I’ve always been fascinated by scouts. Their job is simple: identify talent and don’t make mistakes. Easier said than done. The job involves long hours, miles and miles of bad road, horrible coffee and exotic places from Minsk to Minot. How DO they pick the great players out in a crowd? How are Stu MacGregor and his merry band doing?

Stu MacGregor’s first draft as chief scout was 2008. If we can agree that five seasons ‘after’ is the first real opportunity to evaluate any individual draft season, then we’re one season away from making the call on 2008. At this point, we can check the arrows and see how things are trending.

According to a draft study (using the years 1979-95) the odds of drafting an impact player are very low:

  1. 2% turned out to be a elite players (the Kurri family)
  2. 4% turned into impact players (the Smyth family)
  3. 15% turned out to be average NHLers (the Stoll family)
  4. 24% played less than 200 games (the Pouliot family)
  5. 55% never played a game in the NHL (everyone else)

So, for every 10 picks an NHL team has a right to expect 1.5 "average" NHL players and .6 "impact or elite" players. That’s the line in the sand.

TOP 100

It’s also true that once the first three rounds (or 100 selections) passes, the chances of getting a player from categories 1,2 or 3 above is extremely remote. It can happen, but this would require an enormous amount of luck–so much so that one could argue that teams who end up with such a player owe more to lady luck than a scouting skill.

So, it’s the top 100 selections we focus on.

2008 NHL Entry Draft

  • Round One: #22 Jordan Eberle: Since being drafted he delivered in the WHL and on the international stage, before emerging as a quality NHL talent in his second season. The Oilers were patient with his development and it paid dividends. A good way to guesstimate his value compared to others in his draft year is to count the number of players who have superior numbers to Eberle who were taken afterward. Four seasons after the draft, all we hear are crickets. In fact, if there was a re-draft for 2008, Eberle would probably be safely inside the top 5 overall.
  • Round Two: No Selection. The Oilers’ brass said at the time the price was so ridiculous they decided to sit and wait. As it turned out a lot of terrific talent went off the board in round two, including Slava Voynov, Justin Schultz, Derek Stepan and Travis Hamonic. 
  • Round Three: No Selection. Once again the Oilers didn’t have a pick in this round, owing to the Dustin Penner offer sheet compensation. Round three selections who have emerged include Adam Henrique and Zack Smith.
  • Round Four: #103 D Johan Motin. Stay at home type with size and a mean streak, Motin was a fairly safe pick in that he’d already played pro hockey (SEL) before he was drafted. He came over to North America at age 20 and did manage to get into an NHL game, but as the seasons rolled along it was obvious that Motin was getting passed by other graduating prospects. He spent time in the ECHL and actually did not complete his entry level contract, bolting to the SEL after 10 games in OKC this past season.
  • Round Five: #133 LW Phillippe Cornet. His scouting report read like a pure tweener. Skilled but lacking top end foot speed, players with his resume taken in the fifth round do not have a terrific history of success. Cornet had a terrific AHL season in 11-12 (24 goals), and in fact he was called to the NHL where he scored an assist in 2 games. He is one of 11 selections from the 5th round in 2008 to play in an NHL game.
  • Round Six: #163 C Teemu Hartikainen. Finns seem to be genetically predisposed to playing well in the North American style and based on his resume he seemed like a worthy candidate. I suggested he was the "third most valuable player taken by the Oilers this weekend" the day he was selected, as it turned out he was #2. Hartikainen has a legit chance to win a job as an NHL regular in the next couple of seasons.
  • Round Seven: #193 D Jordan Bendfeld. Tough as nails enforcer was a draft re-entry (former Coyote selection). He played most of his pro hockey in the ECHL and may not be in organized hockey at this time (he is not listed as having played by either elite prospects or hockeydb in 11-12).

The two key items in the 2008 draft were MBS grabbing Jordan Eberle at 22, and then not having another pick in the first three rounds due to the Penner offer sheet. Sometimes we talk about an NHL team getting two players from a successful draft, but having only 1 selection in the first three rounds had an impact. You can’t punish the scouting staff for not having a pick in rounds two and three.


We still have one more year to evaluate the 2008 entry draft (actually we have 20, but you get the point) so lets go back to our original guideline and see how it breaks down:

  • 2% turned out to be a elite players (the Kurri family)
  • 4% turned into impact players (the Smyth family) 
  • 15% turned out to be average NHLers (the Stoll family) JORDAN EBERLE (up arrow)
  • 24% played less than 200 games (the Pouliot family) TEEMU HARTIKAINEN (up arrow), JOHAN MOTIN, PHIL CORNET
  • 55% never played a game in the NHL (everyone else) JORDAN BENDFELD

For every 10 picks an NHL team has a right to expect 1.5 "average" NHL players and .6 "impact or elite" players based on the study quoted above. That’s the line in the sand. Edmonton selected 5 players, meaning .75 "average" NHL players and .3 "impact or elite" players would be the expectation.

