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Cullen: Updated NHL Draft Pick Values, Observations

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Scott Cullen
6/25/2014 4:48:11 PM
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As teams prepare for the 2014 NHL Draft, I'm digging back into past drafts in an effort to distinguish some value between picks. This is an exercise I have undertaken a few times, starting in 2009, and hope that I've refined my approach a little bit in that time to help paint a better picture.

This latest update goes through NHL Drafts from 1990 through 2009, leaving some time for the 2009 picks to establish an NHL career, and assigned a numerical value to each of the players selected, using the following 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, under 50 NHL games
1 - 10 or fewer NHL games

A few disclaimers:
- There is not necessarily an equal talent gap from 10-9-8 as there is from 1-2-3 (and there are far more ones than tens), so the average grades may not be right on target for what the average player at that slot will become but they should be in the ballpark.

- 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 2009, in particular, tend to be conservative, making the percentage of players "Ranked 7 or better" lower in some cases.

- My focus was on the best four years of a player's career, in determining whether production/usage would warrant first line, second line, third line status, but players whose careers were shortened or had a narrow peak could be knocked down a peg.

- 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 be extenuating circumstances, whether it's injury or being stuck as a late first-round pick trying to make a talented team. Even so, I've removed Alexei Cherepanov (#17 in 2007), Luc Bourdon (#10 in 2005) and Mickey Renaud (fifth-round pick in 2007) from the evaluation as their NHL careers weren't established enough before their tragic deaths.

Below is my value for draft picks, broken down pick-by-pick for the first round, by 5-pick groups in the second round, 10-pick groups in the third and fourth round, then 15-pick groups in rounds five, six and seven. Included is the average rating for players taken in those slots for the years from 1990-2009, with best and worsts of the group included for all first round picks, then only bests beyond pick No. 30. (How would you like to determine the worst fourth-round picks of all time?).

Also included are percentages of those selections that ranked at least as top-six forwards, top four defencemen or starting goaltenders and, by contrast, a percentage that maxed out as fourth-liners, depth defencemen, backup goaltenders (or worse). Then, there is a percentage of players taken in that slot that have played at least 100 NHL games, a relatively low bar to say that someone was an NHL player. For those that are just embarking on their pro careers, I tend to give the benefit of the doubt, so even if Chris Krieder has 89 NHL games, I feel pretty comfortable including him among the group that will play at least 100.

Before the numbers, some observations:
- There is real value to holding the No. 1 pick and it's getting better. While there are slip-ups every so often, they are becoming increasingly rare. The last first overall pick that would have fallen short of being a top-six forward, top four defenceman or starting goaltender would probably be Rick DiPietro. That was in 2000 and while a cautionary tale against drafting a goaltender first overall or signing 15-year contracts, DiPietro was an above average goaltender for about three seasons (2003-2004 through 2006-2007) before injuries derailed his career.

- While there is plenty of talk of the Panthers trading out of the No. 1 pick, and they very well could do that, there is an element of risk involved in sliding too far down. Some risk starts to show as early as pick three or four, but outside the top five a team is at least as likely to land a depth player as they are a significant contributor. This becomes particularly interesting when a team at the top might consider moving down to take the likes of William Nylander or Nikolaj Ehlers, skilled players with high upside, but maybe they come with a little more risk and that's the downside part of the calculation when looking further down the board.

- Another point to consider about the top pick is whether it will get used on Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad. There is more risk involved when taking defencemen at the top of the draft, but the difference isn't such that defenceman ought to be ignored altogether. Fair to question whether Ekblad has a high enough ceiling or whether his relative success in junior is predicated on a size and strength advantage that should diminish in the pros, but he shouldn't be eliminated from consideration merely because he plays defence. Teams could have taken Chris Pronger or Drew Doughty at the top of the draft and ended up quite satisfied with their selections.

See the positional breakdown for the top of the draft here:

Forwards in First 5 Picks
Average Rating:
7.22
Ranked 7 or better: 74.2%
Ranked 5 or worse: 12.9%
At Least 100 NHL Games (or very likely): 95.2%

Defencemen in First 5 Picks
Average Rating:
6.82
Ranked 7 or better: 66.7%
Ranked 5 or worse: 12.1%
At Least 100 NHL Games (or very likely): 100.0%

Goaltenders in First 5 Picks
Average Rating:
7.30
Ranked 7 or better: 80.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 0.0%
At Least 100 NHL Games (or very likely): 100.0%

- What is notable is that, aside from the super small sample of goaltenders taken in the top five (Roberto Luongo, DiPietro, Kari Lehtonen, Marc-Andre Fleury, Carey Price), which is a relatively successful group, the rest of the goaltending picks in the first round are a serious roll of the dice. Even though he has nothing to do with those numbers, maybe that could affect the appeal of Thatcher Demko, the top goaltending prospect.

