The recent barrage of articles from Quebec media panning Montreal’s director of amateur scouting Trevor Timmins following the demotion of Jesperi Kotkaniemi was frustrating to see, because as someone who has both followed, and been involved in, the drafting of NHL players, I know all too well that every team has its share of both hits and misses.
There are no superscouts who get it right every time. Heck…there’s none that get it right even 50 percent of the time. Projecting the long-term upside of 17-year-old athletes is a task scouts in no other sport are asked to do.
I decided to do some deep digging into the track record of each NHL team at the draft table since Timmins took over as Montreal’s head scout in 2003, with an emphasis on quality/quantity of picks, and the resultant number of picks that become regular NHLers at some point in their career. I was curious to see if this Timmins fellow is indeed as incompetent as a number of writers have contended in the past week.
There is no tried and true scientific formula I used – I took what I thought were the most pertinent factors, and started adding up each team’s totals
I began by tallying up how many picks in the top two rounds each club had between 2003 and 2016. I figured picks made after 2016 are still to be determined.
Why the top two rounds? Well – they are the most important rounds by a significant margin in every draft. More than half of NHL regulars come out of the top two rounds, and at least 80 percent of the stars. The success of a team’s draft can often be traced back to the number of top-60 picks a team had in a particular draft and how many NHL players evolve from those picks.
I then counted up the prospects drafted by each team since 2003 that have played at least 200 games. I find that to be a fair number for any NHL career – if you played in 200 games, you got at least three seasons under your belt.
It also put more emphasis on later drafts; if a player was picked in 2015 or 2016 and already has played 200 NHL games, odds are that the team that selected him has a solid player, and perhaps even a star. I divided the number of established players by the number of draft picks each team had in the top two rounds to come up with a percentage for each team. Here are those totals:
Using Montreal as the example – the club had 25 top-60 picks between 2003-16. In those 14 drafts, 24 of Montreal’s total picks played at least 200 NHL games. Some drafts in that time frame had more than 60 selections in the top two rounds because there were compensatory picks doled out for teams that failed to signed draft players.
Now you know why they say you had a successful draft if you picked two NHL regulars. Only one club averaged two regulars per draft, and that was Columbus. Mind you, they picked top 10 almost every draft.
Next step was to tally up how many drafted players played at least 300 games. That for me is the threshold for whether you became anything other than an average NHL player – if you played at least 300 NHL games…you were a solid pick, if not a star. I once again divided that number by the number of picks each team had in the top two rounds.
I also included how many top 15 picks each club had in that period of time, and included them in the following chart:
|MTL||25||20||80||5 top 15|
|OTT||25||16||67||6 top 15|
|SJ||26||17||65||4 top 15|
|BUF||34||22||65||11 top 15|
|NAS||28||18||64||6 top 15|
|LA||28||17||61||7 top 15|
|PHI||23||14||61||5 top 15|
|MIN||26||15||58||6 top 15|
|CBJ||33||19||58||11 top 15|
|DET||23||13||57||1 top 15|
|ANA||34||19||56||6 top 15|
|STL||35||19||54||4 top 15|
|NYR||26||14||54||5 top 15|
|EDM||30||16||53||10 top 15|
|CAR||27||14||52||11 top 15|
|TO||27||14||52||7 top 15|
|PIT||24||12||50||5 top 15|
|VAN||22||11||50||6 top 15|
|NYI||30||15||50||11 top 15|
|CHI||37||18||49||6 top 15|
|WIN||27||13||48||11 top 15|
|FLA||33||15||45||10 top 15|
|ARI||35||15||43||10 top 15|
|WAS||33||14||42||6 top 15|
|BOS||31||14||42||8 top 15|
|CAL||25||10||40||5 top 15|
|DAL||30||12||40||7 top 15|
|COL||30||12||40||6 top 15|
|TB||28||11||39||5 top 15|
|NJ||24||7||29||3 top 15|
This is where I combine the two numbers, and then subtracted two points for every top 15 pick a team has made. If you are picking top 15, you are expected to be getting a productive player, and since we will be adding points for production later, it makes sense to handicap the teams that has more high picks…they are SUPPOSED to be drafting the productive players.
Here’s where the clubs stood after that when you take the average of the two totals; in other words, divide by two, and subtract two points for every top 15 selection :
At this point, I counted how many picks each team made over the course of those 14 drafts, to expand on the previous formula that focused on the top two rounds only. I then added up the number of points each team’s prospects have scored with picks made between 2003 and 2016. I divided the point totals by the number of picks to obtain the points-per-pick average of every team.
Points Per Draft Pick
*Handicap deduction of three points for first overall picks, 2.5 for seconds, 2.0 for thirds, 1.5 for fourths and one point for the fifths.
