Cullen: Tracking Teammates at the NHL Draft

Scott Cullen
6/22/2010 8:58:06 AM
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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:

Higher Pick Success

Year Player Drafted From Pos. Drafted Team
2009 John Tavares London C 1 NYI
2009 Nazem Kadri London C 7 TOR
2008 Erik Karlsson Frolunda D 15 OTT
2008 Anton Gustafsson Frolunda C 21 WAS
2008 Josh Bailey Windsor C 9 NYI
2008 Greg Nemisz Windsor RW 25 CAL
2008 Drew Doughty Guelph D 2 LA
2008 Thomas McCollum Guelph G 30 DET
2007 Patrick Kane London RW 1 CHI
2007 Sam Gagner London C 6 EDM
2007 Jakub Voracek Halifax RW 7 CBJ
2007 Logan MacMillan Halifax LW 19 ANA
2006 Michael Frolik Kladno LW 10 FLA
2006 Jiri Tlusty Kladno LW 13 TOR
2006 Kyle Okposo Des Moines RW 7 NYI
2006 Trevor Lewis Des Moines C 17 LA
2006 Peter Mueller Everett C 8 PHO
2006 Leland Irving Everett G 26 CAL
2004 Andrew Ladd Calgary LW 4 CAR
2004 Andy Rogers Calgary D 30 TB
2002 Jay Bouwmeester Medicine Hat D 3 FLA
2002 Joffrey Lupul Medicine Hat LW 7 ANA
2002 Kari Lehtonen Jokerit Helsinki G 2 ATL
2002 Sean Bergenheim Jokerit Helsinki LW 22 NYI
2001 Ilya Kovalchuk Moscow Spartak LW 1 ATL
2001 Igor Knyazev Moscow Spartak D 15 CAR
2001 Fredrik Sjostrom Vastra Frolunda LW 11 PHO
2001 Jens Karlsson Vastra Frolunda LW 18 LA
2001 Jason Spezza Windsor C 2 OTT
2001 Tim Gleason Windsor D 23 OTT
2001 Colby Armstrong Red Deer RW 21 PIT
2001 Jeff Woywitka Red Deer D 27 PHI
2001 Carlo Colaiacovo Erie D 17 TOR
2001 Adam Munro Erie G 29 CHI
2000 Brooks Orpik Boston College D 18 PIT
2000 Krys Kolanos Boston College C 19 PHO
1999 Konstantin Koltsov Cherepovets Severstal LW 18 PIT
1999 Mikhail Kuleshov Cherepovets Severstal C 25 COL
1999 Nick Boynton Ottawa D 21 OTT
1999 Luke Sellars Ottawa D 30 ATL
1997 Nick Boynton Ottawa D 9 WAS
1997 Matt Zultek Ottawa LW 15 LA
1997 Brad Ference Spokane D 10 VAN
1997 Ty Jones Spokane RW 16 CHI
1997 Daniel Cleary Belleville LW 13 CHI
1997 Nikos Tselios Belleville D 22 CAR
1996 Lance Ward Red Deer D 10 NJ
1996 Jesse Wallin Red Deer D 26 DET
1995 Daymond Langkow Tri-City C 5 TB
1995 Terry Ryan Tri-City LW 8 MON
1995 Steve Kelly Prince Albert C 6 EDM
1995 Brad Church Prince Albert LW 17 WAS
1995 Chad Kilger Kingston C 4 ANA
1995 Marc Moro Kingston D 27 OTT
1993 Niklas Sundstrom Modo RW 8 NYR
1993 Anders Eriksson Modo D 22 DET
1992 Alexei Yashin Moscow Dynamo C 2 OTT
1992 Darius Kasparaitis Moscow Dynamo D 5 NYI
1992 Andrei Nazarov Moscow Dynamo LW 10 SJ
1992 Sergei Bautin Moscow Dynamo D 17 WIN
1991 Peter Forsberg Modo C 6 PHI
1991 Markus Naslund Modo LW 16 PIT
1990 Petr Nedved Seattle C 2 VAN
1990 Turner Stevenson Seattle RW 12 MON
1990 Keith Primeau Niagara Falls C 3 DET
1990 Brad May Niagara Falls LW 14 BUF
1990 Derian Hatcher North Bay D 8 MIN
1990 Shawn Antoski North Bay LW 18 VAN
1990 John Slaney Cornwall D 9 WAS
1990 Rod Pasma Cornwall D 30 WAS

