HISTORY FAVOURS FORWARDS

Last year the hot topic was Taylor or Tyler, and in the end it didn’t become much of a debate amongst the Oiler brass, and after one NHL season it seems clear the Oilers made the right selection calling Hall instead of Seguin. Seguin will still likely turn out to be a very good player, I just don’t see him being as dynamic as Hall. This year the debate isn’t as much about individual players, but more about their position. Do you take a centre/forward like, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Sean Couturier or Jonathon Huberdeau or do you opt for a defenceman like Adam Larsson.

From where I sit, it seems clear they should take a forward.

If Larsson was a clear cut favourite, and he isn’t, then you could make the argument that selecting him is the right decision, but history shows the Oilers would be much better off selecting a forward, and likely a centre, because of the current void of an elite one in the organization.

I’ve been pumping the likes of Nugent-Hopkins or Landeskog for months over Larsson based solely on their position. History shows that elite D-men get traded more often than elite centres, and even wingers, although we’ve seen more great wingers moved in the past twenty years than centres, so why not draft a forward and then trade for a D-men when his team inevitably gets impatient with his progress.

To help illustrate the point, here is part of an email I received from Tom when I brought up the subject earlier this week.
 

YEAR             PICK             NAME              When traded/signed      New Team

1991
3
Scott Niedermeyer
13th season
 Anaheim
 
4
Scott Lachance
7th season
Montreal
 
5
Aaron Ward
2nd season
Detroit
1992
1
Roman Hamrlik
6th season
Edmonton
 
3
Mike Rathje
10th season
 Philly
 
5
Darius Kasparaitis
4th season
Pittsburgh
1993
2
Chris Pronger
2nd season
St Louis
1994
1
Ed Jovanovski
5th season
Vancouver
 
2
Oleg Tverdovsky
3rd season
Winnipeg
1995
1
Bryan Berard
1st season
NYI
 
2
Wade Redden
1st season
Ottawa
 
3
Aki Berg
6th season
Toronto
1996
1
Chris Phillips
 N/A
 
 
2
Andrei Zyuzin
3rd season
Tampa
 
5
Ric Jackman
2nd season
Boston
1997
5
Eric Brewer
3rd season
Edmonton
1998
3
Brad Stuart
7th season
Boston
 
4
Bryan Allen
6th season
Florida
 
5
Vitali Vishnevski
6th season
Atlanta
2000
4
Rotislav Klesla
10th season
 Phoenix
2002
3
Jay Bouwmeester
7th season
Calgary
 
4
Joni Pitkannen
3rd season
Edmonton
 
5
Ryan Whitney
5th season
Anaheim
2004
3
Cam Barker
5th season
Minnesota
2005
3
Jack Johnson
1st season
Los Angeles
2006
1
Eric Johnson
4th season
Colorado
2007
4
Thomas Hickey
 yet to play
 
 
5
Karl Alzner
 2nd season
 
2008
2
Drew Doughty
 3rd season
 
 
3
Zach Bogosian
 3rd season
 
 
4
Alex Pietrangelo
 1st season
 
 
5
Luke Schenn
 3rd season
 
2009
2
Victor Hedman
 2nd season
 
2010
3
Eric Gudbransen
 yet to play
 

In the last 20 years, the only true elite D-man chosen in the top five who spent  significant time with the team that drafted him was Scott Niedermayer. Mike Rathje, Chris Phillips and Rotislav Klesla have spent at least ten years with the team that drafted them, but none of them are elite.   

In fairness, in the past four years we’ve seen the likes of Doughty, Bogosian, Pietrangelo, Schenn and Alzner emerge as solid to spectacular d-men, but Bogosian’s name has already surfaced in trade rumours and only Doughty has had a true elite level season thus far.

If you look at the top 30-scoring D-men this from this season, only Pietrangelo (20th), Johnson (23rd) and Doughty (24th) were top-five draft picks.

