Tuesday, May 29, 2012

GM Draft Review: Southeast 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 intoaccount 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.


Carolina Hurricanes
GM: Jim Rutherford
Tenure Began: 1994

Number of Drafts: 18 (His drafting while Carolina was Hartford can be found here)
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: 22/116= 18.9% or 1.2 players per draft
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 2
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 4
First round pick success: 9/14, Zach Boychuk could easily become an NHLer still, but for now he looks like he has an uphill battle. Philippe Paradis probably wont become one, but Ryan Murphy is really promising.
Notable players drafted: Jeff O'Neill, Erik Cole, JS Giguere, Cam Ward, Eric Staal, Andrew Ladd, Brandon Sutter, Niclas Wallin, Jack Johnson, Jamie McBain.

Comments: "I'd say the coach, the head of amateur scouting, and two or three cornerstone players are the most important decisions for a GM."
- Jim Rutherford

Like most teams Rutherford drafts the majority of his players from the CHL, and he drafts players from Canada more than any other country. That said, he will select talent from all the over world, just not in the first round. Of his 14 first round picks, Rutherford has drafted only one player who didn't play hockey in North America during development and that's Igor Knyazev (maybe that's why he doesn't anymore). 

Rutherford says he likes to build his teams down the middle, meaning centers and goalies. He has drafted 16 goalies in 18 drafts and it also explains some of his draft selections. For example, in 2010 Cam Fowler was falling down the draft board after some thought he was a top three talent, and who did Carolina pick when their turn came? Jeff Skinner. In 2007 Carolina had the choice between some talented defencemen -Ryan McDonaugh, Kevin Shattenkirk- plus the falling, and late, Alexei Cherepanov, yet who did they select? Brandon Sutter. Even in 2003 when they had the second overall pick, Rutherford had to choose between some talented wingers in Nathan Horton, Thomas Vanek and Nikolai Zherdev, yet elected to take the center in Eric Staal. 

Of course, that doesn't always payoff. Carolina did draft Zach Boychuk one pick before Erik Karlsson went to Ottawa. But that's a silly game, we could point out those mistakes from every team, they happen. 

Most importantly when we look at Carolina's drafting, they draft for talent. Other than Niclas Wallin and Craig Adams, Rutherford has drafted very few successful role players. 

What they have done is draft quite a few successful centers and then take chances on players already in the NHL. Guys like Justin Williams, Cory Stillman, Ray Whitney, Sergei Samsonov, Jussi Jokinen and now even Jiri Tlusty. They take guys with talent who have been considered underachievers and put them in a good opportunity with a quality center. Clearly, it's worked.

Of late, Rutherford has also drafted quite a few talented defencemen. Players such as Jamie McBain, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Faulk and most recently, Ryan Murphy. That said, the Canes have had some mixed results in the past drafting defencemen. Players such as Nikos Tselios, Knyazev, Segei Fedotov and even Dave Tanabe have all been high picks that haven't exactly panned out as planned. 

Carolina has had 18 drafts under Rutherford and in eight of them they have produced only one player whose passed the 200 game mark. As well as two other whole drafts that didn't yield one NHLer who passed the 200 game mark. That's a remarkably low amount of quantity being drafted by the Hurricanes. It's reflected in the numbers, too. Only 18% of players have become NHLers and 1.2 players per draft? That's low.

Like I said, they've drafted some strong centers, found some cheap talented NHL wingers and paired them up, and they haven't found many quality role players via the draft. 

Florida Panthers
GM: Dale Tallon
Tenure Began: 2010 

Number of Drafts: 2
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: Not Applicable
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 1
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 9
First round pick success: Well he's drafted Jonathon Huberdeau and Erik Gundbranson both third overall. Plus Nick Bjugstad 19th and Quinton Howden 25th. There's a good chance all of them become NHLers.
Notable players drafted: John Mcfarland, Alex Petrovic, Jonathon Huberdeau, Erik Gundbranson, Nick Bjugstad, Quinton Howden, Rocco Grimaldi, Vincent Trocheck.

Comments: In the last edition we showed how Dean Lombardi stocked up on draft picks early in his LA tenure and how that is now paying off. Right now, Dale Tallon is following a similar model. The Panthers have drafted an astonishing 23 times in the two drafts Tallon has overseen and in the meantime he has signed numerous veterans to fill in the gaps so that the incoming kids have to beat out experience to earn a spot on the roster. It is more or less the exact same thing Lombardi did.

