Over the past decade at numerous times I have had draft followers mention that such-and-such would or wouldn’t be a good fit as a draft selection because they shoot left or right. I have never in the past ten years factored the way a player shoots into my draft evaluations or mock draft scenarios. To me it would be destructive to choose a player you don’t like as much as another because he shoots a certain way – you are not drafting for tomorrow, you are drafting for 5-10 years down the road.
I was sitting with two high-ranking NHL scouts on Sunday and even though I knew the answer I asked them anyway if they ever consider which way a player shoots….I was given a look of incredulity.
“You aren’t looking to fill out your roster tomorrow,” said one of the scout while the other was chuckling. “That’s what fans don’t get. You are drafting for the future. You have no idea who will be on the team when that player makes it. No way you pass over someone you like the most because of the way he shoots.”
What if the Columbus Blue Jackets had used that philosophy going into the 2015 NHL draft? They had high hopes for Ryan Murray as a very recent top-two pick being a top-four dman along with Jack Johnson on the left side..backed up ably by Kevin Connauton..all left-hand shots. Their pick comes up and they are looking at Zach Werenski…but…lo and behold..he also shoots left. Why don’t they pass on Werenski and draft the most highly regarded right-handed defencemen Noah Juulsen or Jeremy Roy? Or take a forward like Lawson Crouse instead. Are they better off today in any way??
If two defenceman are dead even in your ranking and the club has an embarrassment of young riches on one side or another with the big club..then perhaps you take the defenceman that plays on the other side, but one never knows what the defence will look like in five years..players you think will develop into top four dmen often don’t, players leave by free agency and in deals..so it really isn’t something that is a priority discussion in a draft room.
Look at the Habs when they chose Juulsen – since then there have been 4-5 defencemen added to the roster and they also drafted another one even higher…by the time he is playing regularly the Habs may have one defenceman that was on their roster when he was drafted, so why would it have mattered which way he shoots?
Draft picks are assets first and foremost. Why did Nashville pick Seth Jones even though they were stacked on defence? He held the most future value as the BPA in their estimation..and he ended up landing him their first-line center when Jones was dealt. Draft picks aren’t always for life..or tomorrow.