Defensemen Development Myths: Part 3

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

In the final of the draft-based posts, we look at whether height or weight is a better indicator of long-term success, if teams should use 1st round picks on shut-down defensemen, and if 2003 really was the strongest year in recent memory for drafting blueliners.

The success of young defensemen is hard to predict.  This series aims to get to the bottom of a number of myths that have popped up about them over the years.  Here are the links if you missed Part 1 or Part 2.

Photo: Tyson Barrie was selected by the Avs with the 64th Overall pick in the 2009 entry draft. After two more seasons with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL - including one in which he won the WHL Defenseman of the Year Award - Barrie made his pro debut with the Lake Erie Monsters during the '11-12 season. Later that year, he was an injury call-up for the Avs, playing 10 games for the big club before returning to finish out the year in the AHL.  In '12-13, he was an injury call-up once again, but this time, he met the minimum game requirements for the Calder Trophy.  This past season, he finally stuck on the Avs blueline after yet another injury call-up, playing a key role as a top puck-moving defenseman for the team until his knee was Cooke'd during the first round playoffs.

Myth 8: Teams should focus on height at the draft and not worry about weight.

Traditional wisdom suggests that 18-year-old boys will continue to add muscle mass, so selecting defensemen with a larger frame (ie, more height) is often a better option than selecting the smaller, more filled out player.  But as it turns out, the correlation between height and success is fairly weak, whereas it's extremely strong between weight and success.

Height Total % 1+ GP % 25+ GP % 200+ GP %
All 1777 100.0% 668 37.6% 485 27.3% 267 15.0%
Under 5' 9" 3 0% 1 33.3% 0 0.0% 0 0.0%
5' 9" 12 1% 3 25.0% 3 25.0% 1 8.3%
5' 10" 31 2% 16 51.6% 11 35.5% 6 19.4%
5' 11" 112 6% 37 33.0% 30 26.8% 14 12.5%
6' 0" 219 12% 78 35.6% 54 24.7% 30 13.7%
6' 1" 389 22% 152 39.1% 105 27.0% 56 14.4%
6' 2" 371 21% 123 33.2% 90 24.3% 43 11.6%
6' 3" 344 19% 132 38.4% 98 28.5% 59 17.2%
6' 4" 175 10% 73 41.7% 54 30.9% 35 20.0%
6' 5" 69 4% 26 37.7% 19 27.5% 11 15.9%
6' 6" 34 2% 17 50.0% 15 44.1% 8 23.5%
Over 6' 6" 18 1% 10 55.6% 6 33.3% 4 22.2%
Correlation 0.59 0.63 0.78
Weight Total % 1+ GP % 25+ GP % 200+ GP %
All 1777 100.0% 668 37.6% 485 27.3% 267 15.0%
Under 175 81 4.6% 18 22.2% 11 13.6% 1 1.2%
175 83 5% 10 12.0% 6 7.2% 3 3.6%
180 138 8% 21 15.2% 12 8.7% 4 2.9%
185 200 11% 32 16.0% 19 9.5% 7 3.5%
190 203 11% 57 28.1% 39 19.2% 18 8.9%
195 206 12% 66 32.0% 44 21.4% 11 5.3%
200 205 12% 80 39.0% 55 26.8% 29 14.1%
205 199 11.2% 97 48.7% 73 36.7% 43 21.6%
210 159 8.9% 93 58.5% 76 47.8% 44 27.7%
215 93 5.2% 55 59.1% 41 44.1% 27 29.0%
220 91 5.1% 56 61.5% 41 45.1% 30 33.0%
225 43 2.4% 30 69.8% 25 58.1% 21 48.8%
230 35 2.0% 25 71.4% 20 57.1% 13 37.1%
235 15 0.8% 11 73.3% 10 66.7% 6 40.0%
Over 235 26 1.5% 17 65.4% 13 50.0% 10 38.5%
Correlation 0.99 0.98 0.95

Unfortunately, these charts ignore any link between both weight and height.  The average weight for small players is far less than for big players, even if they're both filled out and have a similar percentage of muscle mass.   To judge whether or not a player was underweight, above weight, or standard weight at the time of his draft, I calculated the averages by height for the 1777 defensemen drafted since '92.  I then split the draftees into categories, with mid weight being defined as +/- 5lbs of that average, underweight being below that, and above weight being obviously above.  Luckily, this split the data set fairly evenly into 3.  Then I looked at success rates for each of the groups.

