In the past few weeks, we have started to get more and more “insider” information about the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. We’re hearing about teams looking to trade, prospects being higher on some draft boards than others, and a lot of (mis)information that gives fans something to talk about for the next two weeks.
This year more that most, it seems that teams selecting in the early part of the first round are trying to trade down. The logjam of prospects in the 8-25 range has given NHL teams the idea that they can move back in the draft, select the prospect they covet and gain an extra asset or two along the way. There are a lot of fans that have started talking about moving down being “the best option” - regardless of where their team is picking.
Trading down is easier said than done. During the first round of last year’s draft, this only happened once. The Chicago Blackhawks were able to move down from pick 26 to pick 29 and gained a 3rd round pick along the way.
That said, this year is a different animal. After Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov, there really isn’t any sort consensus for where prospects should be drafted. Each team is likely to have a very different board than the team sitting next to them on the draft floor. As a result, there is a good chance we see a lot of deck chair shuffling on night one of the draft.
As things stand now, the Colorado Avalanche will be selecting 16th overall on Friday June 22nd. With the first pick outside of the lottery, the Avs are likely going to have to plan for a number of different scenarios. It’s going to be next to impossible to predict what will play out in front of them, so Joe Sakic and crew are going to have to be ready for just about anything.
With this year’s draft class, the 16th pick is really in no-man’s land. It’s right in the middle of a cluster of third-tier prospects. As a result, there is a very good chance that the Avs could target a player that would still be available in the mid-20s.
So, what should they do?
Maybe there is a prospect the Avs really like. Even if it seems like that prospect will be available later in the round, risk aversion strategy dictates that if you’re absolutely set on one prospect, you draft him - don’t worry about the “reaching” narrative that will follow. Eliminate the risk.
The problem with that strategy is that this year’s draft class is a little different. The cluster of talent makes it hard to believe that a team is hell-bent on drafting one particular player. There are a lot of good prospects available outside of the top-10 - there aren’t any great ones.
This leads us to the second option. That is to try to maximize the value of your draft pick, by trading down. Accept the risk that you might miss out on the prospect you want, in exchange for another pick or two later in the draft. The value of those added picks should outweigh the added risk.
This is the strategy the Avalanche should think long and hard about.
If a trade presents itself that allows the Avalanche to grab another 3rd or 4th round selection in exchange for moving down a bit, they should absolutely take it. The talent level of the prospects in this year’s draft does not vary much between 16 and the late 20s. Assuming nothing crazy happens – which probably isn’t a safe assumption in today’s NHL – there won’t be a player available at 16 that’s is a “must-have”.
It’s as simple as maximizing the value of your asset. You could either select an A-minus prospect or trade the pick, add risk, and select a different A-minus prospect, along with a B-minus, and C prospect. The value lies in the latter.
The strategy of trading down is one that has become a lot more popular among NHL fans over the past few years - but it’s not always the best idea. Draft pick value charts tell you one thing, but the caliber of draft class tells you another. There should never be one all encompassing draft philosophy – the event is too chaotic.
That said, opportunities will present themselves, and the good teams are the ones that take advantage of them. This year - for a team sitting in the position the Avalanche are – if the opportunity presents itself, trading down is probably a good idea.