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RULE THE ROOST

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In just a few days from now, the 2016 NHL Draft will be history. In the days, hours and minutes leading up to the draft – or even during the draft – there are usually hectic speculations, rumors, and real trade offers.

Photo  Thomas Roost

Time to look a bit deeper into the not exact science of judging the value of possible assets in trade talks and the, also, not exact science of predicting the career of talents.

Despite the fact that drafting is an inexact science at best, draft rights and picks are treated like known quantities and qualities in trade talks. The real value of these assets, however, is rarely discussed in concrete terms. Everybody seems to know that a first-round pick is worth more than later round picks. But the interesting question is: how much more are they worth? Some data analyses will help to answer this question.

The analyses show us that the clearly highest value in NHL draft picks lies in the overall top three selections; the largest drop-off in pick value lies between picks three and four. Between picks four and fifteen, there is not a big difference; these picks are worth roughly a bit more than 33% of a 1-3 overall selection.

A sixth-overall pick is more or less twice as valuable as a 30th overall selection. The analyses also show that late first-round picks are just a little bit more valuable than 2nd- or 3rd-round picks.

This means the difference in value between a first-round-pick of a contending team and a 2nd- or 3rd-round pick is significantly smaller than the difference between a late first-round-pick and a top-five-pick of the same round.

So the idea of “quantity over quality” in NHL-drafts in terms of collecting a couple of 2nd- and 3rd-round picks compared to holding on to a late-first rounder is probably a good idea. In the end, the analyses show that, by tendency, the value of middle- and late 1st-round-picks are a bit overrated and the value of 2nd- and later-round picks might be a bit underrated.

I already mentioned more than once that hockey scouting is not an exact science but we still have to try finding some tools to project the success expectancy of NHL-prospects. Some analysts found that the best predictor of future NHL-production is the amount of primary points per game played in the draft year. They compared these numbers with comparable players in their draft year and, of course, there is much more to it (era, league-adjustments, marginal goals by league and so on).

But with this model, the chance of predicting future NHL-success of prospects is clearly higher than without such a model.

As a concrete example, I can present our Swiss forwards Timo Meier: The analysts found a group of 43 players with comparable numbers in their draft year. Of those 43, 24 became successful NHL players (NHL-success is determined by them playing 200 NHL games or more). The result shows that Timo Meier’s chance of becoming a successful NHL-player is 55.8% and his projected NHL points per game played will be 0.57. Although this system is helpful it’s important not to fully rely on it; it’s an additional tool, not more and not less.

Thank you to Stephen Burtch and Zac Urback for their great insights.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Thomas Roost (@thomasroost) was born in 1960 and lives in Horgen, Zurich. Since 1995 he has been working as NHL-scout for Central-Scouting Europe, since 2010 also as scout for EHC Biel in the National League A.

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