With less that two weeks remaining before the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the volume of news and rumors is going to pick up significantly. We are hearing about a number of teams that are exploring the option of trading out of the top-10. The Montreal Canadiens might move pick three. The Ottawa Senators are exploring options to recoup some of the draft picks they’ve traded away. Then there are teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks who simply refuse to accept a need for a rebuild.
With the rumors that there are a number of teams looking to trade down, it could become a buyers market for teams looking to do the opposite. There is likely an opportunity for someone - like say the New York Rangers - to move up into the top-5 and grab a prospect they really covet.
There is probably also the opportunity for a team drafting later in the first round - like, maybe someone holding the 16th overall pick - to find value in trading up into the top-10.
It’s the first principle of economics. When supply outweighs demand, value is created.
Thanks to the cluster in the middle of this year’s NHL Entry Draft, some believe that pick 16 could be just as valuable as pick 10. Then again, there could be teams who have enough faith in their scouting staff that they believe they’ve found something others haven’t.
There will be teams that value a guy like Joel Farabee, Joe Veleno or Ty Smith more than others - enough that they’d give up assets later in the draft to move up a few slots.
In recent years, there has been a lot of research done on the value of draft picks - in particular, picks in the first round. As you can see from the chart above, the value in picks drops off significantly through the top-10 and by the time you get to the 20s, there is very little separating first round picks from second. The difference in value becomes even more insignificant when you compare third round picks to those in the later rounds.
This debunks the commonly held idea that trading away a late second round pick to move up a handful of picks in the first round is “too high of a price”.
If a team drafting in the second half of the first round is able to move up into the top-10, they’d be wise to do so, even if the price is multiple picks between the second and fourth round. This is especially true if they have a surplus of picks in the draft.
Thanks to the Matt Duchene trade, the Avalanche currently hold three extra picks in the first three rounds of the 2018 and 2019 drafts. This pick surplus allows for a lot for flexibility. If the Avalanche see a player they really like falling to the 8th, 9th, or even 10th pick, they have the draft capital to jump up and grab him.
Maybe Adam Boqvist starts to fall, or the team is really high on Joe Veleno and he’s still around outside of the top-10. Colorado would do well to jump up and grab the player they love - even if it costs them one of their second round picks.
Recent history has shown that when a team trades up to grab a falling player, they rarely regret it. In 2015 the Islanders traded up to No. 16 to draft Mathew Barzal. A few picks later, the Flyers jumped up to grab Travis Konecny. In 2016, the Coyotes traded up to No. 16 to draft Jakob Chychrun. Last year, the St. Louis Blues moved up to draft Klim Kostin. Barzal, Chychrun and Konecny have already proven to be high-impact NHLers while Kostin seems to be on his way there.
That said, the Winnipeg Jets moving up to draft Logan Stanley looked bad then and looks even worse now.
Looking at the past few years, we can clearly see a case in which trading up is a smart move - as long as the team doing it knows how to draft. With the extra draft capital, and the logjam of prospects in the the range of Colorado’s pick, it is absolutely conceivable that Joe Sakic will look to move up close to the top-10 on draft day.