FanPost

Are smaller players undervalued at the NHL draft?

We all know that NHL teams love size. At each NHL draft, scouts salivate over prospects who are to be the next Milan Lucic, a player known both for his skill, size, and grit. NHL teams always seem to consistantly take larger guys with "potential" over smaller guys with more skill.

And so, I thought I'd take a look at height and player performance. Before I start, I must mention two things about the data. It is a well known fact that some NHL players/teams lie about height. It's not unusual for players to be an inch or two shorter than their listed height. This of course can cause difficulties when trying to analyze the data, but we have to live with the data that is out there.

Secondly, the NHL only records the height to the nearest inch. Thus, someone who is 6'1.75" is recorded as 6'2". Again, another complication that is hard to avoid.

With that out of the way, we can move on to the data.

I collected the player bios via NHL.com for every skater in the 2011-2012 season and the 2012-2013 season. So we have some height data, draft details, and a few other stats. The goals/60, points/60, and TOI/G include all situations, not just even strength. We should take this into account when we look at the data.

First, let's look at forwards. I limited it to forwards with a TOI of at least 200 minutes (all situations).

The average NHL forward heigh is about 6'1". So I divided the players into 5 categories (as you can see below).

Edit: For Columns 4 and 5, those numbers only include players who were actually drafted.

2011-2012

Height Group # of players % drafted Average draft round Average draft position games played goals/60 points/60 TOI/G
5'9" or shorter 16 68.75% 4.27 107.82 60.13 0.75 2.03 15.47990298
5'10" - 5'11" 83 86.75% 3.60 95.86 60.37 0.79 1.88 15.63382891
6' - 6'2" 254 90.16% 2.90 72.84 66.52 0.78 1.83 15.0698043
6'3 - 6'4" 60 95.00% 2.16 48.32 64.98 0.85 1.96 15.8299906
>=6'5" 14 92.86% 2.54 63.38 66.50 0.60 1.56 14.04500537

2012-2013

Height Group # of players % drafted Average draft round Average draft position games played goals/60 points/60 TOI/G
5'9" or shorter 20 65.00% 4.15 104.92 39.25 0.80 2.05 15.13677282
5'10" - 5'11" 74 89.19% 3.38 89.53 39.64 0.79 1.95 15.45019889
6' - 6'2" 232 90.52% 2.64 65.67 40.10 0.76 1.83 15.33976784
6'3 - 6'4" 54 91.53% 2.20 49.46 45.76 0.81 1.95 15.51647781
>=6'5" 11 91.67% 2.91 76.00 40.09 0.54 1.5 12.79962207

Immediately we are seeing two things stand out. First, that shorter forwards are producing at a similar, if not higher level than other players. The second is that these forwards are being drafted later in the draft, and far more are going undrafted.

Now, we must realize that their is bias in our player groups. Because NHL teams do not like smaller players, the ones that make it to the NHL should be very good. However, we can still see that the smallest forwards getting drafted in later rounds, if at all. Even our second group is getting drafter in later spots than the bigger forwards.

Translation: smaller forwards are being undervalued in the draft.

We can look at similar stuff for defensemen. Average height for defensemen is about 6'2".

2011-2012

Height Group # of players % drafted Average draft round Average draft position games played goals/60 points/60 TOI/G
5'10" or shorter 16 0.56 5.444444444 149.6666667 57.75 0.19 1.07 20.26727994
5'11" - 6' 46 0.89 4 107.7317073 65.06521739 0.23 1.04 20.47425103
6'1" - 6'3" 124 0.89 2.809090909 69.52727273 62.93548387 0.18 0.84 20.09015462
6'4 - 6'5" 38 0.97 3.027027027 75.16216216 59.36842105 0.18 0.81 19.1117169
>=6'6" 7 0.86 3 70 68.83333333 0.22 0.96 19.60831316

2012-2013

Height Group # of players % drafted Average draft round Average draft position games played goals/60 points/60 TOI/G
5'10" or shorter 15 66.67% 5.2 141.1 32.86666667 0.26 1.12 20.11348884
5'11" - 6' 46 82.61% 4 108.8947368 39.60869565 0.25 1.06 20.9365075
6'1" - 6'3" 121 86.78% 2.695238095 66.88571429 37.11570248 0.18 0.83 20.09476731
6'4 - 6'5" 36 97.22% 2.828571429 69.68571429 35.94444444 0.22 0.86 18.91582947
>=6'6" 8 100.00% 3.25 78.75 33.125 0.22 0.76 18.3545283

Same song and dance for defensemen. Smaller guys are producing more and playing more minutes, and yet they get drafted in later rounds.

I wouldn't say it's conclusive to say that smaller players are better, though this data does show that smaller players are producing at higher rates. But I do think this offers at least initial data to perhaps show that smaller forwards and defensemen are being undervalued in the draft, being picked in later rounds on average and are going un-drafted more often than bigger forwards.

Edit: I am going to do a second post, pairing up this data with behindthenet.ca data, that will give us a better gauge of performance

This item was written by a member of this community and is not necessarily endorsed by <em>Broad Street Hockey</em>.

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