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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Picks… Unpredictable

One of the most difficult jobs in the NHL is being an amateur scout. You are scouting 17 year-olds and projecting what they might become in the future. That is difficult enough, but when you add in how the amateur scouts have very little control over the drafted player’s development once they are in the organization, it amounts to a lot of pressure on amateur scouts.

Take Jesse Puljujarvi for instance. Every scouting service, and every NHL team I’ve spoken to since the 2016 had Puljujarvi ranked higher than players taken after him when the Oilers selected him fourth overall. It was the right choice, but the scouts had zero input into the organization’s decision to keep him in the NHL, for three years, even though he never showed he was ready.

There are so many uncontrollable factors that will influence the career paths of the 217 players selected in the 2019 NHL draft this past weekend. The amateur scouts can sit back and feel satisfied about who they picked, but their focus turns to next season very quickly. That is the life of an amateur scout. They will watch the players they selected attend development camps, play in junior, NCAA or Europe next season, and hope they progress and are put in the best situation to succeed. But they have very little say over how they progress and are developed.

Successful organizations understand the importance of development. If you don’t do it well, then your chance of having more draft “busts” increases. Of course, you can still put players in the best situation to succeed, and many of them still won’t make it to the NHL because there isn’t enough room for all draft picks to make an NHL roster.

With that being said, there will always be some debate after draft weekend. You can read hundreds of articles on which team drafted the best, or worst, and at the time the writers can back up their opinions, but within a year so much can change. Some players don’t improve. Others surprise. When a fifth round pick like Jamie Benn becomes an Art Ross winner it means every NHL scouting staff and all the independent scouting services incorrectly predicted what his future would look like. Amateur scouting is hard. Really hard.

The Edmonton Oilers selected Philip Broberg eighth overall on Friday night. He was the best player available on their draft board. Their board will defer from any of the public boards, and it doesn’t make one wrong or right. Well, unless you decide to pick Jesse Niinimaki 15th overall when no one had him in the top-75. But I digress.

Craig Button had Broberg seventh in his final rankings. Corey Pronman and McKeen’s had him ninth, Hockey Prospect had him 21st and Bob McKenzie’s rankings (which aren’t his opinion, but instead based on input from NHL teams) had him 15th.

It’s not like Broberg was a wildcard. To suggest it was a bad pick is premature.

It is fair to say you would have drafted someone else, but that doesn’t mean Broberg was a reach or a bad pick.

I would have taken Matt Boldy. (I can’t list three forwards, because that is unreasonable. You can only pick one player at the spot and listing off three is unfair to the scouts). And I say that based on previous draft history. I didn’t watch Broberg, or any of the players, as often as the amateur scouts, so I won’t say I know better. I’m basing my pick on past drafting history.

History has proven you have a better chance of grabbing a high-end skilled forward than an elite defencemen with a top-ten pick. That being said, if Bowen Byram was available I’d have gladly taken him. I think he could be a legit #1 defender.

Of the NHL’s top-20 scorers this past year, 14 of them were top-10 picks in their respective draft class. The others were Nikita Kucherov (second round), Brad Marchand and Brayden Points (third round), Johnny Gaudreau (fourth round) and Artemi Panarin (undrafted).

Of the top-20 scoring D-men, six of them were top-ten picks. Defenceman develop later than forwards, and your odds of finding an elite one later in the draft are much better than uncovering an elite forward.

I don’t think Broberg was a bad pick. Far from it. I spoke to many people in Sweden who have watched him and they are confident he will be at worst a second pair defender, and at best an excellent #2. I would have went with a forward, because the Oilers organizational depth chart is deeper and better on the blueline than it is up front. I very well could be wrong.

It is also important to note that if a player succeeds on another team there is no guarantee he would have had the same success on the Oilers. Or vice versa. Take Boldy for instance. Had the Oilers drafted him, when he arrived in the NHL his centremen would likely be one of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Instead, he was drafted by Minnesota. Right now Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu are their top-two centres, but in two years, who will be there?  Staal and Koivu will be 36 and 37 years old at the start of the 2020/2021 season. That’s if Boldy comes to the NHL after one year of NCAA. If he waits two years, I can safely assume they won’t have a centre as talented as McDavid or Draisaitl and probably not as good as Nugent-Hopkins.

Make no mistake, location and opportunity plays a big role in how players produce at the NHL level. The list of forwards who can produce, regardless or their linemates, is pretty short. I didn’t project Boldy to be a driver. I saw him as a good complementary top-six winger.

I’m curious to see how all the players progress, but especially those in the top-half of the first round.

YOUNG FIRST ROUND…

Jun 21, 2019; Vancouver, BC, Canada; Philip Broberg poses for a photo after being selected as the number eight overall pick to the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

I noticed an oddity from the first round of this year’s draft. The first 18 picks were all in their 18th birth year (2001), and in fact only two first rounders — Lassi Thomson (19th to Ottawa) and Nolan Foote (27th to Tampa Bay) — were born in 2000.