Not only has Tallon drafted 23 times, but he's also had a lot of high draft picks. In two years he's drafted four times in the first round, five times in the second round and five times in the third round. That has brought the Panthers a lot of talent, and has also allowed them to take some higher-end risks. In Tallon's first year he took a chance on John Mcfarland whose a big power forward that at one time was thought of as a top-10 talent but fell for numerous reasons. Tallon took a chance on him in the second round. In his next draft with Florida Tallon selected Rocco Grimaldi, who was arguably the most talented player in the draft. The problem? He's only 5'6. Having so many draft picks provides some insurance just in case he swings and misses with these home-run attempts. 

You can look at his drafting thus far another way, too. So far we've seen from the experienced GM's who have been around for awhile that on average 20-30% of their draft picks become NHLers. That means if Tallon just does average in his first two drafts, he's looking at 5-7 NHL players. That's barely even taking into account all the high picks he's made, which again, is a lot. Plus all the solid acquisitions he's already made on the NHL roster.

Whether Huberdeau or Gundbranson, his two picks at #3, are going to become elite is up for debate but it's hard to argue against all the talent he's brought in on the whole. 

Of the GM's who have been with their team for awhile we can see a usual trend of starting off their tenures with strong drafts, especially when taking over a situation as bleak as Florida's was. If odds and history are telling us anything, it's that Tallon's already doing a heck of a job with the Panthers, and the best is yet to come. 

Tampa Bay Lightning
GM: Steve Yzerman
Tenure Began: 2010

Number of Drafts: 2
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: Not Applicable
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 1
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 3
First round pick success: 1/1... sort of. Yzerman drafted Brett Connolly sixth overall in his first year and Vladislav Namestnikov in his second year at #27. It's really early for us to make conclusions here.
Notable players drafted: Brett Connolly, Brock Beukeboom, Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov.

Comments: Steve Yzerman has had two pretty interesting drafts thus far, to say the least. It started with his first pick as General Manager of the Lightning when he selected Brett Connolly after playing only 19 games in his draft year. It was an intriguing pick at the time, and the three following players selected after him were Jeff Skinnner, Alex Burmistrov and Mikael Granlund. That said, it's too early to make any conclusions. 

That first draft saw him take six CHL players and two others that played college hockey this season. He also drafted four defencemen in a row and three of those guys were selected in the same round, round three. That means Yzerman sticks to his organization's draft board religiously. 

Then curiously, in his second draft, he started it by taking three Russian players in a row. Albeit his first pick, Vladislav Namestnikov, is a Russian playing in the OHL for the London Knights. 

Yzerman of course comes from the Detroit school of management which emphasizes developing players in the minors and not calling them up until they are ready. Although none of the players Yzerman has drafted play on the Norfolk Admirals (Tampa Bay's AHL affiliate), there are quite a few promising players on the team, namely Cory Conacher who Yzerman signed as an undrafted free agent, and they are now in the Calder Cup finals. 

It should also be noted Yzerman hasn't had a full disposal of draft picks thus far. He didn't have a second rounder in his first year at the draft, and he traded his second pick from that year -third rounder Brock Beukeboom- along with a third round pick in 2011 for Eric Brewer. At the very least he has two other third round picks to show for from the 2010 draft along with two fourth round selections. The following draft he did select a player in the second round, but conversely didn't draft anyone in round three or four.

Hey, nobody is blaming Yzerman for going for it. They were a game away from going to the Stanley Cup Final, and they lost 1-0 in that final game to the eventual Cup champs. But that has depleted Tampa's system a little bit. They've also drafted later because of it and they haven't had as many higher percentage draft picks as you'd like a first time GM to have. But it's only been two years, we'll see where Yzerman goes from here. Not only did he keep his picks this year, but he also acquired an additional first round draft pick when he traded away Steve Downie. 

Washington Capitals
GM: George McPhee
Tenure Began: 1997

Number of Drafts: 15
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: 19/110= 17.2% or 1.3 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: 14/17, and I didn't include the Anton Gustafsson pick from 2008 yet because I want more time there. The only other first rounder is Evgeny Kuznetsov, and as long as he comes over to North America, that will more than likely be a hit.
Notable players drafted: Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, John Carlson, Mike Green, Marcus Johansson, Karl Alzner, Nicklas Backstrom, Johnny Oduya, Boyd Gordon, Nick Boynton.

