Let’s all get excited about the draft!

Photo: VancityAllie/Wikimedia

Every year, it’s the same thing. This defenceman is the next Chris Pronger or Shea Weber, this forward the next Steve Yzerman or Ryan Getzlaf. Guys who realistically project as third liners get written up as top-line players.

It’s important to step back, and remember that whatever is getting written about these players, the end result is likely to be far more prosaic in most cases.

The Hype

Looking back through old copies of The Hockey News draft guide, it’s remarkable how everyone – in some cases even NHL scouts – get swept away in pre-draft hyperbole. Some examples from the 2002 and 2004 Draft Guides follow; the reader should not worry if he has never heard of the players.

Viktor Alexandrov:

“There’s a lot to like about this guy,” said a scout. “He is better than the other Kazak (Nik Antropov) player we all know about.”

Cam Barker:

What sets Barker apart from the other huge defensemen in the draft is his love for and skill in handling the puck. Scouts are reminded of Edmonton’s Eric Brewer or Florida’s Jay Bouwmeester when they watch Barker. Ask Barker, though, and he’ll tell you he patterns his game after New Jersey’s Scott Stevens.

Jeff Deslauriers:

Hockey being steeped in tradition, it’s only right the Quebec League offer up another stellar pick in net for the 2002 draft. This year’s nominee, Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, is a chip off the old block. He plays in the butterfly mode of a Patrick Roy and reminds scouts of the other QMJHL goalies making names for themselves in the NHL.

Bruce Graham:

“There is no real deficiency,” said a scout. “Either you like him or you don’t. He’s one of those guys who either does it for you or he doesn’t.” The scout said people were saying the same things last year about Patrice Bergeron, a second round pick of Boston, who turned out to be a solid NHL rookie at 18.

Joffrey Lupul:

What makes Lupul attractive might have something to do with the comparisons to Mike Bossy, one of the greatest natural scorers in NHL history.

Alexandre Picard:

He finds ways to get the puck and he reminds people of a young Ryan Smyth because of his work ethic.

Marek Schwarz:

“He’s even better and quicker (than Hasek) at this age,” said one scout.

Barry Tallackson:

Said another scout: “I see a power forward in the making. If you are looking at an Erik Cole type of player, this guy fits the mold.”

Martin Vagner:

Vagner makes the easy outlet pass and doesn’t panic when his options are limited. “What you have is Kaberle-type skill and vision with some meanness to his game,” said a scout.

Boris Valabik:

“He is very competitive,” said a scout. “He is a clone of Chara and I know a lot of guys who are kicking themselves when they passed on Chara. There’s a lot of projection, though.

The Other Side

Photo: Brooke Novak/Wikimedia

Of course, not every scout gets swept away. Take, for example, this read on Jay Bouwmeester, the top-ranked prospect by THN in 2002:

“He’s no Paul Coffey, but he might be Bret Hedican at best,” said one scout. “He’ll give you 10, 15 solid NHL seasons, but they will not be spectacular. We want to see him at a higher level.”

The passages above are in part my work cherry-picking, but even a completely balanced consideration reveals far more Schwarz and Vagner-type comments than Bouwmeester-type comments. It’s a dangerous thing to compare a prospect to an existing NHL player, because it’s invariably a best-case scenario. To pick one example, Darnell Nurse has been getting comparisons to Chris Pronger, yet after adjusting for era we find Pronger’s offensive production was 50 percent better than Nurse’s – it’s simply not fair or realistic to compare Nurse to one of the best defencemen in the modern era, particularly given the huge gaps in their draft year (and, for that matter, even bigger gaps the year before) offensive production.

There are plenty of examples of exactly this sort of thing in the draft; it’s always a good idea to tone down expectation.

Recently around the Nation Network

TSN’s Darren Dreger broke the news this morning that Canucks goalie Cory Schneider was being discussed in trade talks – and that the Edmonton Oilers were likely one of the teams interested. Here’s Cam Charron of Canucks Army on the motivation and the asking price:

All of which is to say that trading Cory Schneider, a player who would theoretically net a significantly better return and is only likely to be somewhat better than Roberto Luongo over the short-term, instead of Roberto Luongo is the right move from a hockey perspective. The Cory Schneider asking price is rumoured to be a first rounder and a prospect, and that’s probably a pretty good prospect too. If Bishop can net Conacher, and Bernier can net Frattin; then Schneider should be able to get you an NHLer on an entry-level deal and a first if the market for him heats up. Essentially it’s clear that the combined value of Luongo and a Schneider return, would outpace the combined value of Schneider and a Luongo return.

Click the link to read more, or alternately, feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

  • vetinari

    Sounds like MacT is at least trying to land us a whale (or two) rather than the small fishes that Tambellini would bring home. I’m guessing real trades will surface by this evening so that scouts can made the appropriate adjustments in their strategies for tomorrow.

  • BArmstrong

    Seguin being shopped?