Jordan Eberle could end up being an impact player, which would make the 2008 draft a home run no matter what else happens. I think there’s a chance–a chance–that the Finn Hartikainen may also end up having a career. Jury’s still out; however, based on the selections made by Stu MacGregor and his staff-and where those selections took place–the 2008 draft has a very good chance of being a success.

  • Lowetide

    Craig: And that’s a legit point. I’d suggest we don’t know that yet (after two seasons) but the year he just posted was certainly better than average.

  • The Soup Fascist

    If we are calling Eberle average, Stu must be getting graded on the curve. I note the “up arrow” but is it not safe to bump him to the “Smyth” group?

    Edit; Sorry. Started typing before your response to Craig. Asked and answered, Your Honor.

  • Lowetide

    78 GP – 76 pts. How many more points would Eberle have needed to make you “Impact” list LT?

    Is Kopitar an impact player? St Louis? Eriksson? E Staal? Sharp? Zetterberg? Parise? Iginla? Datsyuk?

    I’ll stop now – but all had fewer points in 11-12. Just sayin’.

      • Craig1981

        As is our tendency, we are extremely excited about our players and tend to use their ‘upper markers’ as ‘norms’. Lowetide has done an excellent job of highlighting this concept with his Reasonable Expectations series. I believe Eberle is legitimate and will make the impact player grade but wholeheartedly agree that it is much too early to say. Don’t forget Horcoff was a point per game player and an all star not too long ago. And St Fernando went supernova one spring. Neither could sustain the magic. Cheechoo, Gomez, Mason…the list is vast of can’t miss kids – who missed.

  • Lowetide

    Soup: I think it’s a little early, since Eberle has had one season of above average production. That’s why the 5 year window works imo; if Eberle scores 34 again then we’ll have a pretty good idea that he does belong in category #2.

  • Dipstick

    I like to measure a draft pick by how many lesser players were pick before, subtracted by how many better players were picked afterwards. Picks like Pavel D. end up off the charts. Unfortunately, first overall picks can only hope to break even. Seems fair to me.

  • What counts as “average” production? My guess would be in the 25-45 point range. 45 points being pretty dang high for average.

    What would make somebody Impact (but not Elite) 46-69 points?

    And Naturally, Elite = 70+ points

    Is that fair? What do we consider elite production in 2012? Only 20 people out of the 700+ players scored more than 70 points. That has to mean that “Impact but not Elite” players must not be putting up all that many points. Only 100 players scored more than 50 points in 11-12.

    If you scored 45 points then you would have been in the top 125 in NHL scoring. Out of the 894 players that had the privelege of wearing an NHL sweater, you were in the top 14%

    I know you want to temper expectations, a common theme in the RE series on your site, but realisticly I think it’s safe to place Eberle in the Impact category already. If this were 1987 then we could hold off on that, but the league doesnt score as much as it used to and Eberle’s low end (Rookie season) is already bordering Impact status.

  • @Archeologuy

    I think for a scoring forward which is exactly what Eberle is the criteria you have outlined is quite fair.

    You also need to remember there are many other criteria that would be used to judge a players impact.

    The team he is on

    The system that team plays

    His position

    His role on that team

    There is little doubt that J Staal is an impact player, but there is definitely a possibility that he is an elite player and we will find that out this year. He was on a team with 2 of the best players in the world who both play the same position as him. this results in them playing him the tough minutes, PK minutes, 3rd line minutes, and a lack of power play time.

    He did an amazing job with what he got. Now put Nuge on a 3rd line against the toughs with PK time and very limited PP time. I don’t think he would do as well, and his first year indicates he will be an elite talent.

  • D

    Any chance for Eberle to become an elite player LT?

    Also, that black and white photograph of the ice rink in the mountains, I want to move there and play hockey all day.

  • D

    Pretty sure your math is wrong. 2% time ten is the same as .02 times ten. Therefore only .2 elite players per 10 picks. Also I think eberle fits the impact player at this point and that were looking at if he’ll turn elite, but thats a moot point.

  • D

    To echo a couple of comments in here, if Smyth is considered to be the patriarch of the impact player family, then Eberle, who eclipsed Smyth’s best season points-wise in just his second year in the NHL should be in there. Offensively, he’s clearly already better than Smyth has ever been, even if he’s not where Smyth has gotten to on the defensive side of the game.

  • D

    Lets see. Wayne Gretzky. First years 137 points, second year NHL record 164 points, third year NHL record 92 goals, record 120 assists, record 212 points.

    Hasn’t played 5 years yet, so an average player trending up.

