We sometimes hear from a scout or two in the weeks leading up to the publication of Future Watch. “Our grade isn’t going to be pretty,” the scouts say, hats in hand. “Can you mention somewhere in there we don’t get many early draft picks and that reflects poorly on us?” Yes, Binky, we can do that. We do that every year in this handicapping system.
The chart on the right takes two important things into account: report-card rank league-wide (RK), broken out at the bottom of this page, and the team’s average first pick in the past four drafts (ADR). A team such as Tampa Bay, which has had just the 24th-highest average first pick since 2015 (33rd, 27th, 14th, 59th) isn’t likely to have a lot of A-list prospects. But the Lightning have clearly drafted well in later rounds and have the eighth-highest report-card grade. That gives Tampa a plus-16 rating, best in class.
So don’t beat up teams like Nashville and Washington if their prospect lists aren’t super deep and their report-card grades get them grounded at home. They’re actually doing as well, or better, than you’d expect with such a dearth of high draft picks.
This levelling system also takes a bit of shine off teams with high grades. Buffalo and New Jersey, for example, have collections of prospects and 21-and-under NHLers that rank in our top 10. But they’ve also drafted the earliest and third-earliest, respectively, since 2015. They should have deepest crops of blue-chippers. Teams with a zero plus-minus find themselves exactly where their draft order would suggest.
Finally, it’s important to note teams that trade homegrown prospects are artificially hurt by this handicapping system.