Comments: "Scouting is not about a hunch -- that is too flippant -- and it's not about what the player is right now. It's what he could be. Everything matters; his environment, who he is playing with, against, coaching, his commitment, his condition." 

It's interesting to hear George McPhee comment on drafting and scouting, because his organization simply hasn't been very good at it. Under his reign the Capitals drafted Alex Ovechkin first overall -that was a no brainer- and have also done well on a few other first round picks: Mike Green, Alex Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson and Karl Alzner to name a few. 

But after the first few rounds the Capitals have been horrid at drafting. After all of his drafts thus far, only Krys Barch and Johnny Oduya have been drafted after the second round and played over 200 NHL games. You might be able to add Matthieu Perrault to that after next season. That's it, though. 

Again, this is evident in the numbers above. Only 1.3 NHL players per draft have been produced. Only 17.2% of their picks have panned out at the moment. 

So well yes Washington has drafted some very high-end NHL players, a lot of that has simply been due to draft position. Even if they didn't draft Alex Ovechkin first overall, the next pick was Evgeny Malkin. McPhee also cashed in on quite a few veterans he inherited. Peter Bondra netted them Brooks Laich, Robert Lang got them Thomas Fleischmann (and the pick that they used to draft Mike Green), and Sergei Gonchar got them Shaone Morrisonn. 

They also stockpiled draft picks during their fire sale. Between 2002 and 2006, five drafts, the Capitals had 11 first round draft picks. The results? Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Semyon Varlamov, Boyd Gordon, Steven Eminger, Alex Semin, Jeff Schultz, Eric Fehr, Sasha Pokulok, Joe Finley.

That pretty well sums up Washington's drafts on the whole under McPhee: Some very elite players, and then a huge drop off that includes some "okay" role players and some complete busts. There's very little middle ground.

As Washington sits around again watching the Cup finals and wondering why, look no further than their draft record. They just haven't been able to identify the character depth players -the Dave Bolland's, the Brad Marchand's and so on- needed to win the Cup. Maybe Cody Eakin will be that guy though. They've definitely drafted some high end talent lately, but then again, we've said that before about Washington. 

Winnipeg Jets
GM: Kevin Cheveldayoff
Tenure Began: 2011

Number of Drafts: 1
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: Not Applicable
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 0 (although not fair)
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 3
First round pick success: Too early for us to know, but Cheveldayoff has had one first round pick, it was Mark Scheifele, and I'd be surprised if he didn't become an NHLer.
Notable players drafted: Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry, Zachary Yuen.

Comments: There really isn't a lot for us to say when it comes to Kevin Cheveldayoff and drafting.

He had the proverbial "shock" of the first round last year selecting Mark Scheifele seventh overall. Kudos to him for sticking to his convictions and listening to his scouts, as some had Scheifele ranked much lower. We don't yet know if the Jets will have gotten it right when it comes to Mark, but based on his short NHL stint and  follow up OHL season, they have to be happy with the immediate returns and growth of the late bloomer (he made the Barrie Colts out of camp as a top six forward completely out of nowhere on his draft year).

For his draft on the whole, Cheveldayoff selected all North American players and all of them had size. Besides the one 6 foot player chosen, the Jets took three 6'2 players, a 6'3 player and two 6'4 players -- one being a goalie. 

That all said, here is an interesting quote taken from Cheveldayoff on the draft last year: 

"I didn't get hired until June 8 and I didn't sit in on our amateur meetings," said Cheveldayoff. "I can't go 100 per cent into the building of the list from last year. Zinger (assistant GM Craig Heisinger) and I didn't take part in a lot of this because at this point last year the team was still in Atlanta. So how the building process worked last year is hard for me to comment on."

Full article: here

The Jets did re-work their scouting staff after the draft and according to the GM it's about half new ones and half old ones. Obviously Cheveldayoff signed off on the Scheifele selection, it is first pick ever as GM, but this draft really does reek of Rick Dudley's doing.

Dudley, of course, was the GM of Atlanta before they became Winnipeg. Rick is known to value size and North Americans and as stated, last years draft was full of them. 

It has to be remembered that Cheveldayoff was only hired three weeks before the draft. However, this year, he has had all season to prepare for the draft and the Jets are selecting ninth overall so we'll see exactly what he is all about this season.

Since becoming GM he has continuously said this organization is going to build with youth and through the draft. We'll see if there is a dramatic difference between his first draft and his second, but very soon we will really begin to put together what kind of talent evaluator he really is. 

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