    If by definition the highest you can achieve after 2 or 3 years is average player why bother even doing this? Last year Eberle was obviously an impact player. Will he continue to be? Probably but maybe not. The categories themselves are fairly arbitrary. How do you define an impact player? Is that an above average player? An All-Star game invitee? Top ten at his position? Sorry, but his is way, way too vague to tell us anything meaningful.

    If you are seriously evaluating SM and his team’s drafting you need to compare what say the average result is for a 22nd, or say a bottom third of first round pick and look at how Ebs is doing so far based on that. Since all the players he has drafted are still young we can only judge on how they seem to be progressing so far. On that basis SM and his team seem to be doing a terrific job, but only time will tell. How much more can we say?

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    It’s funny how defensive people get, Eberle could easily be a 60 point guy next year and be viewed of as an “average 1st liner” rather then a budding superstar.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      True, but then he would still be much better than average but presumably short of being an impact player, whatever that means. And if he finishes with 90 points than he will arguably be an elite player, whatever that means. Except he still has to be classified as average trending up, whatever that means.
      All we can say at this point is that obviously Eberle was a steal at 22nd, but only time will tell how much of a steal. So far, very good. Now on to a more meaningful topic.

      • billylikestodrinksoda

        If its too early to tell as you say than why are you even arguing your point?

        Don’t wag your finger and say “you can’t even tell yet so why write about it”, than start rationalizing ways and providing idea’s on how to compare Eberle.

        Its August 1st. What are you expecting to be written? Another article on how we need another top 4 dman?

        It’s a thought provoking article. If you don’t enjoy it, go outside and take a lap instead

        • billylikestodrinksoda

          Because Billy by the way LT has defined his terms no player who has played less than 5 years can be rated higher than average trending upward, which is just plain silly.

          It is fair to suggest it is too early to say whether Eberle will be a long-term impact player, while acknowledging he was certainly one last year by any definition, but that is not what LT suggests.

          The supposed point of LT’s post is to evaluate the work of SM and his fellow amateur scouts but he defines the terms in such a way as to make such an assessment impossible.

          Sorry but some of us have a higher standard about what qualifies as thought provoking, a standard which LT usually meets in July, August and other months.

  • I would suggest an average first liner getting 60 points a season would be seen as an impact player and if he is able to maintain 70+ the argument could be made that he is an elite player….especially if he continues his history of scoring clutch goals.

    Imagine Eberle in game 7 of the SCF. It would be hard to bet against him.

  • Jordan Eberle is an NHL all star.

    Put it another way: if he were signing a five year deal today, would you give him “average player” money (1.5-3 million) or would you give him impact player money (3 million+). We all know the answer to this. You can parse stats all day long, but money talks.

  • billylikestodrinksoda

    Minor bone to pick. You know I love ya but your repeated comments about Finns being genetically predisposed to play well in NA bug me.
    I don’t see how you are not stereotyping just like Cherry here. Because you are being flattering? Seems like you are having your cake and eating it too on this European bias stuff.
    That being said, I grew up with Cherry and European biases and will likely always bring up the “russian factor etc.” with my buddies.
    I know these stereotypes aren’t accurate but I find them fun! I’m a dinosaur I guess. I’m just saying you shouldn’t knock on my man Don then turn around and lump all Finns together. But by all means, lump all Finns together! it’s fun. lol

  • I love the mystery and mystique behind this job and often wonder how my picks based off of the NewAge Hockey Systems needs would compare to the ones picked based off of the “hybrids”needs??Actually I think I could pick a team of guys who never played regularly and beat todays line-up,or our farmteam line-up,I believe my NewAge Hockey System with just one week would consistantly beat our current NHL teams roster simply by useing my system.

    My point is that i believe that a System adjudicates what a scout must use in every facet of his job,so each scout must be team system specific and have an intimate understanding of the system on par with the head-coaches.Or he cannot do his job at max performance.Therefore i think I could do an above average job as a professional scout if I were shopping for the system I created,but without that type if intimate system knowledge i would suck.Notice I didnt mention hockey experience??Because it is less important by far than system understanding and current player familiarity in terms of age and future potential system contribution levels.

    So a man with great in depth hockey experience can make an average scout produceing average results,or maybe these numbers are the same on every team so they are more complicated than we imagine.

