Sunday, June 17, 2012

GM Draft Review: Northeast 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.


Boston Bruins
GM: Peter Chiarelli
Tenure Began: 2006 

Number of Drafts: 6
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: 3/18- 16.6% or 1 player per draft
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 2
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 6
First round pick success: 3/4 with the other two picks being Joe Colborne and Dougie Hamilton.
Notable players drafted: Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin, Jordan Caron, Jared Knight, Ryan Spooner, Dougie Hamilton, Alexander Khokhlachev.

Comments: Peter Chiarelli had a dream start to his GM career draft-wise in 2006. The new Bruins boss, at the time, started off his tenure by selecting Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand that year. All three of those players are cornerstone guys, and even though one of them is no longer on the team -- Phil Kessel -- he netted Boston a pretty darn good return so it's all relevant. What makes that 2006 draft class even more impressive is that they only had six picks in total so half of the players they drafted that year are very good NHLers. That's a heck of a start.

After that, however, Chiarelli hasn't exactly had the same glowing results. The following year the Bruins selected Zach Hamill eighth overall. They just traded him. From that draft only Tommy Cross, who has been a good defenceman for Boston College, has a chance of still becoming an NHLer as other than Hamill, none of the remaining guys drafted are even playing in the AHL now.

The 2008 draft that followed does hold some promise still. Even though Joe Colborne was traded in a deal that netted Boston Tomas Kaberle and helped them win the Cup, he is still a player that goes down on Boston's track record as either a hit or miss and he is progressing slowly but somewhat surely. From that same draft, the Bruins also have their next four picks still in their system.

In those first three years as GM Chiarelli drafted a ton of North American players -- 82%, to be exact. 

In general, Chiarelli has also put a premium on size and weight. Take this exert from a TSN article:

Peter Chiarelli said that the Bruins tend to target heavier players when it came to the draft, finding that a prospects weight had a better correlation to NHL success than height, referencing the advantage for players with a lower centre of gravity.
Like most GM's, he also says his philosophy is to draft the best player available. Now I can't speak to whether this is coincidence or not but in his six drafts he has selected a forward first five times. Only when Dougie Hamilton unexpectedly fell to them at pick nine last year did that trend break. Furthermore, Chiarelli has only drafted three goalies in his six drafts.

The one pick that will probably define Chiarelli is Tyler Seguin. But really, that has more to do with "the trade," then actual drafting ability. Really, all Boston had to do was wait to see whether Edmonton was picking Seguin or Taylor Hall and simply select the other.

Regardless of Chiarelli's drafting, he's won a Cup already in Boston. He did select a few key players that helped them win that Cup, but the Bruins did not win their championship through the draft. That said, Boston has selected some promising players in the last three years -- Seguin, Hamilton, Jared Knight, Ryan Spooner, Alexander Khokhlachev -- and it will be interesting to see if and how these guys will be integrated into Boston's core. 

Buffalo Sabres
GM: Darcy Regier
Tenure Began: 1997 

Number of Drafts: 15
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: 29/107= 27.1% or 2.4 player per draft
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: I sort of want to say three here and assume Zack Kassian, Brayden McNabb and Marcus Foligno are NHLers. You can decide for yourself if it's 0, 1, 2, or 3.
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 6
First round pick success: 7/13, not including Kassian, Mark Pysyk and Joel Armia.
Notable players drafted: Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Dmitri Kalinin, Ryan Miller, Drew Stafford, Keith Ballard, Daniel Paille, Dennis Wideman, Paul Gaustad, Brian Campbell, Henrik Tallinder.

Comments: When you've been a GM in one place as long as Darcy Regier you can almost always look back at the draft record and see success. This case is no different as the Buffalo boss has hit on a staggering 27% of his picks over 12 years, which is fantastic. 

As Regier said in Behind The Moves

"The NHL Amateur Draft produces, on average, 54 players [who play at least 80 NHL games in their career] a year -- 1.8 per team -- I think. So your challenge as a GM is how can you get that to three or four? Can you get that to three or four? For a team like Buffalo, that's a critical factor because we can't get involved in the free agency pool, or if we do, it's in the secondary market and in a limited way. So our lifeblood remains our ability to select players, and then the focus for us is going to revolve a lot on the development process." 