Here are leading defenders from 2010-2011: 

Visnovsky… 4th rounder, 118th overall
Lidstrom….. 3rd rounder, 53rd overall
Yandle……..  4th rounder, 105th overall
Byfuglien….  8th rounder, 245th overall
Wisniewski  5th rounder, 156th overall
Enstrom….   8th rounder, 239th overall
Ehrhoff……    4th rounder, 106th overall
Boyle………    Not drafted
Letang……    3rd rounder, 62nd overall
S. Weber…   2nd rounder, 49th overall
Seabrook…  1st rounder, 14th overall
Rafalski…..    Not drafted
Kaberle…..    8th rounder, 204th overall
Burns……..    1st rounder, 20th overall
Goligoski..    2nd rounder, 61st overall
Liles……….    5th rounder, 159th overall
Karlsson…   1st rounder, 15th overall
Keith……….    2nd rounder, 54th overall
Chara……..    3rd rounder, 56th overall
Pietrangelo 1st rounder, 4th overall
Shattenkirk. 1st rounder, 14th overall
Giordano….. Not drafted
Johnson….. 1st rounder, 3rd overall
Doughty…… 1st rounder, 2nd overall
Corvo………. 4th rounder, 83rd overall
Fowler……..  1st rounder, 12th overall
Wideman…  8th rounder, 241st overall
Carle……….  2nd rounder, 47th overall
Suter……….  1st rounder, 7th overall
Subban…..  2nd rounder, 43rd overall

Only nine were 1st round picks, and only four of them were top-ten picks. It seems clear that you don’t need to draft a D-man in the top-five to improve your chances of getting an elite level defender.

Compare that to the top 30-scoring forwards this season.

Fourteen of them were top-five picks. The Sedins, Stamkos, Ovechkin, Staal, Toews, Marleau, Vanek, Kane, Ryan, Thornton, Tavares, Duchene and Nash.

One was a top-ten pick; Selanne 10th overall.

Nine of them were first rounders beyond the top-ten. Kopitar (11th), Carter (11th),Tanguay (12th), Iginla (12th), Getzlaf (19th), Giroux (22nd), Kesler (23rd), Briere (24th) and Perry (29th).

Two were 2nd rounders, Eriksson (33rd) and Ribeiro (45th), two were 3rd rounders, B. Richards (64th) and Sharp (95th), while Zetterberg was a 7th rounder and St. Louis was never drafted.

STAY AWAY FROM D-MAN WITH FIRST PICK

Larsson might turn out to be the best player in this draft, but the likelihood of him doing it while being an Oiler is minimal. If the Oilers want to continue rebuilding properly they will take a forward, preferably a centre named Nugent-Hopkins, and then try to move up in the draft by dangling a healthy body and the King’s pick. If they want to take a D-man, take him with that pick, just don’t use the first overall pick on a defenceman. 

Almost half, 46.7%, of the top scorers in the NHL were taken in the first five picks, while only 10% of the top-scoring D-men came from being a top-five pick.

The Oilers clearly have a void at centre and on the blueline, and they can’t fill both with one pick, so make the smart pick and take a centre.

FOLLOW THE BABY OILERS

Starting tomorrow at 2 p.m. MDT, you can follow the OKC Barons on the TEAM 1260 Edmonton Sports Radio. The TEAM will broadcast the remaining games of their first round series v. Hamilton. Game three to five go Tues, Wed and Friday at 6:05 p.m. on the TEAM 1260.

 

  • This article echoes my thoughts on the subject completely. We have two other picks in the top 31, no reason why the Oil still couldn’t draft some decent defensive prospects this June.

    I’m also with Bucknuck, no offer sheets for Weber. The Oilers have been too bad for too long to have confidence that their 1st rounders won’t be lotto picks, even with the addition of Weber to the club. I’d even take it further and say that all my 1st rounders for the next 2 years (after this year) are completely off limits.

