Dispelling Myths: Are top 3 picks a crap shoot?

By , January 20, 2010 9:40 pm
Drafting high is no guarantee... but is it pretty close? Or a crap shoot?

Drafting high is no guarantee... but is it pretty close? Or a crap shoot?

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.

Year Pick # Team Name Pos GP G A P PIM
2000 1 NYI Rick DiPietro G
2000 2 ATL Dany Heatley L 557 289 309 598 486
2000 3 MIN Marian Gaborik L 549 248 246 494 317
2001 1 ATL Ilya Kovalchuk L 587 325 285 610 429
2001 2 OTT Jason Spezza C 434 153 284 437 310
2001 3 TBL Alexandr Svitov C 179 13 24 37 223
2002 1 CBJ Rick Nash L 492 216 184 400 473
2002 2 ATL Kari Lehtonen G
2002 3 FLA Jay Bouwmeester D 521 55 166 221 361
2003 1 PIT Marc-Andre Fleury G
2003 2 CAR Eric Staal C 445 174 217 391 335
2003 3 FLA Nathan Horton C 406 138 145 283 372
2004 1 WAS Alexander Ovechkin L 364 249 235 484 276
2004 2 PIT Evgeni Malkin C 285 129 219 348 298
2004 3 CHI Cam Barker D 190 17 63 80 210
2005 1 PIT Sidney Crosby C 339 162 292 454 332
2005 2 ANH Bobby Ryan R 136 57 49 106 94
2005 3 CAR Jack Johnson D 167 13 27 40 180
2006 1 STL Erik Johnson D 116 9 47 56 81
2006 2 PIT Jordan Staal C 295 76 77 153 151
2006 3 CHI Jonathan Toews C 189 74 89 163 124
2007 1 CHI Patrick Kane R 211 66 132 198 110
2007 2 PHI James Van Riemsdyk L 44 11 17 28 12
2007 3 PHX Kyle Turris C 66 8 13 21 23
2008 1 TBL Steven Stamkos C 127 48 45 93 59
2008 2 LAK Drew Doughty D 129 15 47 62 88
2008 3 ATL Zach Bogosian D 95 18 20 38 89
2009 1 NYI John Tavares C 49 17 14 31 12
2009 2 TBL Victor Hedman D 46 4 10 14 42
2009 3 COL Matt Duchene C 49 15 18 33 8




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).

Duds (1)

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).

Unknowns (7)

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.


Taylor Hall
Taylor Hall – Left Wing – 6’1″, 186lbs, Shoots: L
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM
2007-08 Windsor Spitfires OHL 63 45 39 84 22
2008-09 Windsor Spitfires OHL 63 38 52 90 60
2009-10 Windsor Spitfires OHL 40 29 41 70 32

+: 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.


Tyler Seguin
Tyler Seguin – Centre – 6’1″, 180lbs, Shoots: R
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM
2008-09 Plymouth Whalers OHL 61 21 46 67 28
2009-10 Plymouth Whalers OHL 42 31 40 71 44

+: 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.


Cam Fowler
Cam Fowler – Defense – 6’2″, 195lbs, Shoots: L
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM
2007-08 U.S. National Under-18 Team NAHL 38 3 10 13 2
2008-09 U.S. National Under-18 Team Ind 47 8 32 40 44
2008-09 U.S. National Under-18 Team NAHL 14 2 7 9 12
2009-10 Windsor Spitfires OHL 37 3 39 42 8

+: 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.

Interesting reads

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


Who would you like to see the Oilers draft this year?

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69 Responses to “Dispelling Myths: Are top 3 picks a crap shoot?”

  1. Racki says:

    Maybe they can land a second first rounder moving one of the other players. Damn would that be awesome to have Nintendoreitter here in addition to a top 3 pick.

  2. MetalOil says:

    Did anyone know that Taylor Hall was drafted 89th overall by the KHL’s Ak Bars Kazan last June ???

  3. Racki says:

    I didn’t notice it was 89th, but I remember hearing he was drafted by the KHL, and had to laugh.