Forwards in First 30 Picks
Average Rating:
4.96
Best: Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin.
Ranked 7 or better: 32.7%
Ranked 5 or worse: 50.1%
At Least 100 NHL Games (or very likely): 73.5%

Defencemen in First 30 Picks
Average Rating:
4.71
Best: Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson.
Ranked 7 or better: 29.9%
Ranked 5 or worse: 53.7%
At Least 100 NHL Games (or very likely): 70.6%

Goaltenders in First 30 Picks
Average Rating:
4.11
Best: Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Tuukka Rask.
Ranked 7 or better: 27.2%
Ranked 5 or worse: 61.4%
At Least 100 NHL Games (or very likely): 50.0%

- The 15th pick has been some inexplicable wasteland, the lowest-rated pick of the first 29 and that includes having Erik Karlsson taken there by the Ottawa Senators in 2008. Only 40% of 15th picks played 100 games in the NHL, so best of luck, Detroit.

- Beyond the first round, there is better than a 34.0% chance that a second-round pick (31-60) plays 100 NHL games. This falls to about 29.3% of third-round (61-90) picks, 19.3% in the fourth round (91-120), 14.7% in the fifth round (121-150), 15.5% in the sixth round (151-180) and 9.2% in the seventh round (181-210). A neat trick to have sixth-round picks slightly more successful than fifth-round picks, but that speaks to the randomness at play by that point in the draft. Land a Pavel Datsyuk or Andrei Markov or Brian Campbell at that stage and it affects the value.

- While I enjoy the draft as much as anyone, and it's always interesting to see how teams approach talent acquisition, hopefully these numbers indicate the uncertainty of the process. There are very few sure things on draft day.

PICK VALUES

No. 1
Average Rating:
7.88
Best: Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin.
Worst: Alexandre Daigle, Patrik Stefan, Rick DiPietro.
Ranked 7 or better: 85.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 5.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 100.0%

No. 2
Average Rating:
7.78
Best: Evgeni Malkin, Chris Pronger, Daniel Sedin, Drew Doughty.
Worst: Andrei Zyuzin, Pat Falloon.
Ranked 7 or better: 90.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 0.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 100.0%

No. 3
Average Rating:
7.00
Best: Scott Niedermayer, Henrik Sedin, Jonathan Toews.
Worst: Alexandre Svitov, Aki Berg, Cam Barker.
Ranked 7 or better: 80.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 15.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 100.0%

No. 4
Average Rating:
6.13
Best: Paul Kariya, Roberto Luongo, Nicklas Backstrom.
Worst: Alexandre Volchkov, Jason Bonsignore, Pavel Brendl.
Ranked 7 or better: 50.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 30.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 85.0%

No. 5
Average Rating:
6.68
Best: Jaromir Jagr, Thomas Vanek, Phil Kessel, Carey Price.
Worst: Ric Jackman, Stanislav Chistov.
Ranked 7 or better: 55.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 10.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 85.0%

No. 6
Average Rating:
5.25
Best: Peter Forsberg, Ryan Smyth, Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Worst: Scott Scissons, Brian Finley, Daniel Tkaczuk.
Ranked 7 or better: 45.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 45.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 80.0%

No. 7
Average Rating:
5.40
Best: Jason Arnott, Shane Doan, Ryan Suter.
Worst: Ryan Sittler, Alek Stojanov, Lars Jonsson.
Ranked 7 or better: 35.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 40.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 90.0%

No. 8
Average Rating:
4.75
Best: Derian Hatcher, Richard Matvichuk, Braydon Coburn.
Worst: Scott Glennie, Terry Ryan, Jonathan Aitken, Alexandre Picard, Zach Hamill.
Ranked 7 or better: 20.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 45.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 75.0%

No. 9
Average Rating:
5.03
Best: Dion Phaneuf, Logan Couture, Kyle McLaren.
Worst: Brent Krahn, Petr Taticek, Brian Lee.
Ranked 7 or better: 25.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 55.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 85.0%

No. 10
Average Rating:
4.68
Best: Nik Antropov, Radek Dvorak, Cody Hodgson, Jocelyn Thibault.
Worst: Boris Valabik, Mikhail Yakubov, Brad Ference.
Ranked 7 or better: 0.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 63.2%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 80.0%

