Monday, June 18, 2012

GM Draft Review: Northwest 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.


Calgary Flames
GM: Jay Feaster
Tenure Began: 2010 

Number of Drafts: 1
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: Not Applicable
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 0
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 4
First round pick success: Feaster drafted Sven Bartschi 13th overall in his only draft so far. He looks really good, but we'll wait until we declare him an official NHLer.
Notable players drafted: Sven Bartschi, Markus Granlund, Jeremy Wotherspoon, John Gaudreau.

Comments: Jay Feaster obviously hasn't been in charge of Calgary very long so we are limited in what we have to evaluate when it comes to his drafting abilities with the Flames.

FlamesNation offered this little tidbit from Feaster: 

Right now, the Flames are looking at maximizing assets and getting the best player available – he cited a hypothetical: if the Flames thought a 5-foot-9 player was the best available, they'd take him even though they already have Paul Byron and Johnny Gaudreau in the organization, because not everyone is going to play for the Flames and assets can always be moved.
Full article: HERE

Feaster has admitted that he was guilty of drafting for need in Tampa Bay and he also put a premium on size. With his second kick at the can in Calgary, things do appear a little different.

Here he admits as much:

"I want us to work our list and take the best player available," Feaster said. "I think that as I look back on my time in Tampa and certainly after speaking with Tod Button about his experience here, I think that when you start setting too many parameters, you can miss some good players."

Full article: HERE

Feaster has also overseen the introduction of Decision Lens being incorporated into Calgary's draft strategies and planning. He says:

"The Decision Lens software will allow us to prioritize and order our final Draft List in a more technologically-advanced and scientific manner so as to bring greater objectivity to the player selection process.”
Read more about Decision Lens and the Calgary Flames: HERE

When it comes to the actual players he's selected so far, Feaster has shown no hesitation drafting smaller guys. His first pick, Sven Bartschi, is only 5'10. In fact, of his five picks last year, only two (a goalie and a defenceman) were taller than six feet.

Calgary also drafted all over the map (sort of). Technically only one player -- Markus Granlund -- is a European playing hockey player but Bartschi is also from Switzerland despite playing in the WHL. He also drafted two other players from the WHL and a young kid in the USHL who went to play college hockey this past season in John Gaudreau.

Ultimately, we are at least a few years away from seeing the results of Feaster's drafting in Calgary so we'll really just have to wait and see.

Colorado Avalanche
GM: Greg Sherman
Tenure Began: 2009 

Number of Drafts: 3
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: Not Applicable
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 3
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 7
First round pick success: 2/2 that we know of (Duchene and Landeskog), and two more that we need more time to evaluate in Duncan Siemens and Joey Hishon.
Notable players drafted: Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, Calvin Pickard, Joey Hishon, Duncan Siemens, Stefan Elliott, Tyson Barrie.

Comments: Greg Sherman hasn't been the GM of Colorado for very long, but he has already done a fantastic job at drafting. In three years he has already selected three players -- Duchene, Landeskog and O'Reilly -- who are full-time NHLers (albeit two of them were picked in the top three). On top of that, he has selected two other defencemen who have already seen NHL time and are on the cusp of becoming regular NHL players in Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott.

Having five NHLers come out of three drafts is already above average. Then add guys in the system such as their other two first round picks in Joey Hishon and Duncan Siemens, along with some other promising players like Calvin Pickard and Michael Bournival. 

Obviously, Sherman is off to a great start draft-wise. 

HockeysFuture breaks down the Avalanches drafting by territory nicely:

Over the past three drafts with general manager Greg Sherman at the helm, the Avalanche have made a total of 21 draft choices. Of the 21 players selected, an overwhelming 15 prospects have come from Canadian major junior leagues, with six having come from the OHL, six from the WHL, and three from the QMJHL. Of the remaining six selections, two hailed from Europe, two from the US National Team Development Program, one from the NCAA and one from a Massachusetts high school. By position, nine forwards , eight defensemen and four goaltenders were chosen by the Avalanche in the past three drafts. Only two of their 21 picks were used to select overage players.
Full article: HERE

Clearly, the Avs have been deploying their scouts primarily on this side of the pond and it has yielded them some great early returns. In all three of Sherman's drafts they have drafted a forward first and in his first two drafts he also selected two goalies each time.

The first two years the Avalanche stockpiled a lot of talent. Matt Duchene, Stefan Elliott, Tyson Barrie and even Ryan O'Reilly (to a degree) are all full of skill from their 2009 class, and the 2010 group saw selections such as Hishon, Bournival and Troy Rutkowski.

