For a post elsewhere, I did some research to see how the top 3 picks were turning out, and thought it might be an interesting post to talk about here, given that there is a lot of worry that even if we do pick in the top 3, the pick could be a dud. That is a valid concern, but I got to wondering just how often a top 3 pick is a dud. Is it blown out of proportion because we’ve seen it happen a few times in the last 30 years, or does it happen quite regularly still? I chose the top 3 to look at, because, as it stands right now, the worst we could pick is #3 and the best we could pick is number 1. Of course, that could change depending on where we slot when the season is over. The purpose of this post though is to help determine if: top-3 picks are commonly that much of an unknown, are overrated, or are game changers.
Top-3 Picks Of The Last 10 Years
Here is a list of the top-3 draft picks from each year from 2000 to 2009 in the NHL.
|2007||2||James Van Riemsdyk||L||44||11||17||28||12|
That’s a lot to digest. So, let’s start by grouping players into a few different groups: duds, impact players, elite players, and unknowns. The duds fit the description of players who never really made it in the NHL, or probably should have been drafted much further down the line. The impact players are the players that are above average players to stars, but not exactly a player to build the franchise around. The elite players ARE those players to build around, or at the very least are in the upper echelon of NHLers. Lastly, the unknowns.. well, we just haven’t quite figured those guys out just yet, most likely because it’s too early to tell. In some cases they have as much potential to drop off the face of the earth as they do to be a star in the league. Also included in the unknowns are players I haven’t enough knowledge on just yet (this would be Van Riemsdyk, Turris, Duchene, for example).
Alexandr Svitov (who?).
Impact players (9)
Jason Spezza (can dominate a game.. oft-times considered elite), Jay Bouwmeester (could one day be considered elite), Cam Barker (good offensive ability and can lay the body), Bobby Ryan (despite Kevin Lowe’s superb eye for talent, Ryan is looking to be a pretty good pick by the Ducks), Jack Johnson (well-rounded d-man, although his dad and Carl Lindros could start a father/son – agent/player business), Erik Johnson (high-end offensive potential), Jordan Staal (could be more of a focal point on a team with less depth than the Penguins… good two-way abilities), Zach Bogosian (very easily could be considered elite, and maybe should.. but a bit too early to tell, bare minimum is an impact player), Nathan Horton (good goal scorer, but on the bottom end of impact players and may drop off over time).
Elite players (13)
Dany Heatley (olympian, prolific goal scorer, has the ability to reject being traded to crappy teams), Marian Gaborik (gifted one-on-one player, although hampered by injuries), Ilya Kovalchuk (scored more times than Wilt Chamberlain), Rick Nash (singlehandedly makes things happen.. yes he is elite.. stop typing in the comment box below that “I’m not so sure Nash is elite”… he is, and you wish we had him), Eric Staal (great one-on-one player and finisher and olympian), Alexander Ovechkin (’nuff said), Evgeni Malkin (Ovechkin without the hitting, flash, and bad hair), Sidney Crosby (also ’nuff said), Jonathan Toews (this is just the beginning with this kid), Patrick Kane (beats up cabbies and gets away with it. I hate you Chicago), Steven Stamkos (possibly too early to call him this, but I’m pretty sure this kid is a future elite… PPG player at 19? Move over Vinny), Drew Doughty (Olympian at 20? Excels at both ends of the ice), Marc-Andre Fleury (olympian and stellar goaltender who could also one day be considered elite).
Rick DiPietro (several injuries, rushed into the league, but had a stellar rookie season – I’d say is at least an impact player), Kari Lehtonen (could be a high end goalie, but injuries are holding him back currently – as suggested, I’ve moved him to the unknowns), James Van Riemsdyk (looks like he’ll be a very good power forward, but I’m not willing to commit to slotting him anywhere else just yet due to limited NHL games played), Kyle Turris (ditto to Van Riemsdyk, but replace the power forward stuff with goal scorer and playmaker), Matt Duchene (got off to a flying start before things cooled off, but is too young and inexperienced to know where he sits just yet – mainly I also haven’t seen enough of him yet), John Tavares (as a few have suggested, listed Tavares as an unknown now since it’s too early right now to know), Victor Hedman (same as Tavares).
