2014 Draft Revisited: Hextall or a Potato? Who Drafted Better?

(Somewhat of a long read, but if you just want to see the results and comment on how much of a doofus I am for not wanting truculence there are tables of results at the bottom of the article! I look forward to your.. constructive criticism? Who am I kidding this is the internet.)

I've seen a lot of work lately on Pension Plan Puppets and Canucks Army (among others in the Hockey-Twitterverse) on their respective teams' (Toronto and Vancouver) lack of success in resigning Free Agents and drafting players. These analyses basically present the idea that each managing staff could be out-performed by a potato. A vegetable. An object totally lacking in sentience. In Toronto's case Dave Nonis was voted to have lost the 're-signing free agents competition' with the potato by a resounding score of 79% to 21% in favour of the potato (3512 votes!!!). While in Vancouver's case their scouting staff was also pummeled; resulting in 4000+ more NHL games played over a period of 14 drafts.

These were very simple experiments (and I encourage you to read both articles), but they speak to the idea that old-school NHL GM's and Scouts should really be paying more attention to offensive players and not signing or drafting, as Brian Burke loves to say, truculence. It's become very clear in the last number of seasons that truculence itself does NOT win Stanley Cups. Yes teams have to be tough, but fighters and players who amass huge PIM totals are becoming huge hindrances to their clubs.

The Flyers have made a lot of horrible waster-picks on guys who will likely never see a game of NHL action. Recent examples of this include Tyrell Goulbourne (2013 - 72nd), and Derek Mathers (2011 - 206th), but historically there has been Zach Rinaldo, Kevin Marshall, Garrett Klotz, Steve Downie, Josh Beaulieu, John Flatters, Matt Clackson, Chris Zarb, Gino Piselleni, and Triston Grant. That's 10 picks over the last 10 drafts that were goons; players with almost no real skill other than mashing faces with their fists. I'll give Rinaldo and Downie a slight bit of credit here because both of them are players that, when keeping their emotions in check (rarely), are useful pests.

A lot of people argue, "these are late round picks that aren't going to be very useful anyway!" True. The likelihood of late round picks turning into NHL-calibre players is quite low. However if you take a flyer on a skilled player you could end up looking like a genius and picking out a Datsyuk, or a Zetterberg in the 6th or 7th round. If you take a goon, you're.. well.. you're getting a goon.. best case scenario he's a 3rd-4th liner and plays 10 minutes a night. If that's what you want for your 4th line, just go out and sign a guy as a free agent because those players are dime-a-dozen types. Absolutely no need to waste a pick on a player whose ceiling is the 4th line.

I have to give Holmgren some props here because he's been moving away from that line of thinking since taking over from Bobby Clarke, slowly. Hextall however, seems to have fully adopted the 'why don't we draft skill guys instead?' mantra. His late rounders this year were skilled-but-hurt-this-year-Russian-winger Russian Radel Fazleev (Calgary, WHL) and undersized-but-physical-Swedish-defensive-defenseman Jesper Pettersson (Linkopings, SHL). Both long shots to make an NHL impact, but definitely more interesting and promising picks than those guys I mentioned before.

Now I didn't want to totally rip-off Rhys J. (That's Offside! on Twitter) of Canucks Army, but I did want to look back at previous drafts and see what the Flyers have done wrong and what a potato could have done. I quickly realized that this was a monumental task involving a lot of copy-pasting and sql querying in Microsoft Access because resources for the Canadian Junior leagues are available but not very well-organized. Therefore I've decided to showcase only this year's draft to start things off.

Rules for GM Ron Potato and staff to draft by:

1. Select the highest ranked 17-year-old (first year of draft eligibility) in the OHL/WHL/QMJHL that remains in the draft at the selection occupied by Philadelphia. All other leagues are veiled in mystery (re: they're Voodoo).