However, in 2011 there was some grit and toughness injected into the system with guys like Landeskog, Siemens and Gabriel Beaupre.

That somewhat matches the Avalanche organization on the whole as this year the team definitely tried to get meaner adding guys like Shane O'Brien, Steve Downie and Jamie McGinn to instill a heavy forecheck.

Like I said from the top here though, the Avs are already basically looking at five NHL players from their first three drafts, and that doesn't even include a lot of other talented players. Colorado is a team that doesn't get a lot of national attention, but in a few years there's a chance they do and everyone is going to start by saying, "wow, Greg Sherman oversaw the drafting of a lot of really good players."

Edmonton Oilers
GM: Steve Tambellini
Tenure Began: 2008 

Number of Drafts: 3
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: Not Applicable
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 2... sort of 3. I'm honestly not sure if I should include Magnus Paajarvi here at the moment.
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 9
First round pick success: Well after drafting Magnus Paajarvi 10th overall, Tambellini's drafted Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall in succession. So, 2/2 and we'll again wait on Paajarvi.
Notable players drafted: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Curtis Hamilton, Anton Lander, Ryan Martindale, Tyler Pitlick, Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom, David Musil.

Comments: In order to really evaluate Steve Tambellini from a draft perspective, we have to look past the first overall selections. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall were essentially no brainers, so there really isn't anything we can say about that. It's the picks after those that tell us something.

Tambellini has drafted eight players, out of 27 picks total, from the WHL (and another who transferred to the WHL after being drafted by the Oilers) and that's been the league he's drafted from the most. Conversely, Edmonton has only drafted one player who has went the college route, so those are two interesting trends. 

The Oilers have also drafted at least one goalie in each of Tambellini's draft, including two in 2011 for four total.

In total, Edmonton has drafted five centers, five left wingers, four right wingers, nine defensemen and four goalies under this regime. After the talented players taken in the first round, there seems to be a premium on two-way hockey players. Prospects such as Curtis Hamilton, Anton Lander, David Musil and Tyler Pitlick are all examples of guys who are multidimensional and play at both ends of the ice. 

As we've seen with other successful drafting teams, they usually have a couple of things going for them. First, is that they draft a lot (27 picks in three years is a lot). The second is they have a lot of high picks (five picks in the second, third and fourth rounds of each draft so far). The third is, of course, making those picks count (head start with Hall and Nugent-Hopkins there). 

This isn't to say the Oilers are well on their way to a championship because there are tons of teams that have high draft picks and find the odd gem or two yet still never actually get better (Columbus, Islanders, etc.). The teams who finally break through to become a consistent playoff and even Cup contender couple strong drafting with strong trades and free agent signings which is something Tambellini hasn't really shown he's capable of. But that's a discussion for another time. 

Teams like Pittsburgh and Chicago found elite players at the top of the draft, but they also drafted other good players to help them win Cups (Bolland, Byfuglien, Brouwer, Talbot, Letang, etc.). So the question with Edmonton will be, how are the guys who didn't go first overall going to help this team moving forward? Those will be the picks that can make this team go from good, to great. 

Minnesota Wild
GM: Chuck Fletcher
Tenure Began: 2009 

Number of Drafts: 3
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: 1/1, with Mikael Granlund coming over this year that should make it 2/2, then we wait on Zack Phillips and Jonas Brodin.
Notable players drafted: Nick Leddy, Mikael Granlund, Matt Hackett, Kris Foucault, Brett Bulmer, Jason Zucker, Zack Phillips, Jonas Brodin, Mario Lucia

Comments: In a relatively short amount of time, Chuck Fletcher has done some serious damage on the draft floor.

He has restocked the cupboard, so to speak, so much so that HockeysFuture now has them ranked second overall in their organizational standings. That includes having Mikael Granlund, a player who many feel is the best prospect in the world at the moment.

Looking at his body of work, Fletcher has had some interesting draft tendencies thus far in his career. In three drafts he has only drafted three defencemen (Leddy, Brodin and Seeler), and four goalies. It's only three drafts so it's a relatively small sample size but drafting more goalies than defencemen is pretty unprecedented. 