    Hemsky and Krejci had good chemistry playing together during the lockout… does this work for Boston?

    Hemsky for Seguin + Savard – this shifts 5+ million in cap hit to EDM for 4 years. Savard’s cap hit hurts, but can probably be absorbed

    Seguin > Gagner. Gags to Toronto for Gardner+, or give a qualifying offer, have him start on the 1st line while RNH heals, pad his stats, trade.

    PRV+ to Philly for Coburn.

    Pitlick + 2nd for Clutterbuck.

    Horcoff for something? (retain SOME salary, or buyout. Maybe a deal to PHX for Boyd Gordon – Oilers pay the salary, PHX gets the cap hit. Not certain Horc would waive his NMC.

    Sign Emery.

    easy peasy:)

    ~GMing is simple~

  • T__Bone88

    I think there’s also a bit more innocuous reason for this – people writing for a general audience want to use comparisons and analogies that the general public can understand. Saying a guy plays butterfly in the style of Patrick Roy isn’t really saying “this guy is the next Patrick Roy”, and makes more sense to your average reader than saying “This guy plays a similar style to Marc Denis”.

  • T__Bone88

    Wow just read over on the Sun’s website, Tychkowski has Hemsky as one of the worst draft choices made by the Oilers in team history. I just do not understand the disdain for Hemsky.

  • Bucknuck

    I like comparing players to existing ones. Obviously everyone is different, but it can give people a read on what you think of a player. “Nurse is big and nasty but not particularly outstanding on offence” doesn’t have the same impact as “He’s the next Derian Hatcher”. It’s more fun and entertaining, and really that’s the name of the game.

    So get excited and compare away, just don’t get pissed when they aren’t that player you compared them to.

  • Toro

    Thanks for making a blog that didn’t have a bunch of stupid stats and numbers for once, good read … Funny how Cam Barker compared himself to Scott Stevens when he’s softer then Stortini

    • First off, I really laughed when I saw the note about Barker patterning himself after Scott Stevens (wow was that comparison ridiculously off), but Stortini soft?!?? Get real. He might not have been a good hockey player (well, he definitely wasn’t), and his fighting ability is questionaly, but he’s anything but soft. The guy knew he would get beaten around by most heavies, but still stood up and fought.

      What a clueless comment.

      • Toro

        Stood there and fought? Which game were you watching I just seen him instantly grab the opponent and never throw punches , if he was as tough as you and JW think he is then he would still have a job in the NHL regardless on how crappy of a player he was.

  • oliveoilers

    I would be choked if we parted with our first and a prospect for Schneider. Goaltending is an organizational weakness but good goaltenders can be found for less than what Schneider or Bernier retrieve. I hope we can sign Khudobin.

  • oliveoilers

    Rather than getting excited about the draft tomorrow, I’m now getting worried over all the rumours, many of which sound disappointing. Edmonton has been mentioned by the MSM as to the possibility of acquiring Loungo and Schneider. There is very mixed opinions expressed by posters about other players that may be available due to poor play or salary dumps.

    MacT has generated great expectations about attracting the type of players the club is missing, which will be a very difficult job as the organization’s assets outside of the young untouchables are limited.

    To add new players to the roster requires subtraction. What happens if the club can’t get trading partners for Hemsky and Horcoff? I understand July 5 is the deadline for buy-outs.

    Winning those last few games at the end of another disappointing season has dropped the club into 7th spot, probably just far enough down to miss the best players, otherwise why would there be all the talk about trading down?

    • Man. I remember the days when athletes played every game to win and draft position was something only GM’s had to worry about.

      Being a fan of sport, I for one am damn glad the boys pulled a few out of the bag at the end of the season. Losing is for losers. Play your guts out and go for the win every time. That’s what makes a SC contender.

      I’m more choked that the guys ran out of gas reaching for a playoff spot. Hopefully MacT can fill enough gaps that we have a fair shot next year.

  • Jason Gregor

    JW,

    Comparisons are the biggest mistake scouts or writers can make. I find it funny how many of the 3rd and 4th rounders were compared to such good players.

    I’d like to see a study on why most comparisons always involve the best case scenario.

    David Conte said it best to me… “Players are all unique. There will be no next Sidney Crosby, but there will be the next Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones.”

      • Soccer Steve

        Ha!

        I’m impressed by your optimism on the human race but the reason scouts (or, in some cases, “scouts”) do this is because their palms are being greased by the multiple layers of representation that follow these prospects around (i.e. agents, publicists, teams, mom & dad).

  • The Soup Fascist

    Reading about Cam Barker was halarious…………I would fire the scout that said that about him, or at least send him to Calgary.

    Nichuckin will be the steal of the draft……..I said it fist!

  • T__Bone88

    I remember Reasoner being touted as the next Joe Sakic and didn’t Dan Cleary have some scouts call him the next great one since Gretzky. It is interesting looking back at previous drafts where the player had so much praise and the player ends up being a player that doesn’t make the NHL.