Monday, May 21, 2012

GM Draft Review: Atlantic Division

GM Draft review is a record and indication of how each current general manager has fared strictly in a drafting sense. It takes into account their entire tenure as GM on the team that they currently manage and nothing else. Past draft jobs with other teams aren't taken into account because they simply aren't important anymore when it comes to measuring their current success. For example, Brian Burke drafted the Sedin's in Vancouver with a very different scouting staff than the one he currently has with him in Toronto, thus the Toronto staff is what's important right now when evaluating Burke's drafting tenure. When deciding whether a player was an "NHLer" or not I tried to use 200 games as my objective cutoff but I was subjective when necessary. For example, Travis Hamonic was drafted outside of three years and has yet to play 200 games, but I consider him an NHLer and a guy who will be one for a long time, so he counts. These numbers aren't exact science and should not be treated as such, they are simply a rough indication of how each GM has done. The embedded link for each GM directs you to the HockeyDB draft results of that team so you can look for yourself. Ask me any questions on Twitter here

Unless otherwise stated, all quotes are taken from the book Behind The Moves by Jason Farris.

New Jersey Devils
GM: Lou Lamoriello
Tenure Began: 1987 

Number of Drafts: 25
*NHL Players drafted outside of three years: 54/235= 22.9% or 2.45 players per draft
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 2
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 5
First round pick success: 16/29 outside of three years, with his other two first round picks being Jacob Josefson and Adam Larsson, I'm pretty comfortable bumping that to 18/31=58%.
Notable players drafted: Brendan Shanahan, Bill Guerin, Marty Brodeur, Petr Sykora, Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rolston, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac... this list could go on forever.

*I included the 1987 draft even though Lamoriello technically became GM in September of that year. It's included because he was solely President at that time, but considering he became GM shortly thereafter, I assume he played a role in those selections. There were four NHLers from that draft counted (Brendan Shanahan, Ricard Persson, Kevin Dean, Jim Dowd). You can adjust the numbers accordingly if you don't feel it should count. I also included picks between 20-30 that were at points in Lamoriello's tenure, considered second rounders.

Comments: There are only 279 players in the history of the NHL that have reached 1000 games played, and Lou Lamoriello has drafted eight of them. If Steve Sullivan continues his career next season, that likely goes up to nine and Scott Gomez could possibly push that to ten. What can you say about this guy that hasn't been said? He's a great general manager through and through.

"What creates success and what is needed, (and) it's not always talent. Great players win games and great teams win championships. It's a very simplistic phrase, but it's real." 
- LL

Over his time in New Jersey "Uncle Lou" has not only drafted franchise players such as Scott Niedermayer and Marty Brodeuer, but he's also done an excellent job at identifying team guys and selecting them. Players such as Segei Brylin, Jay Pandolfo, Jason Smith and Stephane Yelle, to name a few. He's established a Devils' team culture and sticks to it, and that's what he sells his players on when they become apart of the organization.

As we go through every team and General Manager throughout this series, we will talk a lot about development, because drafting a player is not the end, it's the beginning. You don't just pick a name and hope for the best, you need to develop these kids properly in order to maximize results. With that I bring you this quote from Lamoriello:

"We traded Brendan Morrison because we had Scott Gomez coming... It wasn't that we didn't like Morrison; it's just that we just felt we needed a certain type of player... We didn't re-sign Bobby Carpenter, because we felt John Madden was ready from the minors... We brough Colin White up for 10 games, and he showed he could play, but he wasn't going to play [regularly] because we had Lyle Odelein... I had to keep Whitey playing, so we sent him to the minors. He sat right there and I said, "Listen, you could stay, but until we make room, I can't have you not playing here [in New Jersey]." We traded Odelein about 15 games later, and White never left."

The Devils have done a great job changing with the times and it's a big reason why they are still competitive. Draft picks such as Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique are huge reasons they are such a dangerous team at the moment and they have kids such as Jon Merrill waiting in the wings who will be fantastic NHLers too.  When you've been a GM -and a successful one at that- for as long as Lamoriello has been, it all goes back to drafting. You don't succeed for the length of time he has without it, and it shows when you look at his draft record.

New York Islanders
GM: Garth Snow
Tenure Began: Summer 2006 

Number of Drafts: 5
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: 5/18=27.7% or 2.5 players per draft
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 2
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 8
First round pick success: 1/1 outside of three years, 2/3 already inside three years with Ryan Strome being the other... so basically 4/4: Bailey, Tavares, Niederreiter, Strome.
Notable players drafted: Travis Hamonic, John Tavares, Calvin de Haan, Casey Cizikas, Ryan Strome, Nino Neiderreiter.

