Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Which NHL Team Had The Best 2013 Draft?

As usual, I got my inspiration for this exercise from a random tweet. Today's entry comes via Mikey D:

 I sort of disagree with MD, primarily because Sam Morin and Robert Hagg both figure to be key contributors on the blueline next year and for the foreseeable future. Two guys from a seven-round draft looks a hell of a lot better than zero.

I will call it a seven-round draft because there were, in fact, that many rounds. But the Flyers only made six selections, because they used their fourth-round pick in the Pavel Kubina trade. Those six selections were Morin, Hagg, forward Tyrell Goulbourne, defenseman Terrance Amorosa, goalie Merrick Madsen, and defenseman David Drake.

If you follow the Flyers in any capacity, you should already be pretty familiar with the first three. Morin was just voted the 9th best Flyer under 25 by Broad Street Hockey, Hagg tied for 15th, Madsen finished just outside the top 25 in the honorable mentions, and he still has his senior season at Harvard next year to prove himself. Goulbourne has fallen out of the running for the BSH Top 25 Under 25 honor but he totally could still beat you up.

But, to Mikey's point, it's been three and a half years and the big club has nothing to show from the 2013 NHL Draft. No games, no goals, no big moments. Nothing. But are they that far behind other teams' draft classes from that year? Let's explore.

Teams That Drafted Elite Talent At The Top Of The Draft

I want to separate these teams, from the pack, because of course drafting a slam-dunk, no-doubt-about-it, ready-to-contribute-right-away player is going to make the whole draft look good. The top four teams on the board selected the top three North American skaters and the top European skater. I think it'd be good for us to keep that in mind as we dive in.

Colorado Avalanche
  • Notable picks: forward Nathan MacKinnon, defenseman Chris Bigras, goalie Spencer Martin, four defenseman who will never play in the NHL
Even with MacKinnon, this draft had minimal impact on the Avs. They still stink, they're going to blow it up again, and they'll probably end up getting a bunch of draft picks so they can completely whiff on every single one of them. Except the franchise-caliber talent, they'll fall into that, and then they can surround him with NOTHING and repeat the whole process. 

Florida Panthers
  • Notable picks: forward Aleksandr Barkov, defenseman Ian McCoshen, goalie Evan Cowley, defenseman Michael Downing, center Matt Buckles, forward Christopher Clapperton, defenseman Joshua Brown, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar
It's never good when six of your selections in one draft are so irrelevant three seasons later that they don't even have Wikipedia pages. But, of course, Barkov being the perennial Selke winner of the future erases everything and the Panthers get billed as a skilled young team. 

Also it's insane that Christopher Clapperton couldn't make it to the big leagues. Possibly the best hockey name of all time. He's still playing college hockey, so maybe you'll see his name slapped on the back of a Panthers jersey in the future. 

Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Notable picks: forward Jonathan Drouin, winger Adam Erne, goalie Kristers Gudlevskis, winger Henri Ikonen, forward Saku Salminen, winger Joel Vermin
Granted, the Lightning traded their third- and fourth-round picks in the blockbuster Anders Lindback and BJ Crombeen trades. But still, this draft counts as a "win" for them even though they only hit on one pick, all because Drouin is a stud.

Nashville Predators
  • Notable picks: defenseman Seth Jones, defenseman Jonathan Diaby, forward Felix Girard, goalie Juuse Saros, forward Saku Maenalanen, defenseman Teemu Kivihalme, forward Emil Petterson, forward Tommy Veilleux, forward Wade Murphy, goalie Janne Juvonen
This exercise is starting to make me mad on line. Everyone's draft stinks. The vast majority of the 200 players drafted each summer stink and won't ever make the NHL. Everyone whiffs on most of their picks. So what if Morin and Hagg took some time to get their feet wet in professional hockey? Shooting 2-for-6 is far from terrible. 

Now, keeping in mind that almost every team probably had a draft that graded somewhere between "okay" and "awful", let's try to find some teams that really plundered this draft. 

Teams That Stole A Star Way Later Than He Should Have Been Drafted

This section is tricky because a grand total of zero players drafted outside of the top ten have ever been voted or selected to an All-Star or All-NHL team. If we dumb our definition of "star" down to the 14 guys who have played 100+ NHL games and/or scored 40+ NHL points, then we at least have something to work with.

But if we do that, does a middle-of-the-road guy really count as a star? I think it's better if we name the category something like...