Buffalo has drafted in the first round in 14 of Regier's 15 drafts at the helm. The one year they didn't, in 2007, they selected 31st overall -- the first pick in the second round. 

Starting at that 2007 draft, Buffalo has literally selected one player outside of North America and that was last years first round pick Joel Armia. That's five drafts and 36/37 picks from this side of the pond. 

Over his time, Regier has unearthed quite a few gems in the later rounds of the draft. Players such as Brian Campbell, Ryan Miller, Paul Gaustad, Dennis Wideman and Patrick Kaleta -- among others -- have all been taken after the fourth round. 

What makes that even more interesting is Regier has possibly done better later in the draft as opposed to earlier. Consider that the best player he's probably drafted in the first round is Thomas Vanek along with Tyler Myers followed by guys like Drew Stafford, Keith Ballard and Daniel Paille. 

It's also interesting to note that in his first draft with the team, in 1997, he selected goaltender Mika Noronen. Since then, though, he has never picked a goalie in the first round. 

Most teams also select centers more than any other position but Buffalo has generally been very even keel at the forward position. In his tenure Regier has picked 24 centers, 24 left wingers and 24 right wingers (no joke) which is pretty remarkable. The reason most teams end up picking more centers than wingers is because centers are more versatile and can become wingers but wingers in junior almost never become centers. Thus it increases your odds to draft centers so it's interesting that Buffalo is even right across the board.

Overall, Buffalo has made a ton of quality selections, as you can see by their NHL player output per draft. But much like their team under Regier, their selections have been really good but not great. Other than Ryan Miller, they really haven't drafted anyone that could be considered "elite." 

Montreal Canadiens
GM: Marc Bergevin
Tenure Began: 2012

Number of Drafts: 0
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: Not Applicable
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: Not Applicable
Promising players drafted in the last three years: Not Applicable
First round pick success: Not Applicable
Notable players drafted: Not Applicable

Comments: Sorry Habs fans, there isn't anything for me to say yet about Bergevin, but I can direct you to what I already wrote about him, his background, and the state of the Habs: HERE

Ottawa Senators
GM: Bryan Murray
Tenure Began: 2007 

Number of Drafts: 5
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: 3/11= 27% or 1.5 players per draft
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 1
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 8
First round pick success: 3/3, with three first rounders last year: Mika Zibanejad, Stefan Noesen, and Matt Puempel.
Notable players drafted: Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen, Robin Lehner, Mika Zibanejad, Zack Smith, Jim O'Brien, Shane Prine, Stefan Noesen, Matt Puempel.

Comments: It isn't everyday that you select an elite hockey player outside of the top 10 picks, but Bryan Murray did that with Erik Karlsson. Murray actually tells the story nicely: 

 “Well, we heard, and this is where you try to keep your eyes open and not say too much, or your ears open I guess in this case, we had heard… we were picking eighteen(th). We found out that there was a team going to pick before our pick and take Erik. We thought he would slide to fourteen or fifteen at least and so I got on the phone and eventually got to David Poile in Nashville and encouraged him by flipping an extra third to him to move three spots back. I kind of was under the understanding that he was looking at a goaltender at that time anyway, and the (goalie) he felt would slide to eighteen so we were able to make that move and it paid off obviously in a big way. David and I have talked about it several times since and he said, ‘How did I let that happen?’ But I don’t think he was going to pick Karlsson at that spot in any rate so it worked out.”

Source: Here

In Murray's first draft he only had four picks. It was right after he had lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Anaheim Ducks and he moved up from coach to GM. Jim O'Brien has been criticized a lot in Ottawa over the years but he finally cracked the NHL last year and could be on his way to becoming a full-time player. Beyond that, Louie Caporusso and Ben Blood both hold some promise. So three out of four guys showing legitimate pro potential is a good start. 

Since then, Ottawa has tried to draft quite a few Swedish players having selected eight in the next four drafts.  Other than Swedes, Murray has also put a premium on drafting grit and size. Players such as O'Brien, Zach Smith, Mark Stone, Darren Kramer and Stefan Noesen are all examples of sandpaper guys who play the game hard. 

