How long is long enough to assess a draft class?
Sure, ideally you’d wait until everybody drafted had retired or something, but that’s long-sightedness and nobody has time for that. Teams have three years to sign their picks, and many players at that point join the AHL from their junior clubs, so I decided to go a couple of years longer than that. In advance of this weekend’s entry draft, why not look five years in the past and see where the Avalanche stand up against the league?
Five years ago is the slightly important 2009 draft. The one that gave Colorado Matt Duchene and friends. Oh yeah, that one.
For the purposes of this article I’ve completely ignored what team the drafted players put up their numbers for, or the return on trades for the drafted players (or missing picks). We are entirely assessing the draft itself, nothing further.
The Avalanche haul
Colorado did well for themselves in 2009 for sure. They selected Matt Duchene 3rd overall, followed his selection up with Ryan O’Reilly and Stefan Elliott in the 2nd round, Tyson Barrie in the 3rd, Kieran Millan in the 5th, Brandon Maxwell in the 6th, and finally Gus Young in the 7th. 4 of the 7 selections have seen significant NHL time, with 3 of them being excellent players.
In total Colorado’s 2009 draft class has played 1341 regular season games to date and scored 860 regular season points, for an average of 215 points per skater with any NHL games played (this ignores goalies for obvious reasons). Not only did they select a good number of guys who panned out, the ones who did pan out really panned out.
So after listening to segment in a BSN podcast about how good the 2009 draft was I began to wonder: Was 2009 just a killer draft for everyone, or did Colorado do particularly well?
Here there be graphs
Let’s start with a quick look at how many NHL points (through the 2015 season) each team drafted in 2009:
We can organize this chart as 1. Colorado, 2. New York Islanders, 3. Everyone else. The Avalanche pulled the most NHL points to date by far from this draft, with their skaters having the most impact individually by far. The Islanders did awesome too, and selecting Tavares first overall has proven to be the right move for them, but Colorado’s second and third rounds push them well over the top.
When we graph out the number of NHL games played by the 2009 class, a few clear tiers emerge.
- Top tier: Los Angeles, Colorado, Nashville, and the New York Islanders all have gotten more than 1200 games so far. No one else has pulled 1000, but Washington and Ottawa came close.
- Teams that did well: Minnesota, Tampa, Buffalo, Anaheim, Chicago, Dallas, then-Atlanta, and Florida all broke 600 NHL games played.
- The bad: The next clear fall off is the 400-500 GP range, which includes Columbus, New Jersey, Phoenix, Edmonton, and Detroit.
- The ugly: It tapers off quickly from there, including Toronto, the Rangers, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, and Boston. There’s even a final little clump I like to call What Happened? Calgary, St. Louis, Carolina, Montreal, Philadelphia, and San Jose really failed to get any help at the NHL level from the 2009 draft.
You’ll notice that tiny little red bar at the bottom, Average Pick. That’s the mean selection for each team within each round’s pick order. Colorado’s average pick was about 5th in the round; they had the 3rd selection and also added another second, which was a bit lower. Teams with a higher average pick, as you might expect, had much better luck on average (the legends on these scatter plots are completely broken sorry):
(You can’t see the r-squared values very well; on points per pick it’s .3883, and on games it’s .3706. If you care about such things.)
The giant outliers in these trends are clear. The highest points/NHL skater datapoint is Colorado, who broke the model. The high outlier to the right are actually Washington, who did very well for themselves in 2009 despite an average pick order spot around 24th. Marcus Johansson, Dmitri Orlov, and Cody Eakins are their notables here.
The Kings also are interesting. The team with the most NHL GP drafted were only 5th in points drafted, and really just clump in with where most of the league is. The picks we can look at to blame for this? Brayden Schenn and Kyle Clifford have over 750 GP between them but barely 250 points. They also pulled Nicolas Deslauriers late in the 3rd, who has 28 points in 169 NHL games. There’s a reason two of those guys aren’t with that franchise anymore.
The 2009 draft was so formative for the Avalanche because they killed it on the draft floor. Their selections only have 6 fewer NHL GP than the team with the most, and they drafted by far the most NHL points, by making early-round selections that all have made their marks on the NHL (even if half of them are with new teams now). There’s nothing in the late rounds for Colorado and the teams that did find late round gems mostly don’t have much else going for them from this draft. (LA’s Jordan Nolan may be the lone exception there.)
Colorado also were consistently very high in the pick order, but they outperformed what the trend was, and came away with the best draft overall in the league. The Islanders pulled a close second, but ultimately did what we might expect from the 1st overall spot, and Washington earns an honorable mention for how well they did from such a late draft position.