Often we see many top picks who, due to a birthdate between September 16th-December 31st, are in their 19-year-old season when drafted. Players like John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Taylor Hall, Cam Fowler, Leon Draisaitl, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews and others.

But this year the first round was almost exclusively 18 year-olds, and because of that I don’t think we will see many of them play in the NHL this season.

Over the past decade, here is a list of 18-year-olds who were drafted in June and then played in the NHL four months later.

Last year: Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov and Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
2017: Nico Hishier.
2016: Patrik Laine, Jacob Chychrun and Jesse Puljujarvi (28 games).
2015: Connor McDavid, Noah Hanafin and Daniel Sprong (18 games).
2014: Aaron Ekblad and David Pastrnak (51 NHL games, 25 AHL games).
2013: Nathan MacKinnon, Alex Barkov and Valeri Nichuskin.
2012 (lockout shortened season 48 games): Alex Galchenyuk, Mikhail Grigorenko (25 games) and Stefan Matteau (17 games).
2011: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
2010: Tyler Seguin and Jeff Skinner.
2009: Matt Duchene, Evander Kane and Ryan O’Reilly (second rounder).

A total of 24 players over ten years, and four of them played 28 games or fewer.

Outside of Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko, will any of the others play this year? I’d be surprised. This just re-enforces why the NHL should raise the draft age to 19, and have the cut off be December 31st, instead of September 15th, as all the players would be 18 regardless of which month they were born. The NHL could allow teams to take an 18-year-old (who would be 18 before Sept 15th) within the top-five picks of the draft. This would eliminate those arguing a 19-year-old draft year limits the player’s ability to earn a living.

You don’t see more than five 18-year-olds in the league in a given year, so that argument is bogus. Raise the draft age by a year. It would be easy to do over a two year period. Simply move the cut off back six months the first year, to March 31st, and then the following year back to December 31st.

There is no sane reason not to.

FIRST ROUND REALITY…

Jun 21, 2019; Vancouver, BC, Canada; Philip Broberg puts on a jersey after being selected as the number eight overall pick to the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Since 2000 there have been 30 players selected in the first round. How many will become NHL players?

2000: Thirteen played fewer than 200 games. Ten played fewer than 100 games.
2001: Eleven played fewer than 200 games. Six played fewer than 100 games.
2002: Eight played 66 games or fewer. The rest were all 200+.
2003: Three played fewer than 200 games and two played fewer than 100. Really good draft class.
2004: Ten played fewer than 200 games and eight played fewer than 100 games.
2005: Eleven played fewer than 200 games and ten played fewer than 100 games.
2006: Ten played fewer than 70 games and the rest played 297+ games.
2007: Eleven played fewer than 200 games and nine played fewer than 100.
2008: Twelve played fewer than 200 games and eight played fewer than 100.
2009: Ten played fewer than 200 games and five played fewer than 100.
2010: Eight played fewer than 200 games and seven played fewer than 100.
2011: Eight played fewer than 200 games and seven fewer than 100 games.
2012: Eight played fewer than 200 and five fewer than 100 games.
2013: Seven played fewer than 200 games and six played fewer than 100 games.

There were 420 players taken in the first round during those 14 years and 69.0% (290 players) played 200+ games and 75.95% (319) played 100+ games. That leaves 101 players (24.05%) who played fewer than 100 NHL games. Of those, 28 players played zero games, while 22 players played fewer than ten games.

It is too early to count 2014-2018 drafts as some players are just starting to find their way into the NHL.

If we look at previous history then 24% of players taken in the first round on Friday night won’t play more than 100 games in the NHL. A lot can happen in the next four or five seasons, and it is difficult to say which players will continue to grow and develop and which ones will struggle making it to the next level. If we dig deeper and look at players who have played 400 games (equivalent to five NHL seasons) the number drops down to 58.5% (246 players) who will play 400+ games.

I wish all the players the best. Getting drafted is a major accomplishment, but the next steps are even more difficult than the ones they took to reach the podium on Friday night.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Danger Pay

    Take Boldy, then have Lavoie fall in the 2nd, then take a dman in the later rounds or even next year. I don’t think too many would have argued with that.

    • OilTastic

      In my mind the Oilers would have gone either forward and d-man or vice versa so getting a mid to low 1st rounder at #38 in Lavoie is still a win-win with me because the d-man we picked will likely have a chance to be better than whoever was left at #38, while Lavoie has a chance to be just as good as anyone picked in the mid 1st round.

    • QuitForRealThisTime

      I suppose the reality is we know nothing about these players like Boldy, his aspirations, character etc. Maybe the NCAA UFA loophole has some Canadian teams leery. Van passed on him as well. Like Gregor said drafting is a real tough job. One day though the Oil have to hit on a late round pick, it has been a long time. That may point to their lack of development though.