    I’m committed to rebuilding through the draft, and that means not wasting lotto choices on defensemen who aren’t heads and tails better than the forwards and not moving early picks for immediate returns.

  • Harry

    Wasn’t this the same sort of reasoning last year for taking Seguin? The idea that all else being equal, take the centre. But there are always exceptions to the rule, and it’s short-sighted to completely wright off an entire position while assuming the players are equal.

    To me, Larsson just looks like a better player than RNH (in the admittedly limited amount I’ve seen him) and I’d rather they take the best guy, regardless of position.

  • Bucknuck

    The idea of doing and RFA sheet on Weber isn’t going to fly. The money he needs would require five first round draft picks. That would be terrible. Better to make a trade with Nashville for his rights and go from there. Gagner OR Hemsky and next years first rounder would probably entice. Especially when you see our track record, Nashville might gamble in that they are going to get a lottery pick next year.

  • Sorensenator

    @ Gregor

    After the draft do you think we have a better chance getting a top 4 d-man or a top 6 forward before the season starts (either through free agency or by trade)?

    I ask this because I think that will determine who we draft.

    If the planets were to align we would draft RNH then go after Shea Weber with an RFA sheet and sign him for no more than a 7.5 million cap hit over 8 years.

    • Jason Gregor

      I don’t see the Oilers making a big splash in free agent market. They don’t want to try to speed track the rebuild. They will sign a mid-tier UFA is what I suspect. A veteran forward, or possibly trade for one.

  • Pronger's Wife

    I absolutely agree with Gregor. Consider also the pressure of being a #1 pick defenceman in Edmonton. After two years, he will still be trying to find his stride in the NHL, and RNH et all will be scoring 30 goals a season and everybody will be saying that the Oilers made a mistake with their pick.

    The Oilers end up shipping off their young “underachieving” D-man due to widespread fan discontent (see Tom Poti), only to watch him bloom somewhere’s else.

    Just pick the forward to begin with and hope that Larsen does a “Cam Fowler”, and the Oil can pick him up a little later with a move up using the LA pick. It’s a possible scenario.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Wonder how Victor Hedman is doing these days..

    By the way, I think Petry has a very good chance of being a real big contributor to the Oilers D..that comparison that Lowetide made in one of his articles where he compared Petry to Gilbert I think is a bit off..Gilbert is alright, but I think Petry has the potential to be a more complete package, and seems to play a bit more physical than Gilbert does..
    After this years draft (in which Oilers will probably focus ALOT of D after the first round) I see the Oilers having a future D similar to what Pittsburgh has..no Franchise defenceman..just one or two Very Good Defenceman who will probably never win a Norris..and 3-4 very solid NHL Defenceman that can play in any situation..the rest of the spots being given to Plante..Teubert..or one or two grizzled, tough veteran stay at home defenceman..

    How about something like..

    Whitney-Petry
    D.Siemens or D. Hamilton or D. Musil and Peckham
    C.Teubert or A. Plante and K.Lowe
    7th D..Possibly that Montgomery kid..or Veteran Dman similar to Jim Vandemeer

    • Release the Hounds

      Hedman must be playing poorly because you haven’t heard of him recently, right?

      By my eye, he’s becoming a wonderful all-round defender, the kind that we sorely need on the Oilers. All at the age of 20.

  • Sorensenator

    Right on Gregor, I imagine this blog was sparked by the email you recieved earlier today on the radio.

    The stats don’t lie, those are some very revealing numbers.

  • Bucknuck

    I’m no mathematician, but these stats seem flawed. If 90% of the players taken in the first round were forwards then it stands to reason that fewer top-flight d-men were drafted in the first round.

    That said, I can buy the argument that d-men are more easily aquired through free-agency and trade. Look how many we’ve seen come and go in edmonton in the last five years…well, two anyways.