Lower Pick Success

Year Player Drafted From Pos. Drafted Team
2008 Colten Teubert Regina D 13 LA
2008 Jordan Eberle Regina RW 22 EDM
2006 Dennis Persson Vasteras D 24 BUF
2006 Patrik Berglund Vasteras C 25 STL
2005 Benoit Pouliot Sudbury LW 4 MIN
2005 Marc Staal Sudbury D 12 NYR
2002 Boyd Gordon Red Deer C 17 WAS
2002 Cam Ward Red Deer G 25 CAR
2000 Alexei Mikhnov Yaroslavl Torpedo LW 17 EDM
2000 Alexander Frolov Yaroslavl Torpedo LW 20 LA
2000 Nikita Alexeev Erie LW 8 TB
2000 Brad Boyes Erie RW 24 TOR
1998 Eric Chouinard Quebec C 16 MON
1998 Simon Gagne Quebec LW 22 PHI
1998 Michael Henrich Barrie LW 13 EDM
1998 Martin Skoula Barrie D 17 COL
1998 Mathieu Chouinard Shawinigan G 15 OTT
1998 Mathieu Biron Shawinigan D 21 LA
1996 Josh Holden Regina C 12 VAN
1996 Derek Morris Regina D 13 CAL
1996 Jonathan Aitken Medicine Hat D 8 BOS
1996 Josh Green Medicine Hat LW 30 LA
1995 Terry Ryan Tri-City LW 8 MON
1995 Brian Boucher Tri-City G 22 PHI
1995 Shane Doan Kamloops RW 7 WIN
1995 Jarome Iginla Kamloops RW 11 DAL
1994 Jason Bonsignore Niagara Falls C 4 EDM
1994 Ethan Moreau Niagara Falls LW 14 CHI
1994 Wade Belak Saskatoon D 12 QUE
1994 Rhett Warrener Saskatoon D 27 FLA
1993 Nick Stajduhar London D 16 EDM
1993 Jason Allison London C 17 WAS
1992 Todd Warriner Windsor LW 4 QUE
1992 Cory Stillman Windsor C 6 CAL
1992 Curtis Bowen Ottawa C 22 DET
1992 Grant Marshall Ottawa RW 23 TOR
1992 Sergei Krivokrasov CSKA Moscow RW 12 CHI
1992 Boris Mironov CSKA Moscow D 27 WIN
1991 Pat Falloon Spokane RW 2 SJ
1991 Ray Whitney Spokane LW 23 SJ

Call It a Draw

Year Player Drafted From Pos. Drafted Team
2009 Brayden Schenn Brandon C 5 LA
2009 Scott Glennie Brandon RW 8 DAL
2008 Zach Boychuk Lethbridge LW 14 CAR
2008 Luca Sbisa Lethbridge D 19 PHI
2005 Jakub Kindl Kitchener D 19 DET
2005 Matt Lashoff Kitchener D 22 BOS
2003 Nikolai Zherdev CSKA Moscow RW 4 CBJ
2003 Andrei Kostitsyn CSKA Moscow LW 10 MON
2001 Alexander Svitov Avangard Omsk C 3 TB
2001 Stanislav Chistov Avangard Omsk LW 5 ANA
2000 Rostislav Klesla Brampton D 4 CBJ
2000 Raffi Torres Brampton LW 5 NYI
2000 Artem Kryukov Yaroslavl Torpedo RW 15 BUF
2000 Alexei Mikhnov Yaroslavl Torpedo LW 17 EDM
1999 Daniel Sedin Modo LW 2 VAN
1999 Henrik Sedin Modo C 3 VAN
1999 Brian Finley Barrie G 6 NAS
1999 Denis Shvidki Barrie RW 12 FLA
1998 Jeff Heerema Sarnia RW 11 CAR
1998 Patrick DesRochers Sarnia G 14 PHO
1996 Dan Focht Tri-City D 11 PHO
1996 Jaroslav Svejkovsky Tri-City RW 17 WAS
1994 Jamie Storr Owen Sound G 7 LA
1994 Wayne Primeau Owen Sound C 17 BUF
1994 Alexander Kharlamov CSKA Moscow RW 15 WAS
1994 Yan Golubovsky CSKA Moscow D 23 DET

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 and followed on Twitter at

Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler (Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Clauis Andersen/Getty Images )


(Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Clauis Andersen/Getty Images )
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