  • hockey1099

    I’m glad the Oilers drafted the player they though was the best available. Drafting for need doesn’t make you a better team. We can now trade defensive depth for forwards. Whether Broberg was the best available will be known in 3-5 years.

    As for changing the draft age? Dumb. That takes away a year from the McDavid’s, crosby’s and other amazing superstars. As fans we deserve to see them for as many years possible. Don’t change whats not broke.

          • hockey1099

            Wrong. The NHL and the Oilers are selling me a product. If they want to charge what they do they need to provide me the best players to watch. If i wanted to watch inferior hockey i’d pay less and go to the oil kings. So yes i deserve the best for what i pay. So do the rest of the fans that help generate billion dollar tv deals for the league. We give them our money and time and deserve the best.

    • FutureGM

      Gregor clearly stated that he feels it should be top 5 exempt. Therefore unless there is some crazy prodigy class with 10 Gretzky jrs than your lament need not be

    • Jason Gregor

      You must not have read the part where I said you can draft 18 year olds in the top-five. So elite players like McDavid could still be drafted. Simple. It doesn’t hold back the extreme elite players.

    • Redbird62

      Probably not a big concern. Top half first round picks have not taken that route. Drafted that high, they would expect to be playing in the NHL in at most 2 to 3 seasons, particularly for a forward. I believe they have to wait 4 seasons after draft using this route to become a free agent which would require extreme patience or a real strong desire to go to college for the full term.

  • Rama Lama

    Just got back from holidays and got caught up on all the inns Oilers……..it seems I did not miss a lot. I did get a chance to watch all the highlights of both Broberg and Lavoie and the articles written on them.

    The one thing that made me happy is to hear the general attitude of Ken Holland towards the draft and player development. The idea of drafting well and stockpiling talent, only means good thing for the future. Good teams don’t go looking for talent on the outside, if you have it within.

    It seems Ken Holland is stockpiling talent and letting the cream rise to the top…….we have all been waiting for this type of wisdom.

  • CMG30

    The draft is always a bit of a crap shoot and only time will settle this.

    That being said, the consensus around the very top players is a reasonably good indication of their future and so far, nothing said has changed my mind that Broburg was more of a 1B choice as opposed to a 1A choice. I’m not up in arms over it as some are because as a 1B choice, he’s not a huge reach but, by the same token, the Oilers probably left money on the table here and that’s what’s most irksome to myself and other long suffering fans.

    Regardless, we’ve got our guy and so we must look forward. The key is now proper development. 1B or not, Broburg has the toolkit to become a top pair defender if he puts his mind to it and if the organization does right by the player to support his development. Best of luck Broburg! Don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope I don’t see you in inked into the Oilers lineup till you’ve had a few successful years in the AHL!

  • RJ

    Hockey IQ was a challenge for Yak. It seems to be a challenge for JP.

    Every scouting report says Broberg has all the tools, but lacks the Hockey IQ as the biggest concern. Zegras was touted as having an elite hockey IQ.

    I guess we will see if they can teach hockey IQ

  • TKB2677

    We have to remember, all it takes for a fan to be an expert and qualified to decide if a team drafted properly is they just need to pick up a draft guide at a convenience store and watch a couple of youtube clips and that supersedes a teams entire scouting department who has been watching these kids and dissecting their every move for years.

  • CARLSOTO

    So much butt-hurt over the Broberg pick; Zegras is a left-handed winger who is more playmaker than sniper, Boldy is a left handed winger who can shoot (we don’t need more lefties), Caufield is too small to compliment RNH on his wing, and Podkolzin is a lefty. None of the players listed above would contribute this year or next anyways (as they are committed to NCAA for the 20/21 season), and Hughes will have undoubtedly inflated their value. The Oilers need a shooting winger who is right handed, not playmaking left handed wingers who are 2-3 years away from contributing to the Oilers (not to mention they can simply stay in college for 4 years and then get UFA status). Broberg is the best skating defenseman in the draft, who is confident at 17 years old to jump up on the offense versus men in the AIK. Good defensemen are hard to find, and even a slightly above average defender can fetch you a top 6 winger.

    The bottom line is you draft for the future; you can’t draft players with the intention that they will fix your roster right away (unless you’re picking in the top 3). I don’t know how many times I’ve read people complaining on here that we rush our prospects and stunt their development, yet 75% of people are complaining that we didn’t draft a forward to help us now. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      Fair enough but 2 things.

      1: Oilers took a risk and can’t afford to do so.
      2: Broberg lack hockey IQ. Sure he can skate like a gazelle into the offensive zone with the puck, but once he gets there he has 0 idea on what to do with it.