Comments: The first thing to note is that the number of players drafted could rise by a large amount a few years from now. Kirill Petrov is one player in particular to keep an eye on as a 6'3 talent who played in the KHL last season. Everyone knew he was a risk when he was selected, but if he comes over Snow will look like a genius. The Islanders 2008 draft class in general could end up producing eight or nine NHLers which is a heck of a haul (Bailey, Ness, Hamonic, Petrov, Donovan, Ullstrom, Martin, Spurgeon, Poulin).

However, Snow has also drafted in the top 10 in four of the five drafts he's presided over. Well yes he's identified and drafted talent, he has also rushed it. Twice. Drafting, obviously, isn't just selecting players over the weekend. That's barely half the battle. The other part is development. Growing the young men according to their development curves so that they can reach their full potential in the NHL. It's pretty clear at this point that Josh Bailey was rushed to the NHL as an 18 year old after being selected ninth overall. Funnily enough the Islanders traded down that year twice going from #5, to #7 then finally #9. In the process they passed up on selecting players such as Luke Schenn and Mikkel Boedker. Then this season, they kept their fifth overall pick in 2010, Nino Neiderreiter, in the NHL and played him 10:06 per game and watched him score one goal as his only point on the season, in 55 games.

So well the Islanders staff has found talent under this GM, some of their development tactics have to be questioned. John Tavares was an absolute no-brainer and he's a stud. After that they should be praised for their selections of Travis Hamonic, Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas (at least those are some of my favourites) as later picks, among others. But when you're drafting as high as the Islanders have been it's basically expected that you're going to bring in talent. Considering the Isles struggle to bring in impact free agents, it's pretty safe to say that Snow's drafting the last five years will determine how successful the Islanders are for the next five years. The talent is there and so is the possibility for quite a few late round steals, but they have to make sure they properly develop and nurture these kids (as they are appearing to do with guys like Cizikas and Donovan) in order for this team to finally take the next step as an organization.

New York Rangers
GMGlen Sather
Tenure Began: 2000 

Number of Drafts: 12
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: 19/80= 22.5% or 1.59 players per draft
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 2
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 5
First round pick success: 3/7 with picks of Chris Kreider, Dylan McIlrath and JT Miller in the last three years. I'm willing to bump that to 4/8 due to Kreider and push that to 50%.
Notable players drafted: Henrik Lundqvist, Marek Zidlicky, Dominic Moore, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal, Fedor Tyutin, Derek Stepan, Michael Del Zotto... to name a few.

Comments: The New York Rangers have been an interesting team when it comes to the draft, to say the least. A few years ago this organization would have looked absolutely horrid draft-wise, but now it seems they are chalk full of young talent. Ryan Callahan has emerged as the Rangers captain, Henrik Lundqvist is arguably the best goalie in the world, Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto are very good defencemen, well Derek Stepan is really coming into his own. Meanwhile, maybe their best player right now -Dan Girardi- is an undrafted find.

If there's one thing the Rangers and Glen Sather should be commended for more than anything it's their patience. Henrik Lundqvist was drafted in Sather's first ever draft as GM of New York, in 2000. Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan were both drafted in 2004, Staal in 2005, and Anisimov in 2006. Rangers management deserves a ton of credit for staying patient with these kids, not giving up on anyone, and allowing these players to develop properly.

Now they have quite a few players in their prime and some very good young players coming up their system such as Chris Kreider, JT Miller and Christian Thomas.

Well Sather and his staff haven't identified talent by quantity, they have done so by quality.

Of course, when a GM has been with a team for as long as Sather's has you would expect him to have a few hits. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. But pretty well since 2004 -when they drafted both Dubinsky and Callahan- each draft since has yielded at least one quality impact player. Is that something to write home about? No. Then again though, it's the reason the Rangers are as good as they are the moment.

I also loved this story from Sather via Behind the Moves:

"[Edmonton] had a rivalry with Calgary for years, and we never made any deals [with them]. I heard that they were going to pick a Scottish player, Tony Hand, in the last pick of the draft, and I knew it because our scouts had been talking to their scouts. We ended up picking him one pick ahead of Calgary just to piss them off."

What a guy.