Teams That Wound Up With Multiple Guys Who Are Currently NHL Contributors

Calgary Flames

  • Notable picks: forward Sean Monahan, forward Emile Poirer, forward Morgan Klimchuk, defenseman Keegan Kanzig, defenseman Eric Roy, firward Tim Harrison, defenseman Rushan Rashikov, defenseman John Gilmour

We'll start with the Flames, whose 6th overall selection (Monahan) currently leads all players from this draft with 296 games, 99 goals and 194 points. But their other first-round picks (Poirer and Klimchuk) are tearing up the AHL and figure to make the jump next season. Going 3/3 on first-round picks in one day would be impressive, and the additional high-end talent should be good for a long-term Flames-Oilers rivalry in  Alberta.

We're going to go a little more rapid fire from here out, because including nameless fifth-round picks isn't really accomplishing a lot and it's a waste of my time. The "notable" picks are only going to be guys who are actually, you know, notable.

Carolina Hurricanes

  • Notable picks: forward Elias Lindholm, defenseman Brett Pesce
Nobody really cares about the Canes but Lindholm is 4th in the draft class in games played, 5th in goals, 6th in assists, and 4th in points. Among defensemen, Pesce is arguably even more impressive at 4th in games and 3rd in points, 

Buffalo Sabres

  • Notable picks: defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, defenseman Nikita Zadorov, forward JT Compher, forward Connor Hurley, forward Justin Bailey, forward Nicholas Baptiste, goalie Cal Peterson
Ristolainen should need no introduction. He ranks second in this draft class among defenseman (and fifth overall) in games played, and he signed a 6 year, $32.4 million contract before this season. That might be too much money for him, but he is going to get paid that much for a long time so let's just move on. 

Zadorov and Compher were included in the Sabres' trade with the Avalanche that netted them Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn. I guess you can count that as a decent use of picks, but also maybe not considering they were the 16th and 35th picks. 

That leaves Buffalo with four players remaining who are worth mentioning. Hurley and Peterson are in their junior seasons at Notre Dame (Peterson is the captain and also the goalie, which is cool). The Irish are currently ranked #13 in the nation, and they're looking to make the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. 

Bailey and Baptiste have both split time between Buffalo and AHL Rochester this season, but they've been limited to primarily bottom-six roles. Still, Buffalo's youth is going to grow up eventually, so it's never bad to give some of the young guys a cup of coffee or two in the big league. 

Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Notable picks:forward Alex Wennberg, forward Kerby Rychel, forward Marko Dano, defenseman Dillon Heatherington, forward Oliver Bjorkstrand
Wennberg is sixth in the draft class in points despite playing between 40 and 100 fewer games than everyone above him. Bjorkstrand led AHL Lake Erie to the Calder Cup last season and won the playoff MVP award in the process. Heatherington was also a member of that Lake Erie team, though he's certainly lower on the totem pole than Bjorkstrand. 

Rykel has been tearing it up this season, but he's been doing it for Toronto because he was traded to the Maple Leafs last summer for "meh" defenseman Scott Harrington. Dano has bounced from Columbus to Chicago (in the Brandon Saad trade), and then from Chicago to Winnipeg (in the Andrew Ladd trade). 

New York Rangers
  • Notable picks: forward Anthony Duclair
(Evil laugh) let's end on the Rangers, because this must have been the best 80th overall pick in the history of the NHL draft, and they traded him away (with two additional picks) for a year and two months of Keith Yandle. 


In conclusion, the Flyers will end up falling somewhere in the middle of the pack in this 2013 draft when everyone's career has finished. Morin and Hagg will contribute, Madsen might turn into a player, and we'll always have Goulbourne. 

Would a top-five pick have been an impact player? Obviously. Would it have been nice for them to scoop Pesce, Duclair, Bjorkstrand or Pavel Buchnevich in the third round? Sure. Would the roster be better if we had added Miles Wood or Tyler Motte in the fourth round instead of nobody? Probably. But those are six guys in the final five rounds of the draft (that's like 150 picks). 

The cheeky adage is draft picks are lottery tickets, and three full seasons often isn't enough to scratch all of the ticket off. We might get to scratch Hagg's this Spring if Ron Hextall trades away some of the Flyers' expiring contracts on the blueline. We'll almost certainly scratch Morin's next season. And even if we don't win anything with those tickets, it's perfectly average for a draft to yield one (or zero) productive players. 

Plus we have six tickets from the 2014 draft, nine tickets from the 2015 draft, ten tickets from the 2016 draft, and nine more upcoming next summer. 

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