        • CARLSOTO

          Exactly. It’s not hard for a defenseman.
          – Man the point
          – Don’t make bad pinches
          – Rotate with your wingers in the cycle
          – Hit the open man with the pass.
          – Give it to McDavid

          Not hard.

      • Svart kaffe

        How much have you seen of him yourself? And we’re not counting YouTube or read on a blog. Because it sounds an awful lot like you have only read the same reports everybody has access to and got stuck on one negative comment from some “draft analyst”.

        There isn’t a quick fix. Drafting now to for help in October haven’t worked out so far.

  • The Whispererer

    Hey Jason:
    Leaving aside whether or not i would agree with increasing the draft age to 19, i see a significant flaw in your proposal on exceptional 18 year olds.
    The teams picking top 5 in the draft already have a substantial advantage over the remaining teams; making the same 5 teams the only ones able to draft an 18-year old is compounding the advantage. To re-balance the playing field, any team ( or none ) would have to have the freedom to make an 18 year old pick in the 1st round.

    • Jason Gregor

      Why? There are only on average two 18 year olds each year who are NHL ready. So the rest will all be in the draft pool a year later. It doesn’t give the bad teams that much more of an advantage as they would be drafting those players anyways.

      • Redbird62

        I may be too late to get an answer from you in this thread, but following your proposed rules, would a player like Bouchard, who would have slid to this draft, been taken in the top five this year, which would have pushed someone else out of the top 5. And under your rules, Bouchard would have missed out on the $319,000 he has already made from the Oilers. Not sure how far down the draft list entry level contracts pay signing bonuses, but he would still have gotten his $92,000 signing bonus if he went straight back after camp. I favour the keep it simple philosophy of one draft age minimum of 18 (when they become adults).

  • Watching Broberg’s Hlinka highlights makes me feel better about him. He can absolutely eat up the ice with the puck. If he decides to play in the OHL next year that would help his development in North America alot.

  • TKB2677

    For all the people bashing the Oilers drafting Broberg and saying it was a reach. I think ever draft site and “expert” plus most teams scouts had Puljujarvi in the top 5. Regardless of the fact that the Oilers didn’t develop him properly, if the draft could be done over knowing what we know now, would JP even be a first rounder? I have my doubts he would. 3 yrs of pro hockey behind him and he’s not even good enough to be an effective 4th liner.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    I’m gonna get trashed into oblivion because I’ve been so against this pick ever since it was announced. But, but, I just wanted to share someone else’s thoughts on this. And for anyone who wants to listen as well, go BlogManRy’s YouTube channel (he’s an Oilers fan). He made a couple of points that I think some of you either never considered or forgot to remember.

    This pick is a risky pick. Super risky. And sometimes super risky picks work out, sometimes they do not. The problem is the relationship between the Oilers management and the fanbase is at a point where management can’t afford to take risks. IF Broberg pans out, then I’ll will gladly admit that I was wrong. IF he doesn’t, then congratulations Oilers management, you WASTED a golden opportunity.

    The 2nd point he made was this. In the last 10 years, the Oilers have drafted two players who have failed at the NHL level, because their hockey smarts were lacking. And what is one of the knocks on Broberg? His hockey IQ. So here we have the Oilers ONCE AGAIN drafting a player who’s hockey IQ sucks.

    One final point that pissed me off, what how the management went about this. They telegraphed this pick for weeks leading up to the draft. They didn’t even try to hide it. And it got to the point where we thought it was an attempt to throw up some sort of smokescreen. But nope, just tell the entire hockey world what you’re planning. Look I know they want to be more transparent with the fanbase, but there’s a difference to be transparent and announcing to the world that you’re going to rob a bank. It infuriates me how amaturish this was. How dumb of an idea this was.

  • Oily Reign

    I’m getting tired of all these negative comments regarding Bro’s hockey IQ. This is all based on a few scouting reports of him in Europe playing as a 17 yr old against MEN.
    He sure must be okay with “what’s in the water” in Edmonton, because he sure didn’t lack high hockey IQ during the Hlinka… playing (like 99% of the other potential draft candidates), against players his own age. He was a beast.

  • Gravis82

    its not a difficult job, its an impossible job. You dont need scouts. Just pick BPA and never trade draft picks. Picking a good player has nothing to do with scouting, just as picking a back player was not due to bad scouting. Its so random, the only way to do it is to pick as often as possible and pick the guy everyone else has thinks is the best. Over time, that is the best strategy. If your 2 scouts say a player play 5 times and think he the best but 100 other scouts saw him play a combined 300 times and think he is maybe not the greatest, who do you trust?

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Said this other day on here and I’ll say it again. If the guy who drafted Lidstrom in the 3rd round, Zetterberg in the 7th and Holmstrom in the 10th goes decides to take a Swedish defenceman a little earlier in the 1st round, I’m not qualified to not be OK with that.