    I think a man with average hockey experience and above average system specific knowledge will produce above average scouting results.This is because intangibles cannot be identified and assesed if specific system needs–realtime system needs–arent being considered 100% of the way.IMHO beyond basic physical skills and mental abilitys it is ALL ABOUT THE INTANGIBLES.Hence given the chance to teach my system for a week i would school the Oilers current coaches and players,because I created the NewAge Hockey System and it is better than the hybrid we play now in Edmonton,hands down.And I dont believe in current scouting and assesment practices and schools of thought—so i could pick my squad straight off the farm.One day of meetings and on ice assesments and I would be right into system specifics.In other words I believe i can condense all the years of working it took the current scouts into a one day assesment,that my system knowledge allows me to immediatly identify the intangibles in players games and then allows me to put them where my system needs them.In fact they can pick my guys just let me set the lines,I loved this dynamic when i competed,a challenge of absolute dynamic management skills.

    Wayne gretzkys are MADE not born great,Messiers are MADE not born great,same with Halls and Gagners and Eberles and Hopkins ect, ect,scouts and prior coaches didnt identify this greatness because it simply didnt exist yet ,it hadnt been forged or made yet.Systems which allow these names windows of opportunity at greatness and the men who ran those Systems are what made these names great in terms of external influence.

    So if the external influences must come from or be catalysed by the System and its needs then we are once again back with our old friends the “intangibles”this is really the INTERNAL influences that helped to make these names great.Each of these names has a history attatched to it that clearly shows a chronological history of these intangibles as they evolve nearly from birth if you know what your system is looking for.In fact this is ALL i consider beyond basic physical and mental abilitys.The System has more responsibility than the players,their jobs are simple,perform and compete at maximum level,the rest is up to the system,and a dominant system needs no more than average physical and mental skills backed by above average execution.So IMHO each head coach or SYSTEM DECIDER must have his own scouts,they cannot possibly outlive a coach and his system and still be executeing their jobs adequately and with proper results.Its simply not possible.

    Go to the playground tomorrow and look for the really big kid who plays really good with the other kids until he is put under peer pressure then he has an uncontrollable fit,now imagine that his physical edge keeps pace as he grows and he becomes an athlete,if he hasnt learned to control himself internally he will never evolve into a rounded professional,not without help.Or he will show flashes of brilliance then drop off the screen totally,get real–this is very rare naturally,mismanagement causes the vast majority of these dynamics.

    A System must dictate a group mentality and that mentality must be able to encompass and assimilate ALL communication styles and emotional dynamics players bring to the table,bar none.This is a stabiliseing influence and if it isnt a core value you will find yourself treating players like chess pieces instead of human beings.You cant find a kid with good momma skills to calm down the big kid when he is on the ice in a pro game–like you will see happen on the playground every time,its to much exrta distraction from system needs.This internal mediation must come to EVERY player from the system itself and THIS is how a system maximises a players “intangibles”and this is why a coaches scouts must leave town with him UNLESS the next coach plays a very similar system.The ability to identify and draft these intangibles stems from system needs and hence knowledge.It is NOT a general league wide type of consideration at all,it is very specific system scouting that is most effective.

    The reason I feel this way is because I believe that 80% or more NHL teams play a system called the “hybrid”by the NewAge Hockey System .The hybrid is a cross between 80s firewagon hockey and its evolved blacksheep child the “trap”.This high percentage of pro NHL teams playing nearly identical systems allows pro scouts to remain with their teams thru many coaches.And still be effective enough to earn a paycheque fairly.But this doesnt catalyse excellence of execution by scouts,it encourages a middleground to exist in terms of performance.

    The “hybrid”breeds and encourages mediocrity by its very design,by its form and function.Mediocrity is a core value of the “hybrid”.When playing the NewAge Hockey System the “hybrid” of today plays the role the trap played against the 80s firewagon hockey,except there is one big difference,the scouting of players to man a newAge Hockey System based team can be done utiliseing castoffs from the “hybrid”scouting process.A superior System can be manned 100% with players rejected by any hybrid out there.Its all a matter of asset management beyond basic physical skills and mental abilitys.

    I can hardly imagine all of the vast array of specialised skills pro scouts posess and i cant help but wonder how much more they could accomplish if they were all utilised most effectively in terms of single system attatchment to a head coach from team to team—they should be a package deal because they need identical system familiarity hence a bigger bargaining power,after all its a business.

    Without a drasticly alternative yet proven system that you are the creator of ,its hard for me to imagine just how a scout could manage the excellent results some get with consistancy,they need such a deep base to operate from,and deep support,I wouldnt have a clue where to start scouting for a hybrid system{well maybe a little}but I know for a 100% fact i could get all my NewAge Hockey System needs fulfilled from castaways.And we would dominate.There is no other way to judge a systems effectiveness,you create an artificial underdog by picking all players passed over and win against a supposed better team,you need to demystify talent assesment and scouting,you need to expose the weakness of the hybrid system by playing a more effective one yourself,they just dont seem to grow on trees do they?

    Because I have no clue I need to ask,do scouts usually stick with head coaches or are they considered to be so able that they continue scouting for a team after a coach and his system have changed??