  4. MetalOil says:

    There were only 91 players selected in that draft so AK Bars Kazan must have decided to take a risk with such a late pick. Khl draft eligibility is set at 17, one year younger then the NHLs.

  5. GreenHick says:

    Good posts.
    I hadn’t seen Seguin, and was impressed with him. He had a better first period than Hall, but the pk gave Hall a chance to just get after it, but Seguin was setting up his guys with some pretty slick stuff before he cooled a bit.

    I like Hall–agree with most, though I find him a skater more like Crosby, power, than that sort of antelope thing Bure gave us. I’m not sure what else he’s got for shots–wrister’s good–but I don’t think he’s in Bure’s league a shooter, or in Stamkos’s for that matter.

    Seguin seems like we might compare him to Matt Duchene.
    Hall–close to Stamkos, I think, a little more speed, a little less shot, more confidence than Stamkos at his age.

    Nice players. Fowler is money too.

  6. Racki says:

    Hey GreenHick, welcome to the Foil, first of all.

    Secondly, ya, Bure is pretty high of a comparison for Hall. Stamkos might be a better comparison. Hard to say yet until we see him at a higher level too.

    Really though, I think no matter who the Oil go with (if they have the choice of any of these 3) I think they’ll be happy.

    Do you have a preference of any of the 3?

  7. GreenHick says:

    Nice original post, by the way.
    I went into the world juniors pretty sure it was Hall. He had a good tournament, though I wasn’t crazy about the Khadri pairing–the puck rarely came back his way. Khadri was supposed to be the set up guy, and Hall almost never received the puck with speed.

    Anyway, I like him, but have to admit Fowler impressed in the tourney. Seguin I hadn’t seen and now I do think it’ll be close, Seguin seems to have very fast hands, fast anticipation. Though I’m basing this on the first period of the Prospects game.

    Seguin might be comparable to Duchene, but for upside I thought he looked like Sakic as a rookie with the Nords.

    Hall has some less obvious things too. Stamkos looked very fast in junior, not so much yet in the pros. Killer shot. Hall doesn’t seem to be really slick stickhandler but has great vision, if he learns not to force it.

    What I thought was interesting about Hall was that he had a way of drifting by guys, putting it in their feet Mario style. I get the feeling the game slows for him in a Zen way.

    So if you pick Seguin 2nd, you’re more likely look canny, cause he just seems to have it.

    Hall is a bit more of a mysterious player. Low range, he’s good enough to make good on the #1 pick. They were comparing him to Messier. I don’t quite see that, but he might be like Messier in turning out far better than expected, which might make him an excellent pick, sort of Nash-good.

  8. MetalOil says:

    According to TSN Fowler might be on the verge of dropping out of the top 3.
    http://tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=307752
    I also notice that Oil Kings Dman Mark Pysyk is ranked at 12th. I wonder if we acquire another 1st rounder if he might be on the Oilers radar ???

  9. Racki says:

    If they get another 2nd, and he’s available, I’m hoping for Niederreiter, myself. No favoritism… just draft a guy that impresses the most. Now that could be Pysyk… but only if he truly is the best pick at that spot. And I didn’t see much of Fowler in WJHCs this year, but what I did I actually wasn’t blown away. I was blown away by Pietrangelo though.. too bad he’s already drafted.

  10. MetalOil says:

    Me too but if Niederreiter is gone I would not be opposed to it. He looked pretty solid in the 2 Oil Kings game that I have been to this season.

  11. Racki says:

    Bob McKenzie has Niederreiter at 8. Man did his stock ever climb since the WJHCs. He was ranked at 21 in December before the tourney. His reasoning was kind of silly to me though. Something like “he’s getting a lot of attention because of his goal in the CHL Prospects Skills comp”. Man oh man, has Schremp not taught us anything? :P

    Niederreiter should go high in my mind though just because he plays hard, has good hands, is physical and has very good size. I’ve got a Pierre McGuire sized man crush on him. But I think he’ll be a pretty good player.

  12. Adam Dyck says:

    Maybe I’m totally out of the loop, but why was Sequin not brought to the WJC’s?