Nine of the 13 players with 800 career points that have been drafted since 2003 were picked in the top five of the draft. It’s difficult coming up with an equitable demerit system…this seemed like the fairest deduction.
The first overall pick has to be docked something tangible. Pittsburgh has the second-highest point total among draft prospects – yet one fifth of their prospect point total is from Sidney Crosby alone, and there was not a scout on the planet that wouldn’t have drafted him first overall. My grandmother would have picked Crosby in the 2005 draft.
Crosby and Malkin, picked back-to-back in the top two, combine for approximately one third of Pittsburgh’s point total.
It is a similar situation for the most productive team: Backstrom and Ovechkin combine for almost one third of Washington’s total…yet they account for less than 1/50th of the total picks by the Capitals in that period. In other words, two percent of their 103 picks have accounted for about 30 percent of their total offence.
Needless to say, picking first overall made Washington’s scouts “geniuses” as well.
The same goes for Stamkos, Tavares, Kane…and will soon apply for McDavid, MacKinnon, Matthews and other top picks who will most likely hit the 800-point career plateau like the ones drafted first before them.
The teams that picked in the top five of the 2016 draft weren’t penalized. It’s a little early to be docking those five teams for players who, at most, are only completing their fourth seasons in the league. McDavid is already pushing 500 points and Eichel 400, so we started in 2015 and handicapped each top-five pick from 2003 until 2015.
Goaltenders were rewarded a point for each NHL win they’ve had in their career. It probably could be two points-per-win. It’s hard not to argue that a 400-win goalie doesn’t equate to a 800-point player in terms of the value they have given. Montreal and Pittsburgh should probably have slightly better scores as they were penalized for having top-five goalie picks in Fleury and Price…but it is had to argue that their value has equated to a 350 and 400-point scorer in the NHL. Most likely, both equal to at least an 800-point scorer in that regard.
So if you want to add a couple of points to each of those teams final totals, Montreal increases its lead over San Jose and Pittsburgh jumps slightly ahead of Anaheim in the final rankings.
Since this study will likely be lambasted by non-Habs fans as being slanted in the Canadiens favour, I am not going to give them any potential reasons for making this claim, so I kept them the same.
The study was conducted without having any preconceived notions or angles that would favour one team over the others. As a long-time scout and follower of the draft, these were the most accurate methods of gauging how successful a team has been in picking players that become viable NHL assets.
The final total combined the two rankings – each team’s efficiency in picking prospects that play a minimum of 300 games added together with the adjusted points per draft pick.
This study reveals, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Trevor Timmins is not a poor talent evaluator. In fact; since joining the Canadiens as head scout in 2003, his success rate is right at the top.
Detroit and New Jersey are the only clubs that had the combination of fewer top-60 and top-15 picks. When you also factor in total number of picks, Montreal is essentially tied with Philadelpha for the 27th least favourable starting point for the drafts between 2003-16.
Timmins had a lot of years that he was picking once in the top two rounds, and only five times in the top 15, tied for fifth least in the league. Montreal had one pick in the top four in that drafting period, while Edmonton, by comparison, had six in a seven-year span.
Despite those obstacles, Timmins drafted the third-most players that have gone on to play at least 300 games in the NHL. He has done the most with the least of any talent evaluator since he joined the Canadiens.
“Sure,” some detractors will say…”but how has he drafted lately?”
Quite well, in fact. As of two weeks ago when I researched recent picks, here were the games played by prospects drafted from 2016 to 2019.
NHL Games Played
Since 2016 Draft:
The demotion of Jesperi Kotkaniemi and trading of Michael McCarron set off Timmins’ detractors in recent weeks. Those two circumstances alone got them to spend an entire minute in “researching” the fact that the Canadiens have one first-round pick from the past 15 years playing on the Canadiens.
This alone is supposed proof that the Canadiens have drafted and developed poorly. Well – you have to go deeper than that. You have to actually study every team and every draft, and factor in when teams drafted, how often they drafted, and how often they produced NHLers who went on to at least decent NHL careers. That takes more than a minute – I spent close to 40 hours this week doing this study.
It has been argued in the past that, sure, Timmins has been able to draft NHLers, but he hasn’t picked stars, like so many other teams.
Well – despite having the third-worst drafting position as previously noted, Montreal is tied for fifth overall in producing 300-point scorers over the past 18 years with six, and Montreal is one of only four teams to draft a 300-win goaltender.
One team in the league drafted players who won the Hart, Vezina and Norris Trophy in the past 18 years. What team you ask? Montreal.
The Habs are one of the few teams to draft a 500-point scorer outside of the top 20 (Pacioretty), and a 400-point defenceman after the first round (Subban).
So stop the nonsense, please. No…Montreal does NOT draft poorly, and no, Timmins should not be replaced. If anything, given the results of this study, he should be promoted. Teams searching for their next GM choice could do worse.
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