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  • Rick Haley

Deep Dive Into The Draft

Updated: Mar 14, 2021

The NHL Amateur Draft

Part 1 - How have the Winnipeg Jets done?

I am intrigued by the NHL draft. I love hockey and I love the Winnipeg Jets but the part of hockey that really interests me is the building of teams. The drafts, the trades; the development process. Who has drafted well in the last ten years? Who has traded away good talent? What teams do the best in the later rounds (this will be another story). And how have our Jets done? Kevin Cheveldayoff and crew have now participated in 10 drafts. How do the Jets rank? I will also address how and if drafting well correlates to success and the bigger question of ‘What is success in today’s NHL?’

Mark Scheifele 2011 Draft

The problem with rating and ranking good or bad draft years is that the process is so subjective. It is easy to look at the top 5 picks from any year or even the first round and determine which teams did well or not. It is those deep, later rounds where scouting departments show their worth. Who among us hasn’t looked back at draft picks with a should’ve-would’ve-could’ve attitude and marvelled at who was picked and who wasn’t (or in what order). That’s the thing. Aside from the first few picks in most drafts, it takes at least 5 years for those 18 year-olds to start making an impact. The average age of an NHL rookie is 22.5 years. We often see a 23 or 25 year-old start to rip things up and we wonder where he came from. Detroit were the masters at this, drafting players in the later rounds who gave them years of productivity (hello Pavel Datsyuk).

So how do we measure this? I probably could have asked Uncle Google but that would have been work. No doubt, others, much smarter than me have looked at this and come up with fancy formulas using trigonometry and co-efficients (I have an English Major brain). I even checked with my math teacher buddy Steve but he couldn’t help me. Thinking about this, I felt the only true indicator of a good draft pick is in man-games played based on those draft picks (I know that isn’t a politically correct term but there aren’t yet any females playing in the league so I will leave it for now). Man-games played (MGP) makes the assumption that if you draft a good enough player, he will continue to get ice time and contracts. It leaves out scoring, defensive numbers and save percentage which are hard to compare. Very simple. If you are good, you play. Even if a team trades away draft picks or young players, the assumption is that you get something in return (of the same value is the big question). In my tables, MGP stayed with the team that drafted that player, even if they were traded. This is then an indicator of a how a scouting department and a GM are doing their respective jobs.

Kristian Vesalainen 2017 Draft

So being the geek that I am, along with too much free time, I went through all the draft picks dating back to 2011. I calculated all the man-games played up until the end of last season (so really it’s a review of 9 seasons). The results were very interesting to say the least. The average MGP for the last nine years per team sits at 3108. This is based on 30 teams (Las Vegas was not part of this study). The average MGP for the 2011 draft year was 861. Do you have a headache yet? With the average NHL career sitting at just 5 years (not a typo), if you can draft two players per year that go on to play 400 or 500 games, you have done well and will be above average. The Ottawa Senators were shooting fish in a barrel in 2011. They are currently sitting at 2015 man-games for that draft. Insane when you consider the New York Rangers have only drafted a total of 2066 man games in the last 9 years!

You can see all the stats here!

Who do you think has drafted the most MGP played in the last ten years? The Anaheim Ducks were first with 4258 MGP. They had some huge draft years. They doubled the average for 2011 (1635 to 835) and almost tripled the average for 2014 (925 to 386). They were also slightly above average for 3 other seasons. Finishing last? The aforementioned New York Rangers at 2066. For three draft years starting in 2014, they totalled just 40 man-games. Just ahead of them but not by much come Minnesota, Colorado and the Islanders. And early findings on correlation of success to drafting well? Anaheim is just above average over the last 9 seasons for wins, playoff games played and series won so they are relatively successful. Coming in just behind Anaheim is Tampa Bay. Are they successful? Hell ya. Even without winning the cup last year, the Lightning are second in most playoff series wins over the last 9 years. Here is where it gets interesting though; the Buffalo Sabres are third in man games drafted at 4075! They had three big draft years starting in 2012 but have not played one playoff game in that time!

Jet Brass 2020 Draft

And our Jets? They sit 6th overall and just 34 games out of 4th. They drafted above average in 5 out of 9 draft years. So based on man-games alone, I would say they have been successful.

In Part 2, we will look at determining what it means to be successful in the NHL (and its more than just Stanley Cups). Watch for Rick’s NHL Success Calculator and in Part 3 we will mash all the numbers together and see what falls out!

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