  13. MetalOil says:

    every single day I inch a little closer to thinking that we should draft Seguin instead of Hall. We need a center more then another winger and if Hall and Seguin are as close in terms of talent level as the scouts say then would it not make more sense for us to draft Seguin as we have a greater need at the center position? I really wish he had played in the WJHC so that I could have seen more of him.

  14. mrgod2u says:

    I tend to agree with MetalOil on that. Everyone is saying that any of the top 3 players are only different in terms of need that is looking to be addressed. We are last in the NHL in faceoff % and last in the standings, Calgary is 2nd last and they are in a freefall. Both PK and PP are so tied to any amount of success on the dot, and we have not been weaker there in recent memory. My concern is that by the time the season is over we will be in need of a skilled center, a goal scorer, and a skilled defenseman.
    I so just want Horcoff to live up to his potential, even him playing like the second-line forward level he used to play at would be preferable to the Yashin-ish outings we’ve seen lately. Once we are through the trade deadline and have an idea of who will be ack in the silks next season it will be time to treat the end of this season like an extended training camp. Rotate up propects, and drill with the intention of developing skillsets to fit our needs, get some guys in to coach on faceoff specifically. treat our games like preseason or scrimages, hell whatever it takes to get us through this crappy time until we play the way that the Hawks do right now.

  15. GreenHick says:

    Racki, I agree that El Nino seems to be the real deal. He has an NHL game, goes to the net, and seems to be a big-game, big-moment guy. Could definitely see him top-five.

    If Oilers happen to get #1 pick, I’d be tempted to trade it for the number 2, if they can get Seguin for giving up #1, along with a first pick in the second round.

  16. GreenHick says:

    The other guy who was impressive, and I’m surprised TSN has him at #15, is Etem. Now he’s fast, and apparently goes at 194 lbs., which would make him very hard to defend. He looks closer to the #5-10 area, than to #15.

  17. Racki says:

    Yah I kind of have to wonder what kind of value they really could get for swapping #1 and #2 picks. I’d guess they’d be lucky to get a 2nd rounder in addition to the #2 pick. Wouldn’t think they’d get an additional 1st though, since the top 3 picks seem to be close in potential. And sounds like it’s starting to get a little deeper beyond that if some other players are pushing Fowler for #3 spot (unless that is because Fowler’s stock is dropping moreso than the others’ stock is rising). There’s a couple others in the top 10 that would be nice to have too.

    So hopefully in one of these trades the Oilers make, they manage to swindle away a draft pick. Maybe they can swing a deal with the Coyotes for the Flames #1 pick ;)

  18. edmontonfanman says:

    great post.
    i agree with the concensus of taking hall and i think that maybe people are looking into what we need right now more than what we should have in the future.
    we are rebuiding, why would we pick seguin if we think hall is better just cause we need a centre now.
    hall said he can play centre and eberle is also a centre and right winger.
    it wouldn’t make sense to go for someone who isnt the best player just because they fit your team now when your looking to build around this pick.

    in my dream world we trade hemsky and souray for bostons first round pick and if they want more throw in cogliano (who i love but we have a bigger speedy man in MPS who can score) or even a first round draft pick for next year because its doubtful we will have a chance to get these quality of players next year.

  19. Racki says:

    I agree with that. It’s tough to say who will be the better player in a few years though… if it’s Seguin, then obviously drafting him would be the right choice. If it’s Hall, well, then it should be him. I don’t care much about the position either. People forget we’ve got Gagner, Brule, Potulny and Cogliano down the middle (in addition to Horcoff, Pouliot, and perhaps Eberle who has played center). Really, it would be nice to have a center to build around, but I think Gagner fits that mold well enough. A line of Hall, Gagner and Eberle might be a bit small, but they’d be a pretty dangerous group on the PP a few years from now, I would think.

    I’ll take whomever is better though. I’m not convinced it’s Hall nor am I convinced it’s Seguin. Most scouts say there is very little separation between the two, and CSS only gave Seguin the #1 slot because they were equal, but a centreman is generally the better player to build around.

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