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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Trade Deadline - Yay! or Nay?

The NHL trade deadline is here! Soon, GM's will be throwing around draft picks faster than the Epic Beard Man throws punches. Some fans seem to love the deadline, and they are perfectly fine with throwing away draft picks for the chance at a cup. Other fans dread that the quick trigger finger of their GM will result in the team losing out on the next Pavel Datsyuk.

Even Epic Beard Man gets riled up at the deadline

Here at Bettman's Nightmare, we sought to answer some important questions about draft picks.  How valuable are draft picks, really?  And what is the relative value of picks by round?

Draft pick data were compliled from 1997 to 2006, giving 10 years of data. Drafts before 1997 were excluded because we wanted data most relevant to today's NHL (read: most relevant to ice dancing, diving, and all other favorites of our good friend Gary). Drafts after 2006 were excluded because there hasn't been enough time to fairly evaluate those players.

Two outcomes were assessed: number of players to play 50 games (25 for goalies) per round, and number of players to play 100 games (50 for goalies) per round. All data were compiled from, and it looks like they don't update their stats until the end of the season. As a result, stats from this season are excluded.

A few things are noteworthy from the graphs. Not surprisingly, the chances of drafting an NHL regular decrease as rounds progress. Chances are fairly good in the first round, while the later rounds appear to be a crap shoot. In fact, there are two substantial drops in the data: after the 1st round and after the 3rd round (especially under the 100 game criteria). There doesn't appear to be much of a difference at all when drafting from the 4th round compared to the 7th (or 8th or 9th for that matter).

Chances are, 1st round picks are going to land you an NHL regular (about a 60% chance you'll draft someone who will log at least 100 games). One problem here is that teams may be more likely to give high picks a chance to play, and then after a while they give up on them and they become busts. Patrick Stefan come to mind?

Second and third round picks are decent, yielding a 25% and 20% chance, respectively, of landing an NHL regular.

From these data, it doesn't look like 4th round picks and later are worth much at all. You only have about a 10% chance of drafting someone who will log at least 100 games.

Finally, I was surprised with how consistent results were from year to year. More recent draft years have some catching up to do in the later rounds, but on the whole, results were consistent.

So, when your GM gives up a 2nd rounder today for Andrew Cogliano, how will you react? If you're playing the odds, I say keep your first rounders if possible. The rest of 'em? Over-rated. Now, I'm not suggesting that GM's trade away all of their picks. Obviously, the chances of landing a valuable player increase the more opportunities you get to draft. What I am saying is that if a 2nd rounder gets you a top 6 winger, why not do it?

Next, we'll be looking at how career point totals vary across draft rounds, which will give a better indication of the type of player you're likely to land across rounds. Until then, happy trade deadline!

P.S.  Click on the charts for a larger view.  - Matteau
P.P.S.  Here are the complete NHL Drafts from 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, & 2006.  - Matteau, also


  1. What fascinates me is looking at each round and noting the difference between those that busted (made 50 games but that's it) and those that stuck around. Just taking the 1st rounder, for example, you can see some substantial first round busts in 1999 and 2004. Otherwise, many of the 1st rounders that made 50 games made 100 games as well.

  2. Take a look at the 1st round of the 1999'll make you cringe like a Puritan at a No-Pants Party.

  3. I'm of the opinion that hockey is on its way toward the more uneventful trade deadline moves of the NFL now that the salary cap is firmly entrenched and most teams (perhaps not all yet) have figured out how to work within that structure. Its sad, because trade deadline day used to be an event to watch all day long.

    In the Pens' case, however, I have no problem with them trading away top-round draft picks for the next year or so. The team is so young, yet they have all of their top-tier guys locked up for 4 years or so. Plus, the few Baby Pens that have come up from WBS to fill in for injuries give me all the faith in the world that they will be just as capable as, say, Ruslan Fedotenko or Chris Kunitz once they get some games under their belts in the big show.

    In short, I liked the Leopold deal (2nd round pick to Florida); I didn't like the Ponikarovsky deal (Luca Caputi, one of the solid-prospect WBS guys, to Toronto).


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