No. 11
Average Rating:
5.15
Best: Jarome Iginla, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter.
Worst: Kyle Beach, Lauri Tukonen, Jeff Heerema, David Cooper.
Ranked 7 or better: 35.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 45.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 70.0%

No. 12
Average Rating:
5.08
Best: Marian Hossa, Dan Hamhuis, Ryan McDonagh.
Worst: Teemu Riihijarvi, Hugh Jessiman, A.J. Thelen.
Ranked 7 or better: 40.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 50.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 70.0%

No. 13
Average Rating:
5.10
Best: Alexander Semin, Ales Hemsky.
Worst: Michael Henrich, Marek Zagrapan, Michael Stewart, Joe Hulbig.
Ranked 7 or better: 40.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 40.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 70.0%

No. 14
Average Rating:
5.05
Best: Sergei Gonchar, Brent Seabrook.
Worst: Sasha Pokulok, Michel Riesen.
Ranked 7 or better: 30.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 35.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 80.0%

No. 15
Average Rating:
3.10
Best: Erik Karlsson, Alex Kovalev.
Worst: Matt Zultek, Scott Kelman, Artem Kryukov, Igor Knyazev, Jesse Niinimaki.
Ranked 7 or better: 20.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 80.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 40.0%

No. 16
Average Rating:
3.68
Best: Markus Naslund, Martin Biron, R.J. Umberger.
Worst: Nick Stajduhar, Mario Larocque, Alex Bourret.
Ranked 7 or better: 15.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 75.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 60.0%

No. 17
Average Rating:
4.26
Best: Zach Parise, Barret Jackman, Martin Hanzal.
Worst: Scott Allison, Brent Bilodeau, Brad Church, Alexei Mikhnov.
Ranked 7 or better: 21.1%
Ranked 5 or worse: 57.9%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 60.0%

No. 18
Average Rating:
4.20
Best: Glen Murray, Petr Sykora, Brooks Orpik, Jason Smith.
Worst: Jesper Mattsson, Jens Karlsson, Chet Pickard.
Ranked 7 or better: 20.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 65.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 75.0%

No. 19
Average Rating:
4.13
Best: Ryan Getzlaf, Keith Tkachuk, Martin Straka.
Worst: Mark Mitera, Niklas Sundblad, Jakub Koreis.
Ranked 7 or better: 25.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 70.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 40.0%

No. 20
Average Rating:
4.53
Best: Martin Brodeur, Alexander Frolov, Brent Burns.
Worst: David Fischer, Angelo Esposito.
Ranked 7 or better: 25.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 60.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 70.0%

No. 21
Average Rating:
4.63
Best: Saku Koivu, Tuukka Rask.
Worst: Libor Polasek, Evgeny Ryabchikov, Anton Gustafsson.
Ranked 7 or better: 20.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 55.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 70.0%

No. 22
Average Rating:
3.83
Best: Claude Giroux, Simon Gagne, Max Pacioretty, Jordan Eberle.
Worst: Curtis Bowen, Jeff Brown, Nikos Tselios.
Ranked 7 or better: 20.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 70.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 60.0%

No. 23
Average Rating:
4.68
Best: Ray Whitney, Todd Bertuzzi, Ryan Kesler.
Worst: Mikka Elomo, Craig Hillier, Tyler Cuma.
Ranked 7 or better: 35.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 55.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 70.0%

No. 24
Average Rating:
4.43
Best: Mike Richards, Alexander Steen, Daniel Briere.
Worst: Dennis Persson, Eric Lecompte, Luca Cereda
Ranked 7 or better: 25.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 60.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 70.0%

No. 25
Average Rating:
3.95
Best: Brenden Morrow, Cam Ward, Patrik Berglund.
Worst: Mikhail Kuleshov, Patrick White, Eric Lavigne, Chad Penney.
Ranked 7 or better: 15.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 70.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 70.0%

No. 26
Average Rating:
4.10
Best: Zigmund Palffy, Martin Havlat, David Perron, Cory Schneider.
Worst: Nicolas Perreault, Kevin Grimes, Martin Vagner.
Ranked 7 or better: 20.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 55.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 60.0%

No. 27
Average Rating:
3.95
Best: Scott Gomez, Steve Staios, Boris Mironov, John Carlson.
Worst: Ari Ahonen, Mike Morris, Philippe Paradis.
Ranked 7 or better: 20.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 65.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 65.0%

