Sunday, August 30, 2009

Arriving late and in style

Looking at what teams are succesful in the league right now, there are a few methods of successful drafting practices. If you look at Washington, their team drafting starts and ends which whatever they can grab in the first round. Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Simeon Varlamov, Mike Green, and of course, Alex Ovechkin, were all first round picks. Their success starts there, because if you look at their drafting record the last 10 years Johnny Oduya is the only NHL player they've drafted third round on that you would call an NHL'er, and he didn't even play a drop with the team.

Detroit is at the other end of the spectrum of succesful drafting. They've only had four first round picks the last 10 drafts (1998-2008), Niklas Kronwall and Jiri Fischer being the two NHL tandouts. But of course, their talent has been getting obscure talent later in the draft. Datsyuk Zetterburg, Franzen, Fillipula, Helm, and Quincey are all players Detroit has picked in the third round and on the last 10 years of drafting that we could call legit NHL players. One could argue that Detroit drafting is slowly becoming more of an old myth than practice but it's still great, even though Zetterburg was the last star they drafted late and that was 10 years ago.

So, where in this situation does Edmonton fall into play? Well, that's the problem.

If we start off by looking at first round success, the initial problem is draft placement. Edmonton isn't bad enough on a constant enough level to get the top five picks, but if you look at where the Capitals have grabbed some it's core, it's a little depressing. Semin, Varlamov and Green were all picked in the later half of the first round. Of course if it wasn't for that 1st pick overall turning into Ovechkin, they wouldn't the force they are today, but it wouldn't be hard to argue they still would be a fine team.

Teams that have the inability to draft well early then rely on the ability to find players later in the draft and, let's be honest, get a little lucky. Looking at what the Oilers have drafted in the third round and on the last 10 years, you'll see they haven't done badly. Shawn Horcoff, Mike Comrie, Matthew Lombardi, Jussi Markkanen, Kyle Brodziak and Zack Stortini are all players that the Oilers have taken in the third round or later, and together they've played closed to 2000 games. That's not bad at all. Now, comparing that list of players to what the Wings have amassed is more humbling, but comparing anything to what Detroit has usually is.

So, if we're just looking at late draft success, what can we say is a good way to measure it? Games played? That's a tricky method, because it's not hard to say it's easier for players to make the roster on bad teams and in a sense "boost" up the games played. I'm not sure Stortini would have 170 games played if he was part of the Red Wings system. But for now, let's pretend the best way to equate success late in the draft is just games played.

Here's the list of the top five teams for GP from the third round down from the last 10 drafts from 1998-2008 (including 2007 and 2008 is almost pointless though)

  1. Colorado - 2917 GP
  2. Pittsburgh - 2820 GP
  3. Tampa Bay- 2349 GP
  4. Edmonton - 2344 GP
  5. Montreal - 2291 GP
Here's the bottom 5.

  1. Washington - 439 GP
  2. Phoenix - 667 GP
  3. Minnesota - 1124 GP
  4. Vancouver - 1171 GP
  5. New Jersey - 1302 GP

What does this tell us, if anything? Well, that Colorado and Pittsburgh are fantastic at getting players later in the draft, and that Washington and Phoenix need some more prayer before their drafts. What this doesn't do of course, is consider the level of talent being picked and the sort of worth to the team, but what it can do at least is show which teams are able to get NHL players later in the draft, and it seems Edmonton is good at it. It's just not elite talent.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Oilers prospects/the few, the strong, the brave

Looking at the Oilers list of top prospects, it can be both alluring and hypnotisizing when looking at potential. That of course, is always the keyword when it comes to players as young as 17. The look of the list is shiny and it's brilliant because these are players mostly still untouched by the slimy hands of the future.

So, how can one look at a list of top prospects and look past the shine to see a little more reality on their potential outcome? There is always relevance in the past, and looking at past lists is prime material for some new perspective on what happens to the majority of these fine young men.

A list long ago by Guy Flaming from 2004 shows the reality of these lists. As per usual, even early on, great stuff by Flaming, but it's really eye-opening looking at some of those names. Niinimaki the third highest prospect, Jeff Woywitka at fifth, and names like Mikael Svensk and Joe Cullen, guys that even hardcore fans might forget. Out of the 20 names on that list, four or five(depending on your definition) are NHL players and none of them are impact players.

This isn't just a snapshot from 2004. If you look at the old lists, about 1/5 of the players turn into something, even fewer into something good. Using these examples of what happens to the top 20, we need to look at our current batch.

If I had to rate the top 20 prospects for the Oilers simply on what I think are the best rather than a number/letter system I would look at the system like this.

1. Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson
2. Jordan Eberle
3. Riley Nash
4. Theo Peckham
5. Linus Omark
6. Jeff Petry
7. Alex Plante
8. Teemu Hartikainen
9. Devan Dubynk
10. Anton Lander
11. Toni Rajala
12. Chris Vande Velde
13 Taylor Chorney
14 Rob Schremp
15 Milan Kytnar
16 Olivier Roy
17 Philippe Cornet
18 Cody Wild
19 Troy Hesketh
20 Johan Motin

Judging from comments from HF, there were a few complaints. One being the rating of Cody Wild. I don't get the hype around some places for him, the games I saw on the web of him in Springfield were extremely unwhelming and I don't see what other fans see. His play was sloppy in his own end. I'll admit, I might have caught a bad batch, but I have to take that into consideration.

Roy is that low because I feel hockey minds know these kids better than we do. So if every single team passed on him for four rounds, you need to take notice. That makes me think that these scouts, who's job it is to look at these kids, don't see either the potential or the heart to make it happen. It has to be either or. If he was as good as our eyes see him, I see a team taking him earlier. Those are the sort of things I think need to be taken in consideration. Is it still fantastic the Oilers got him so late? Of course.

One thing I do as well is take into consideration good and bad seasons. Everyone talks about how important the development years are for these kids, and I think that these up and down years effect part of the emotional growth and maturity of these players. So, in contrast to others, I move up players who have good years higher and players who have bad years lower, hence the fall of players like Chorney and the rise of Alex Plante. That's not to say these players are going to the abyss after a bad season, but it should be a mark on their record, otherwise we're going off reputation rather instead of play.

Going forward, I want to break down these players more and have a look at what players will realistically make a move into the NHL, and slowly try and create a more effective measuring system for these kids.

But back to the list, if we're saying on average that around four to six players from the top 20 lists make the NHL, one should wonder what from this list will do the same. While it looks all shiny and beautiful now, there are 14 kids you'll never see play with the Oilers.