In his tenure, Murray has only selected one goalie -- Robin Lehner -- and well he is promising, only selecting one goalie in five drafts does hurt your depth at that position. Ottawa has already said they will be selecting a goalie no matter what this year. That's what happens when you neglect the position. 

It also falls through the cracks that Ottawa did trade a first round pick for David Rundblad. They later on packaged him in a deal for Kyle Turris so well none of that shows up on their actual drafting record, that is a very good use of their pick as they now have addressed a second line center need that has been around for a long time in Ottawa. 

Under Murray, Sens fans have to be happy with the early returns on his selections. Beyond Karlsson, Zach Smith and Jared Cowen both have had good starts to their careers. But more importantly, there is a large group of prospects in Ottawa that look bound for NHL success. From Mika Zibanejad to Jakob Silfverberg to Stefan Noesen to Matt Puempel to Mark stone, there is a long list of players that will only make Murray look better as time goes on and we see his draft picks grow to their full potential. 

Toronto Maple Leafs
GM: Brian Burke
Tenure Began: 2008 

Number of Drafts: 3
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: Not Applicable.
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 0. There's a few scratching the surface, but we'll wait until it actually happens before we change this number.
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 10
First round pick success: Burke has drafted Nazem Kadri, Tyler Biggs and Stuart Percy. Two of those guys were selected just last year. It's too early to tell here.
Notable players drafted: Nazem Kadri, Jesse Blacker, Jerry D'Amigo, Brad Ross, Greg McKegg, Tyler Biggs, Stuart Percy, Josh Leivo.

Comments: Brian Burke said something in Behind The Moves that helps to show his draft philosophy very well:

"We all sit in the same place when we scout amateur, minor pro or international games. We sit about 20 rows up in one corner. For NHL games, GMs sit in the rafter boxes... The scouting reports on most good players are indistinguishable. What I'm more interested in is: Was he on the ice for any goal against that night? And if he went back to the bench and the coach yelled at him, how did he respond? What was his body English? Okay, he got three, but what was the score of the game? Did they win? If they won 6-5, which three did he get? Did he get the first three that weren't important or did he get three when they were down and fighting back to win the game. That's the information I want, the game within the game. Connect all the threads and weave the tapestry of the game. I want to know what happened in the game [beyond that he] scored three goals. I can read the boxscore."

Look at Burke's notable selections in his time with Toronto and you see the clear connection between this quote and his picks. Nazem Kadri did his most damage in the playoffs of the OHL, scoring at the same rate as John Tavares in 2008-2009 right before he got drafted. Tyler Biggs has made a living so far scoring big goals against Canada in international play (video). Jerry D'Amigo caught the Leafs eye after leading America to gold at the U18's as the teams leading scorer with 13 points in seven games. The Leafs also seemingly fell in love with Stuart Percy after a great playoff and Memorial Cup run right before the draft. Jesse Blacker also won a Memorial Cup right before his selection too. 

As is also the Burke modus operandi, he has drafted size and toughness. Brad Ross, Jamie Devane, David Broll, and Sam Carrick are just a few of the guys who also bring that truculence that Burke covets. 

Even though he has traded away some picks, the Leafs have still drafted 23 times over three drafts in Burke's tenure and there's nothing to complain about when it comes to that number. 

The Leafs have also drafted a little bit on the safer side early on in each draft. Guys like Blacker, Biggs, Percy and Ross don't offer huge upsides, but all of them should become NHL players. After that they have swung for the fences with guys like Greg McKegg, Josh Leivo, and Josh Nicholls. Like Nicholls, the Leafs didn't end up signing Sondre Olden too. Considering they traded a third round pick from a later draft to enter the third round to draft Olden, that has to be a bit of a black-eye for Burke since they didn't even sign him. 

On the whole, Burke probably hasn't had the early returns that many Leaf fans want. However, you rarely draft players for immediate dividends; you draft players in hope of them becoming NHLers and there are quite a few players that look well on their way to doing just that. When you couple that with the Leafs fifth overall pick this year (and even their 35th pick) things are looking up for Toronto from a youth perspective. Nobody likes the word "patience," when it comes to hockey, but that's what everyone is going to need in Leaf-land right now. 

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