No. 28
Average Rating:
3.70
Best: Corey Perry, Justin Williams, Matt Niskanen.
Worst: Brandy Semchuk, Adrian Foster, Jonas Johansson, Nick Petrecki.
Ranked 7 or better: 15.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 70.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 50.0%

No. 29
Average Rating: 3.50
Best: Niklas Kronwall, Mike Green.
Worst: Chris Gotziaman, Brian Wesenberg, Daultan Leveille.
Ranked 7 or better: 10.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 80.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 40.0%

No. 30
Average Rating: 2.70
Best: Sandis Ozolinsh, Jim Slater, David Steckel, Deron Quint.
Worst: Rod Pasma, Andy Rogers, Nick Ross.
Ranked 7 or better: 5.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 95.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 35.0%

No. 31-35
Average Rating: 2.83
Best: Doug Weight, James Neal, Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Ranked 7 or better: 13.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 84.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 34.0%

No. 36-40
Average Rating: 2.84
Best: Geoff Sanderson, Jozef Stumpel, Bryan McCabe, Brendan Morrison, Jarret Stoll.
Ranked 7 or better: 10.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 82.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 34.0%

No. 41-45
Average Rating: 3.02
Best: Patrice Bergeron, P.K. Subban, Paul Stastny.
Ranked 7 or better: 11.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 75.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 41.0%

No. 46-50
Average Rating: 2.69
Best: Shea Weber, Milan Lucic, Mike Cammalleri.
Ranked 7 or better: 12.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 81.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 32.0%

No. 51-55
Average Rating: 2.71
Best: Patrik Elias, Duncan Keith, Jason Pominville.
Ranked 7 or better: 10.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 82.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 33.0%

No. 56-60
Average Rating: 2.32
Best: Zdeno Chara, Michael Nylander, Brandon Dubinsky.
Ranked 7 or better: 5.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 89.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 29.0%

No. 61-70
Average Rating: 2.45
Best: Brad Richards, David Krejci, David Backes, Kris Letang.
Ranked 7 or better: 5.5%
Ranked 5 or worse: 88.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 37.5%

No. 71-80
Average Rating: 2.32
Best: Jonathan Quick, Alexei Zhamnov, Chris Drury, Vinny Prospal.
Ranked 7 or better: 8.5%
Ranked 5 or worse: 83.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 26.5%

No. 81-90
Average Rating: 2.16
Best: Sergei Zubov, Milan Hejduk.
Ranked 7 or better: 6.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 89.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 24.0%

No. 91-100
Average Rating: 2.10
Best: Marc Savard, Patrick Sharp, Alexander Edler, Johan Franzen.
Ranked 7 or better: 3.5%
Ranked 5 or worse: 90.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 24.5%

No. 101-110
Average Rating: 1.85
Best: Keith Yandle, Christian Ehrhoff, Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Ranked 7 or better: 3.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 94.5%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 19.5%

No. 111-120
Average Rating: 1.68
Best: Miikka Kiprusoff, Lubomir Visnovsky, Miroslav Satan.
Ranked 7 or better: 4.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 94.5%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 14.0%

No. 121-135
Average Rating: 1.85
Best: Daniel Alfredsson, Jamie Benn, Marty Turco.
Ranked 7 or better: 4.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 92.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 16.0%

No. 136-150
Average Rating: 1.64
Best: Ryan Miller, Andrei Kovalenko, Bryce Salvador.
Ranked 7 or better: 2.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 94.3%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 13.4%

No. 151-165
Average Rating: 1.78
Best: Peter Bondra, Brian Campbell, Andrei Markov, James Wisniewski.
Ranked 7 or better: 5.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 92.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 15.0%

No. 166-180
Average Rating: 1.74
Best: Pavel Datsyuk, Andrew Brunette, Marek Zidlicky.
Ranked 7 or better: 2.3%
Ranked 5 or worse: 94.0%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 16.0%

No. 181-195
Average Rating: 1.54
Best: Martin Erat, Filip Kuba, Jussi Jokinen.
Ranked 7 or better: 2.0%
Ranked 5 or worse: 96.3%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 10.3%

No. 196-210
Average Rating: 1.49
Best: Henrik Lundqvist, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Kaberle.
Ranked 7 or better: 2.3%
Ranked 5 or worse: 96.3%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 8.0%

No. 211+
Average Rating: 1.61
Best: Tim Thomas, Tomas Vokoun, Pavol Demitra, Kimmo Timonen, Pekka Rinne.
Ranked 7 or better: 3.2%
Ranked 5 or worse: 94.6%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 12.0%

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Sam Reinhart (Photo: Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

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