As you can see, players that are underweight at the time of their draft have a very slim chance of success, whereas above weight players have almost double the NHL average chance of panning out.  When the +/- was set at 7 lbs and at 10 lbs, the result was roughly the same.

Ht Avg LBS Under Mid Above
Under 5' 10" 175 4 5 6
5' 10" 184 11 11 9
5' 11" 186 40 34 38
6' 0" 193 78 59 82
6' 1" 195 139 125 125
6' 2" 198 139 102 130
6' 3" 204 121 99 124
6' 4" 209 62 52 61
6' 5" 214 25 12 32
6' 6" 220 11 9 14
Over 6' 6" 241 6 5 7
Wt. Type Total % 1+ GP % 25+ GP % 200+ GP %
All 1777 100% 668 38% 485 27% 267 15%
Under 636 36% 108 17% 66 10% 17 3%
Average 513 29% 184 36% 121 24% 61 12%
Above 628 35% 376 60% 298 47% 189 30%

Clearly, the weight of a defensemen at the time of his draft is incredibly important.  Height is a nice thing to have, and taller players sometimes have an easier time making it to the NHL, but being "filled out" or "NHL ready" when it comes to weight is critical, even for 18-year-olds.  If you're wondering about the Avs prospects, I'll get to them in a few days and will address where they fall on this chart.  But as for this myth, it's completely busted.
Myth:  BUSTED



Myth 9:  It’s harder to find elite scorers later in the draft than it is to find elite shutdown defensemen, so teams shouldn’t use Top-30 picks on shutdown defensemen.

For this myth, I decided to split the defensemen data into three groups based on scoring.  I unfortunately don't have career deployment stats, but I was able to find points per game for all players and TOI data from the '99 season on.  I also figured that if a player was a low scorer who played lots of minutes and still managed 200+ games in the NHL, he was doing something that made him worth keeping him around, which would likely be his defensive play.

To put numbers to this, I decided to set the "elite scorer" category at 35+ pts/season, the "shut down" category  at less than 15 pts/season, and the "Mid" category to account for the rest.

200+ GP Total Rnd 1 % Rnd 2-3 % Rnd 4-7 % Rnd 8+ %
All 267 107 40.1% 68 25.5% 65 24.3% 27 10.1%
High PPG 48 22 45.8% 10 20.8% 10 20.8% 6 12.5%
Mid PPG 144 58 40.3% 31 21.5% 39 27.1% 16 11.1%
Low PPG 75 27 36.0% 27 36.0% 16 21.3% 5 6.7%
High TOI 84 38 45.2% 21 25.0% 21 25.0% 4 4.8%
Mid TOI 102 41 40.2% 17 16.7% 27 26.5% 17 16.7%
Low TOI 81 28 34.6% 30 37.0% 17 21.0% 6 7.4%
Mid&Low PPG/High TOI 44 19 43.2% 12 27.3% 12 27.3% 1 2.3%

It does appear that the top scorers do tend to come from the 1st round, but there are also a large percentage of shut down players who hail from that category as well.  Scoring carries through well into the later rounds too, but so does the shutdown category.  There's no clear trend either way.

So, let's turn to the single season numbers for '13-14.  Just like with the career numbers, I split the data into 35+pt scorers, below 15pt scorers, and those in the middle.  I then took a look at players who were deployed more in the defensive zone (-2.5 rel ZS%) with lots of minutes and players who faced other team's best players (29%+ Qual Comp).

Current D Total Rnd 1 % Rnd 2-3 % Rnd 4-7 % Rnd 8+ & Undrafted %
All 185 67 36.2% 42 22.7% 42 22.7% 34 18.4%
High Scorer 35 16 45.7% 8 22.9% 5 14.3% 6 17.1%
Mid Scorer 81 26 32.1% 22 27.2% 18 22.2% 15 18.5%
Low Scorer 69 25 36.2% 12 17.4% 19 27.5% 13 18.8%
-2.5 Rel ZS% 64 23 35.9% 15 23.4% 13 20.3% 13 20.3%
ZS% & High Pts & TOI (20+) 9 4 44.4% 4 44.4% 0 0.0% 1 11.1%
ZS% & Low Pts & TOI (20+) 10 3 30.0% 1 10.0% 2 20.0% 4 40.0%
29%+ Qual Comp 54 20 37.0% 13 24.1% 7 13.0% 14 25.9%
Qual Comp & High Pts 19 11 57.9% 5 26.3% 0 0.0% 3 15.8%
Qual Comp & Low Pts 7 2 28.6% 1 14.3% 1 14.3% 3 42.9%

Again, high scorers tend to fall more in the 1st round, but there are plenty of elite scorers to be found deeper in the draft as well.  And as for players with tough minutes, they too tend to be found in the 1st round but show up at a similar rate to the scorers later as well.