Minnesota Draft website First Round Bust has this to say on the defense matter: 

The conclusion I draw from this is that the idea with the blueline is to have a group of guys that defend well but also get the puck up and out of the zone to start the forecheck; then you have your skilled forwards controlling the play from the goal line out to the offensive blueline, instead off the opposite. After all, the D are able to continue on their paths and jump up into the play, but then are mobile enough to recover.
That would explain why Minnesota has passed over players like Cam Fowler and Ryan Murphy the last two years, more offensively talented players than a Brodin, or a Seeler.

From that same article, FRB also offered this when it came to Minnesota's strategy and philosophy:

They'll select right off of their Draft list, although if they deem players as equal they'll take into account the positions. I'd say that philosophy has worked out so far- the 2010 Draft Class had 5 players that were in their Top 50- Mikael Granlund, Brett Bulmer, Johan Larsson, Jason Zucker (whom they traded up for), and Johan Gustafsson were the first five selections. The trade-up for Zucker is another element to consider, and it ties in Mario Lucia as well- if they perceive guys to "higher end", Fletcher/Flahr are unafraid to trade up to get them. You can make the case that they prefer Quality over Quantity as well.

Full article: HERE

Over Fletcher's 20 picks he has drafted seven high school players. He has also drafted players such as Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker who he knew were still just breaking in with their programs or heading to new teams. In other words, he has been drafting players for the long term that still need a lot of development time because they are really just coming into their own. That helps to explain why the Wild have had such few rookies breakthrough already.

Conversely, that's also a reason why the Wild have so much promise in their system. Players such as Nick Leddy (who I'm sure they regret trading), Mario Lucia and Nick Seeler are just some of the guys who are progressing very nicely up the ranks. 

When it comes to Lucia and Zucker, the Wild traded up in the middle of the draft to get both and have shown in general that they will cough up what it takes to move up in the draft should they really like a player. 

Like most GM's who have only been with a team for three years, we haven't seen much in the way of concrete NHL production, but it's coming. In a few years we could very well be hailing Fletcher for his draft efforts in these first few years of operation as the Wild's boss.

Vancouver Canucks
GM: Mike Gillis
Tenure Began: 2008 

Number of Drafts: 4
NHL Players drafted outside of three years: 1
NHL Players drafted in the last three years: 0
Promising players drafted in the last three years: 5
First round pick success: 1/1 in Cody Hodgson. Waiting on Jordan Schroeder and Nicklas Jensen.
Notable players drafted: Cody Hodgson, Kevin Connauton, Nicklas Jensen, Jordan Schroeder, Alexandre Grenier, Yann Sauve.

Comments: The Vancouver Canucks roster is obviously a very tough one to crack, which helps to explain why only two players drafted by Gillis, Cody Hodgson and Yann Sauve, have seen any sort of NHL action thus far.

In every draft Gillis has selected one goalie, usually later in the draft, and he has used all three of his first round draft picks to select forwards. 

He also had a 2010 draft without a first, second or third round pick due to trades that brought in Keith Ballard and Andrew Alberts. 

Beyond having a good roster, another reason few Canucks prospects have broke through to the NHL ranks is that Gillis has been developing players slowly and has drafted quite a few players that have gone through the college ranks. 

In his first year as GM, Vancouver's AHL affiliate went to the Calder Cup Final and lost but Cody Hodgson was able to be apart of the playoff run. He split time between Brampton and the Manitoba (their AHL team) the following year. The only other player from that draft with promise, Yann Sauve, has had a slow development and has been putting in his time in the AHL slowly but surely. He was rewarded with some NHL time this year. 

The following year, Gillis selected four players who were/are in the college circuit, two Swedish players, and one QMJHL player to end the draft. Like I said, those are long-term selections that were probably made on purpose. The Vancouver roster is chalk full of veterans so it does make sense to draft guys who project well over time and are getting proper development time overseas or in college.

That said, it is curious that Gillis really pushed Jordan Schroeder to leave college and sign pro. That probably speaks to the fact that as soon as Gillis thinks a player he drafted is pro ready, he wants to get his hands on him and develop him directly through their system. 

Canucks Army has a nice breakdown of where Gillis has primarily drafted his players. "Fishing hole" represents where the Canucks have drafted and "League %" is the league average. Here's the chart:

Fishing Hole %League %
Full article: HERE

Gillis hasn't had any early returns from his drafts, but in fairness, he hasn't had to. The Canucks are still a great team but they are admittedly aging in some positions and they will eventually need their youth to take over the team. When that paradigm shift comes we will see exactly how good or bad Gillis has been at drafting.

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