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On Draft Picks and Value

Obviously picking earlier is always better, right? Or is it?

Jamie Sabau

The Story So Far

There has been a lot... A LOT... TONS of study done on the NHL draft, and what the value of this pick is compared to that pick. Some studies recommend a number rating for each pick, so you can add two picks to be "equal" in value to a different pick.

What these studies tell us is all pretty comparable. Players taken in the first round have successful careers about 60% of the time. Second round picks are successful about 30% of the time, roughly 20% for the third round, and after that it's about a 10% chance a player has a successful career.

THIS site sums up many different studies nicely. What I find particularly interesting about this article is the conclusions the author draws. Obviously, a great strategy for some teams is to get top 5 picks; the players chosen in the top 5 picks generally have successful careers 96% of the time. Because of this, moving into the top 5 is incredibly expensive.

What is more interesting is the author's next idea:

After the top-five, move down in the first round. Teams trade up all the time to snag players that they like in the first round, but as a rule it is a very bad idea. Teams trading down don’t really lose much value, especially if they aren’t trading down very far.

The key here is to stay inside the first round. After the first round, picks within the top 100 (so, picks 31-100) are "practically interchangeable" in terms of value. Obviously there is a spectrum: Pick 100 is not the same as pick 31, but two or more low picks are, all told, similar if not better value than one higher pick.

What Does This Mean for the Draft?

What this means is that teams in general tend to over-value picking higher in the draft within certain zones. 1-5 is one "zone," with the rest of the first round being another.

These zones are absolutely man-made and arbitrary; there isn't a drastic jump in success rate between picks 5 and 6, for instance. However, the more homogeneous you make the "zones" in terms of size, the less helpful this kind of thinking becomes. For instance, the difference in success rate between the first round over all and the second round overall is drastic, but the difference between picks 1-5 and picks 6-30 is more so.

Wild Strategy

Some have wondered on the Wilderness Forums whether the Wild might be better off trading down in this draft (or next year). Trading into the top 5, while it would be nice to get Bennett or Reinhart, is likely too expensive for the Wild. Trading up to get a certain player could also be pricy. Trading down, however, is certainly possible.

Two teams currently have multiple first-round picks: the Anaheim Ducks, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Ducks have picks 10 and 24; acquiring both is almost certainly far too expensive, since it means moving up as well as gaining a second first round pick. The Lightning, however, have picks 19 and 28.

It would be wonderful if the Wild could trade the Lightning for both picks; they would retain their rough draft position, giving them a shot at many of the same players, as well as a second first-round pick. The question would be: what would this trade cost.

As noted in the mock draft here at the Wilderness, Tampa Bay has one of the best prospect pools in the league. They are almost certainly not interested in any of the Wild's prospects, or likely in any of their young players. Their forward and defensive prospects look promising, and they have one of the best net minders in the league in Ben Bishop. What the Lightning need is a reliable veteran presence on the ice, both at forward and at defense.

Unfortunately, the Wild are almost certainly not interested in giving away any of their veteran leadership. Theoretically, the Wild could re-sign Moulson and McCormick to trade them to Tampa, but Tampa would probably only be interested in Moulson, if either.

Ultimately, this means the Wild would need to trade their first pick plus a lower pick to one team for a first-rounder, and some combinations of picks and players to another team for THEIR first round pick. If, that is, the Wild's goal is to have 2 picks in the first round.

Your Turn

So, Wilderness, what do you think? Is there some chance the Wild move up or down in the draft? Or do they stand pat. There's a poll below, and get some conversations going in the comments! What would the trades look like? Who would they be with?