1st overall: 7 elite, 1 impact, 2 unknown
2nd overall: 4 elite, 3 impact, 3 unknown
3rd overall: 2 elite, 5 imact, 1 dud, 2 unknown
So there we have it. As would be expected, 1st overall picks have the highest chance of drafting an elite, 2nd overall the next best chance, and 3rd overall the next best (of top-3 picks). In 10 years, we’ve seen 1 dud. We’ve got 7 guys who are unknowns still, although none appear to be duds (nearly half – Tavares, Hedman, Duchene – are unknown just based on age, and each of those 3 have elite potential). On the good side, we’ve got 9 players who are top line players, and 13 players who dominate (or will dominate) the game. So in that sense, almost half of top 3 picks are going to be dominant / franchise players (if history continues), 30% of top 3 picks are going to be top line players with potential for better. And lastly, the chance of picking up a dud is next to nothing (3.3% if you’re playing the odds). That remaining 23%-ish we still will have to wait and see, but it looks like at the very least they’ll be impact guys. As for DiPietro, I wouldn’t consider him a dud, but he’s a tough one to rank. One more note on the unknowns. I would say that most are at least going to be impact players. In some cases, players already have been impact players (Lehtonen/DiPietro) but due to injury we haven’t had a chance to see if they can maintain that level consistently. So really, the bottom line is that the vast majority of top 3 talent since 2000 has been very good.
Cream of the Crop – 2010 Draft-Eligible Prospects
So next, let’s take a look at the current top 3 crop of prospects: Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin and Cam Fowler. Below each player is a list of their strengths (+), weaknesses (-) and a comparison point. I personally don’t like comparisons because often they are ridiculous and leave high expectations on players. But I’m going to do it anyways, just because they also give us a bit of a visual as to who that player patterns their game after.
+: Blazing speed; elite goal scoring ability.
-: Needs to use linemates better; defensive game could stand to get better.
Misc: Currently plays on a strong team, which maybe misleading to his abilities.
Style: Lighting-fast scorer.
Comparison: Pavel Bure.
+: Good two-way abilities; excellent playmaker; possesses leadership qualities; thinks the game very well.
-: not as good a skater as Hall and isn’t as polished as Hall as of yet.
Misc: Unlike Hall, does not have the benefit of strong linemates, which should mean his overall game could be better than it appears.
Style: Two-way playmaker.
Comparison: Joe Sakic.
+: Powerplay quarterback; elite skater; all-around defenseman; good positioning; excellent puck-mover.
-: Not physical for a defenseman his size; needs to pick better shooting lanes.
Comparison: Scott Neidermayer.
What “They’re” Saying…
The current rankings by Central Scouting Services has Taylor Hall ahead by a nose, followed by Tyler Seguin and then Cam Fowler. Ditto for International Scouting Services. The Red Line Report has Seguin ahead of 2nd place Hall, and Fowler in 3rd.
E.J. McGuire, the NHL’s Director of Central Scouting, said this of the three top picks: “We’re splitting hairs. What does a team need? That’s how close it is. Does a team need a right-shot center (Seguin)? There’s your answer. Does a team need a speedy left wing (Hall)? There’s your answer. Does your team need a defenseman (Fowler)? There’s your answer.”
“The bottom line is all three of them are outstanding hockey players. It’s just the way it works out,” said Chris Edwards of NHL Central Scouting (OHL). “You get a gut feeling on guys. If I was picking that’s the way I would pick them.”
On Taylor Hall, Don Cherry had this to say “The very first time I saw him, I knew he had it. He’s got all the tools – he can skate, shoot, he’s got hockey savvy. I could go on and on. He’s got the touch. I’ve seen them all come up – (Sam) Gagner, (Rick) Nash, (John) Tavares – and this kid’s as good as any of them.” Each year, Don Cherry and Bobby Orr coach the CHL/NHL Top Prospects game. So when he says he’s seem them all, he means it.
Windspor Spitfires coach Bob Boughner has/had the pleasure of coaching all three of the consensus top-3 prospects. He currently coaches Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler in Windsor, and has coached Tyler Seguin on the Canadian under-18 team at 2009′s Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. “He’s an effortless skater,” said Boughner, of Seguin. “I think Taylor might be a little bit more dynamic with the way he dominates games with his speed, but I think Seguin is a great playmaker. He’s always making guys around him better.” As for Hall, “How driven he is and what he expects from himself, it’s amazing,” Boughner said. “This kid wants it. He’s so driven, he wants to prove he is the guy. You tell him something once and he’s got it.” Lastly, of Fowler, Boughner said near the start of the 2009-10 OHL season that “he’s an elite player and his skating is such an asset for him. He’s a guy that once he learns the league and gets himself comfortable he’s going to thrive here.”
You know what, we often hear a lot of hype surrounding the top 3 picks, and there is valid reason to buy into it. I think each player brings an element with their game that would not leave a team disappointed. At this point, I’d be happy with any of the top 3 prospects. Are they going to lift our team out of the ashes? Probably not, but they will definitely complement our current group of up-and-coming prospects quite well.
Hockey’s Future – Top 10 OHL prospects for 2010 draft
NHL.com – Hall grabs midterm top spot over Seguin, Fowler
The Windsor Star – Hall, Seguin sing praises — of each other
NHL.com – Fowler making smooth adjustment to OHL