Philadelphia Flyers
GM: Paul Holmgren
Tenure Began: Mid-2006 

Number of Drafts: 5
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: 4/12= 33%, or 2 players per draft.
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 2
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 2
First round pick success: 3/3=100% and that includes the Couturier selection. Due to the Chris Pronger trade which included Philadelphia's two first rounders, Holmgren has only selected three first round picks in nearly six years, but he's made them count obviously.
Notable players drafted: James Van Riemsdyk, Luca Sbisa, Eric Wellwood, Zac Rinaldo, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Sean Couturier.

Comments: Paul Holmgren trades a lot of his draft picks. A lot. He's presided over five drafts in Philadelphia and only once -his first year- has he drafted in the first, second and third round in the same draft. Perhaps that played a part in his trading of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards for younger assets like Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek, and what turned out to be Sean Couturier.

On drafting, Holmgren offered this: "We had our midseason [scouting] meetings about a month ago [in the beginning of January] and we put a little bit of a list together [after] our guys identify where our first pick is going to be, theoretically... What I will do, probably after the trade deadline, is make my way out and at least get to see a game or two or three, just to put a face to a name... [I go to watch the players] just to build my comfort level [with the picks]."

"You really have to have a unique trust in your scouting staff that they are doing their jobs. I will say that the part I like most about my job is the scouting, and I don't do it nearly as much as I would like to do it."

In Holmgren's first draft he had the second overall pick and selected James Van Riemsdyk. The jury's still out on that pick, but the first round in general that year wasn't very strong; after Patrick Kane went first overall, the next two best picks of that round might have very well both been by the Habs as they took Ryan McDonaugh and Max Pacioretty at 12 and 22. That pick aside, he might have come up empty handed with the rest of his picks that year.

His best draft, statistically speaking, might have been in 2008 where three NHLers have emerged in Luca Sbisa, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Zac Rinaldo. That's pretty telling. The best player he's drafted is probably Sean Couturier at pick eight last year.

Holmgren was lucky to have Richards and Carter to peddle off for young players, and to have Claude Giroux in the system as one of the NHL's next big superstars even though he was drafted at #22. He also traded for Scott Hartnell before he hit his prime, along with Andrej Meszaros plus Nicklas Grossmann, and signed Matt Read. So like I said, luckily for Holmgren he's brought in young players other ways, but drafting wise, he hasn't been too great.

Pittsburgh Penguins
GM: Ray Shero
Tenure Began: 2006 

Number of Drafts: 6
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: 2/17= 11.7%, or .67 players per draft.
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 0
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 5
First round pick success: 1/2=50%. There isn't much to go on here. Shero picked Staal 2nd overall, then swung for Angelo Esposito at 20 the following year. He had no 1st, 2nd or 3rd in 2008 and has since selected Simon Despres, Beau Bennett and Joe Morrow.
Notable players drafted: Jordan Staal, Dustin Jeffrey, Tom Kuhnhackl, Simon Despres, Joe Morrow, Scott Harrington.

Comments: Much like Holmgren above, Ray Shero doesn't utilize the draft very well.

Also like Holmgren, he had the second overall pick during his first ever draft as GM. Shero, of course, drafted Jordan Staal. The next three picks were Jonathon Toews, Nicklas Backstrom and Phil Kessel.

Obviously though, the Penguins had two guys named Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin before he even became GM. So said Shero:

"People always say, 'Well how do you build a Stanley Cup team?' Every situation is different. If you walk into Tampa Bay, it is different than walking into St. Louis or walking into Pittsburgh... This team had Crosby, Malkin and Fleury before I got here... I'm not going to apologize for it, but you have to build around it."

Build around them he has, doing things like trading Ryan Whitney for Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi, or trading a bunch of draft picks and prospects (the drafted prospects didn't really amount to much) for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis, and bringing in veterans like Bill Guerin, Steve Sullivan and Paul Martin.

Hey, nobody is going to argue the results that he's had, but strictly speaking draft? Shero and his staff have found little. After drafting Jordan Staal second overall in 2006, there's a chance the Penguins on the whole will not have drafted another NHLer from the rest of their 2006 draft class, their 2007 draft class AND their 2008 draft class.

They have been cleaning it up a little lately drafting some promising players -to varying degrees- in Simon Despres, Beau Bennett, Tom Kuhnhackl, Joe Morrow and Scott Harrington but as we've seen, Shero has such a young, fantastic core already in place that regardless of what he does through the draft he will get success at the NHL level.

** Because this is the very first part of this series I am open to suggestions on how to improve it and I welcome any ideas so that I can make the necessary changes to this piece and the rest of them moving forward. 

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