The draft is an exciting time around the NHL. It’s a day of promise and potential. It’s a day where big moves are made. Mostly, it’s a day where the future is shaped and crafted. We won’t truly know what that future holds until it happens, but we can get a sneak peek of it based on the picks that each team holds in the upcoming draft.
Each pick has a value attached to it, and finding out just how much it’s worth means we can get a brief glimpse into the future and see which teams might see improvements in the upcoming seasons. For this year’s draft, here’s how many players are expected to become NHLers for each team based on the picks they own and each draft pick’s past probability of finding an NHLer (200+ games played) from 1988 to 2007.
Seven teams will likely find at least two NHL players from this draft, while most teams probably end up with just one. Quantity matters a lot here as the more picks a team has, the more chances they’ll have to find NHL talent. At the top is Toronto, who’ll have a legit NHLer in Auston Matthews and then maybe one or two more from their next 10 picks.
Draft pick value isn’t just about who makes it to the NHL, though, it’s also about how well they play in it. Michael Schuckers has done some extensive research on the subject creating models using career games played and a newer version that uses TOI. I added points-per-game impact to the career games played model and then combined it with TOI impact to hopefully get a more accurate look at true value.
Below is that draft pick value model compared to two others: a simple one based on 200 games played probability with PPG impact, and one based on how the marketplace values draft picks created by Eric Tulsky.
Compared to how the marketplace values them, draft picks appear to be very undervalued. That means accumulating a bundle of them is a worthwhile expedition for any team.
The values on that chart are relative to the first overall pick, but that doesn’t really provide the best context. To take this study a step further I looked at what past first overall picks in the lockout era have been worth using hockey-reference’s point shares (first seven seasons, adjusted to 76 games) which can then be applied to the rest of the draft picks.
There’s been a few misses at first overall, but generally speaking any team picking there is getting a very good player. On average a first overall pick is worth around nine point shares per season, and 61 over his first seven. Let’s just call it an even 60 for convenience sake.
Using the combined GP/TOI/PPG draft pick value method, here’s what the rest of the draft picks would be worth and how many “future points” each team should get over the next seven seasons from this draft.
As you’ll likely notice, the future points actually align pretty well with the probability chart from above. The Leafs are again at the top while the Kings have the lowest value. There’s some differences here and there – like the Jets having the second best value, but only the seventh most probable picks – but for the most part it appears the likelihood of getting a bonafide NHLer translates well to how valuable the pick itself is.
This will be a big draft for Toronto who have a 19 point cushion over the next best team. Toronto is in full rebuild mode and have potential to see big things happen in the future thanks to this draft. Their 10 picks after first overall don’t seem like they’re worth much on their own, but collectively they’ve gathered a huge amount of value there. Those picks alone would rank 15th.
Another interesting team is Winnipeg who are only one season removed from a playoff berth and already have one of the best prospect pipelines in hockey. Their top three picks – 2nd, 22nd, 36th – hold the most value of any team’s top three and considering the higher probability of those picks turning into actual NHLers, the Jets will probably add some good pieces there.
The future looks bright in Alberta too, although we’ve been saying that for years with Edmonton. The Oilers have nine picks, and they’ve got to start making them count. Calgary has stockpiled 10 picks for this draft and have the second highest total probability of landing future NHLers.
Rounding out the top five is Arizona who could end up with two great pieces at picks No. 7 and 20. The Coyotes had the highest Future Watch grade in 2016 and this draft will only add to the embarrassment of riches they’ve collected. Big things are about to happen in the desert.
This draft is going to be important for a lot of teams, but it could end up being especially vital for these five teams considering the potential that this draft holds in shaping their future. If everything goes to plan, expect them to start making noise very soon. Whether it actually does and they actually do is another story. One that we’ll just have to wait to see.