2. Goalies are strange beasts and will not be selected period.

3. Forwards are ranked by (Points / Games Played) / Best PPG for a Forward in Respective League. This is a bit different because I didn't want to solely use points scored (Ron Potato has a calculator). Also by dividing by the Best PPG in each respective league you get a more realistic score for guys like Nik Ehlers. Ehlers had 1.65 PPG playing alongside Jonathan Drouin for the Halifax Mooseheads this year. That's 2nd (behind Sam Reinhart's 1.75) in the entire CHL. If we weight that instead to account for Drouin's absolutely crushing 2.35 PPG this year (highest in the Q), Ehlers comes down to a score of 0.70 PPG Adjusted. This ranks him 8th among Forwards which I feel is a very realistic ranking considering he went 9th in reality.

4. Defensemen are hard. The defenseman with the highest PPG total will only be picked if Hextall picked a defenseman in that slot. This gives a massive advantage to a player like Anthony DeAngelo who had the best PPG for a defenseman in the entire CHL, but what can you do it's a potato we're talkin' about here!

Hextall's Actual Picks: 2014 Entry Draft

Round Pick Player Position Team Adjusted Rank
1 17 Travis Sanheim D Calgary (W) 20th Among D
2 48 Nicolas Aube-Kubel F VAL-D'OR (Q) 46th Among F
3 86 Mark Friedman D Voodoo League N/A
5 138 Oskar Lindblom F Voodoo League N/A
6 168 Radel Fazleev F Calgary (W) 39th Among F
7 198 Jesper Pettersson D Voodoo League N/A

Sanheim is definitely a stretch by Hextall, but he's by no means a dud. This had to have been a pick where a scout had seen a lot of him and gave him a raving review. Nothing wrong with that, but in strictly Adjusted PPG he ranked 20th among Defensemen which would have had him going 69th to Winnipeg if all GMs were potatoes. There are 3 Voodoo picks by Hextall that GM Ron Potato simply will not make, but Aube-Kubel and Fazleev appear to have been fairly reasonable picks. Fazleev could even be a steal down the road, but his sample size is small (38gp). We'll see how they compare to Ron Potato's picks.

Ron Potato's Picks: 2014 Entry Draft

Round Pick Player Position Team Adjusted Rank Actual Pick
1 17 Anthony DeAngelo D Sarnia (O) 1st Among D 19th - Tampa Bay
2 48 Brayden Point F Moose Jaw (W) 7th Among F 79th - Tampa Bay
3 86 Riley Stadel D Kelowna (W) 6th Among D Undrafted
5 138 Luke Philp F Kootenay (W) 15th Among F Undrafted
6 168 Spencer Watson F Kingston (O) 18th Among F 209th - Los Angeles
7 198 Cody Donaghey D Quebec (Q) 10th Among D Undrafted

Huge difference here, but the first 2 picks are definitely reasonable. DeAngelo went just 2 picks later in reality to Tampa Bay and is widely regarded as a great offensive defensemen. Whether he can defend at an NHL level against men, that's another story. Either way I think DeAngelo has just as much upside as Sanheim, tough to say which is a better pick at this stage in their careers. Only time will tell. Brayden Point actually had the 7th best Adjusted PPG among CHL forwards (91 total points), but he's 5'9" which is why he slid down to 79th again to Tampa.

Theory for later; Maybe Yzerman is good at his job.

While we're on the subject of undersized players; Ron Potato goes WAY off the board and takes 3 more in Riley Stadel (5'10" - 162 lbs, Defenseman), Luke Philp (5'10" - 177 lbs, Center) and Spencer Watson (5'9" - 170 lbs). Stadel had a really bad second half to the season which knocked him off teams' radars and Philp apparently lacks elite speed (source: just a quick google search). As far as Watson goes it appears his size is the only limiting factor in his game. He's even played on the International stage for Team Canada. The last pick for GM Potato is Newfoundlander Cody Donaghey.. I can't say why he wasn't selected this year.. it's puzzling. 38 points in 67 games, and 8 points in 5 playoff games for Quebec. He's 6'1" and 182 lbs. Scouting profiles say he's kind of 'average' at everything. There's nothing really wrong with that.. is there?

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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