player had the more successful career. In 20 cases, the lower draft pick had more NHL success and in 14 cases, I considered the value of their respective careers virtually even.
The breakdown, followed by a few observations, is below:
A few observations:
First off, I took the liberty of counting Jordan Eberle ahead of Colten Teubert. A risk, for sure, given that neither has played in the NHL yet, but if the 2008 draft was done over, I believe that Eberle would go ahead of Teubert. Otherwise, that measurement could just as easily go into the "draw" category.
It may be a function of recent drafts not having enough time to play out adequately, but it appears that drafting has improved, as more of the later pick success happened in the 1990s.
By including picks from the most recent drafts, there is perhaps a greater possibility that career paths will diverge from their initial season, so it's possible, for example, that John Tavares isn't guaranteed to be more productive than Nazem Kadri, but my best evaluation at this moment still gives Tavares the advantage.
The breakdown of these 73 instances over the last 20 years shows 39 (53.4%) in favour of the higher pick, 20 (27.4%) in favour of the lower pick and 14 (19.2%) at a career draw.
While that would seem to give an edge to the earlier selection, when nearly 47% of the lower picks can be considered as good or better, that edge is anything but decisive, particularly when considering the opportunity cost of a pick (ie. what it would take to move up or what you could acquire to move down).
Perhaps most telling is how rarely, in cases when two players are drafted from the same team, that both selections pan out with productive careers.
From the groups listed above, there might be a dozen pairs of players in which both are productive enough to have warranted first-round selection and about half of those would have come from European teams.
(For what it's worth, the last time that two pairs of teammates were drafted as early as this year's pair is projected to go would be 1992, when Windstor's Todd Warriner and Cory Stillman were taken fourth and sixth while Moscow Dynamo's Alexei Yashin and Darius Kasparaitis went second and fifth.)
This doesn't mean that Taylor Hall, Cam Fowler Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter won't all be productive NHLers, because their high pre-draft ranking does set them apart from a number of those included in this evaluation but, based on the last 20 years, it will be quite rare to have both pairs of junior teammates end up as players whose production warrants first-round value.
Just a little food for thought, with more to come, leading towards Friday's draft.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.