Even if you take a look at high scorers who play over 20 minutes per game with low rel zone starts and high Qual Comp (the true 2-way defensemen), you get Ekman-Larsson, Kronwall, and McDonagh from the 1st round,  but Josi and Gologoski from the 2nd, Chara from the 3rd, and the undrafted Giordano rounding out the list.

Essentially, there is no rhyme or reason to the draft round in which the best defensive players will show up.  If a team concentrates on finding a player in the first round who will make it to the NHL and hope to get lucky with some later picks, they'll be well off.

Myth: BUSTED


Myth 10:  The 2003 draft was the strongest since 1992 for defensemen.

2003 is typically hailed as the strongest draft of recent times.  All the 1st round players have made it to the NHL, and many of the later round players have followed suit.  But was it actually the strongest for defensemen?

Surprisingly, no.  That honor goes to 2008.  55% of all defensemen have already made the NHL.  1998 and 1996 also have had over 50%.  2003 is more middle of the pack at 45%.

Draft Total Defense Total Defense 1+GP % Defense 25+GP % Defense 200+GP %
1992 264 87 41 47% 32 37% 19 22%
1993 286 91 43 47% 33 36% 16 18%
1994 286 90 29 32% 26 29% 16 18%
1995 234 80 38 48% 32 40% 16 20%
1996 241 81 41 51% 28 35% 18 22%
1997 246 90 22 24% 16 18% 12 13%
1998 258 80 41 51% 33 41% 21 26%
1999 272 88 33 38% 23 26% 15 17%
2000 293 95 32 34% 21 22% 17 18%
2001 289 94 40 43% 29 31% 19 20%
2002 291 92 31 34% 26 28% 18 20%
2003 292 83 37 45% 29 35% 17 20%
2004 291 85 34 40% 23 27% 18 21%
2005 230 83 38 46% 27 33% 15 18%
2006 213 66 23 35% 12 18% 5 8%
2007 211 59 29 49% 21 36% 8 14%
2008 211 77 42 55% 29 38% 12 16%
2009 210 70 31 44% 22 31% 4 6%
2010 210 68 16 24% 9 13% 1 1%
2011 210 72 15 21% 5 7% 0 0%
2012 211 77 9 12% 7 9% 0 0%
2013 211 69 3 4% 2 3% 0 0%

Looking at first round success rate, and 2003 is one of 9 drafts at 100%.  However, 1992 had 13 total 1st round D-men who made the show.  2008 and 2009 each had 12.  '03 only had 6.

Draft 1st Rnd D 1+GP % 25+ GP % 200+ GP %
1992 13 13 100% 13 100% 6 46%
1993 9 9 100% 6 67% 5 56%
1994 10 9 90% 9 90% 7 70%
1995 11 11 100% 10 91% 7 64%
1996 15 14 93% 11 73% 7 47%
1997 7 6 86% 5 71% 5 71%
1998 11 11 100% 10 91% 10 91%
1999 9 9 100% 8 89% 5 56%
2000 7 7 100% 6 86% 6 86%
2001 8 7 88% 7 88% 7 88%
2002 8 7 88% 7 88% 7 88%
2003 6 6 100% 5 83% 5 83%
2004 9 7 78% 7 78% 6 67%
2005 11 10 91% 8 73% 5 45%
2006 9 6 67% 5 56% 1 11%
2007 11 10 91% 8 73% 4 36%
2008 12 12 100% 10 83% 9 75%
2009 12 12 100% 12 100% 4 33%
2010 7 6 86% 4 57% 1 14%
2011 11 8 73% 5 45% 0 0%
2012 13 7 54% 6 46% 0 0%
2013 9 3 33% 2 22% 0 0%

So, looking at these tables, I'd actually say that 2008, not 2003, is the strongest draft since 1992.  2009 looks promising, as does 2012 and 2011, but to this point, 2008 takes the crown.  Myth: BUSTED

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Mile High Hockey

You must be a member of Mile High Hockey to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Mile High Hockey. You should read them.

Join Mile High Hockey

You must be a member of Mile High Hockey to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Mile High Hockey. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9355_tracker