    • Jason Gregor

      Who said 90% of drafted players are forwards? Of course there will be more forwards drafted since each team ices twice as many forwards to D-men.

      But in last five years…There were, 8, 12, 12, 11 and 9 D-men taken in first round.

      Toss in goalies in each year and it has been..

      26% in 2010, 40% in 2009 and 2008, 37% in 2007 and 30% in 2006.

      Out of 150 first round picks 52 have been D-men, 7 goalies and 91 forwards. So those numbers almost bang on to what makes up an NHL team.

      12 forwards is 60%, six D is 30% and 10% goalies.

      In last five years 60.6% forwards taken in first round, 34.5% D-men and 4.9% goalies. I’d say numbers aren’t flawed.

      • Bucknuck

        I’m not really suggesting the numbers are flawed, just that without comparing the drafted number to the elite number, you can’t really apply it to the RNH vs Larson scenario.

        If 2 % of first round d-men are elite and 5 % of forwards, then fine.

        Like I said, I actually agree, especially that trade and free-agency seem to be more effective for d-men–in these parts at least.

  • stevezie

    Good article, and I agree that while you can be a very good defenceman without scoring a lot, elite D-men get at least 40 points.

    I would be interested in seeing the number of to ten D who bust compared to forwards. A top 5 drafted forward is more likely to have a good ceiling, but who is more likely to have an awful basement?

  • Bucknuck

    nice Article Mr. Gregor. I think you are 100% on the money with this. I think the void on the back end can be filled with trades or free agents. Centres are really hard to get that way, so lets be smart.

    Go Stu Go. I hope he thinks the same way you do, Jason.

    I personally hope Couturier falls enough that the Oil can trade up and get him. RNH or Landeskog with Number 1, and Couturier with number 8 pick or something like that. What a scoop that would be.

    Draft day this year is going to be so interesting.

  • 24% body fat

    Landeskog – No, good addition at 4th or 5th overall, but lower numbers scare me and the ability to jump next to nhl next year does not make you the right pick. No team bases there chances on a rookie (even crosby or ovechkin) so who cares if he can play next year for you, unless your a good team who some how gets to draft early.

    RNH – I get it he has vision and skill and everyone gets on him about his size. The oilers should go in a different direction because the oilers lack size, but not because this player inst going to be good based on his size

    Larsson – See above reasons to avoid him at number 1. Though the oilers could really use him

    Huberdraeu – He got better as the year went along also, however his stats are highly inflated by the team he plays on

    Couterier – Size, skill and a defensive game. Why did he fall off. Because the others got better. Statistically they got better but still are not as good as him. Too bad this is the guy the oilers need.

    Strome – A center with sick hands and same as RNH size. I suspect this is the skinner of this group, will unexpectically make the jump to the big team (NJ) and have a great rookie year.

    Just my thoughts, but who am I. My ast name isnt Tambellini.

  • Interesting thoughts. I personally am just on board with what is the Oil drafting mantra: pick the best player available. If it’s RNH, pick him, even if he’s built like a twig. If it’s Larsson, pick him even if D-men aren’t normally drafted first. If it’s Landeskog, pick him, even though we don’t need more wingers. Just grab the guy that the scouts feel has the highest potential in the long run.

    I’ve been on the Larsson bandwagon for almost the whole year, and pretty much now just figure that they should go for whomever has the highest potential. Sounds like that is RNH, actually.

    I am hoping that the Oilers take LA’s pick and move up, and increase their chances of having a very nice day at the podium.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Why are married women heavier than single women?

    Single women come home, see what’s in the fridge, and go to bed. Married women come home, see what’s in bed, and go to the fridge.

    Great article Jason, have to think Larsson falls to the Devils and they tell him to stay in the SEL for another year.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Let me be the FIST to say that this article NAILED IT. Perfect examples of how DMen can be picked up later, groomed, or traded for vs. a top end forward. Unless Larsson is guaranteed to be an elite DMan, you don’t take him.