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Evaluating Chuck Fletcher’s success in past drafts

Let’s talk success rates.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Minnesota Wild Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

It’s almost that time, folks! We’ve been digging into some options and talking a lot about this upcoming draft (and will be talking even more about it in the days to come!), but we should also take a few moments to dig back into past drafts. Because, if you haven’t noticed, we have a whole new person in charge of the team now, and that means a whole new person in charge of drafting.

We’ve grown accustomed to the Flyers achieving a degree of success in drafting, particularly in the mid-later rounds, but is this the same standard that we should be expecting from Chuck Fletcher and his staff? That’s what we’re here to find out.

Just a quick bit of recap, before we dive into the meat of this: Fletcher was the General Manager of the Minnesota Wild form May 21, 2009 to April 23 2018, meaning he was in power (so to speak) for the 2009-2017 drafts. And between those nine drafts, the Wild made a total of 59 picks. And that’s our sample.

Let’s start this with a big table. These are all of the players that Fletcher drafted that played at least one NHL game, sorted by the number of NHL games they’ve played, to date.

Minnesota Picks (2009-2017)

Player Position Draft Year Round Position Overall NHL GP G P SV%
Player Position Draft Year Round Position Overall NHL GP G P SV%
Nick Leddy D 2009 1 16 660 60 284
Jonas Brodin D 2011 1 10 486 28 118
Mikael Granlund C 2010 1 9 477 94 322
Jason Zucker LW 2010 2 59 441 118 214
Erik Huala LW 2009 7 182 357 73 151
Mathew Dumba D 2012 1 7 342 56 150
Johan Larsson LW 2010 2 56 331 32 79
Darcy Kuemper G 2009 6 161 186 0 4 0.925
Alex Tuch RW 2014 1 18 158 35 89
Joel Eriksson Ek C 2015 1 20 148 16 37
Nick Seeler D 2011 5 131 93 2 11
Jordan Greenway Lw 2015 2 50 87 12 25
Luke Kunin C 2016 1 15 68 8 13
Tyler Graovac C 2011 7 191 62 7 9
Gustav Olofsson D 2013 2 46 56 0 11
Kurtis Gabriel RW 2013 3 81 38 2 5
Matt Hackett G 2009 3 77 26 0 0 0.906
Brett Bulmer RW 2010 2 39 17 0 3
Christoph Bertschy C 2012 6 158 9 0 1
Carson Soucy D 2013 5 137 3 0 0
Louis Belpedio D 2014 3 80 3 0 2
Kris Foucault LW 2009 4 103 1 0 0

So what’s there to glean from all of this? First of all, it seems that Fletcher had done well enough in picking players that are skilled enough to, at the very, least crack an NHL roster for some period of time, while also nabbing a handful that have carved out roles for themselves as more or less NHL regulars, that is, who have played at least one full season in the NHL.

But where the concern might come in is if you’re looking at that “Round” column, and seeing a lot of ones and twos. Are you slamming your fist down on the table and demanding “where are the late round hits?!” If you are, it wouldn’t be unreasonable.

So all of this begs the questions: what does it mean? We have all of these numbers, but they lack context. But we’ve got some of that coming. Let’s compare Fletcher and the Wild’s success to a few other teams’ success during the period of his tenure.

Here we’ll be looking at three teams who had one continuous general manager over the same period as the Wild (2009-2017), and comparing their success rates to Fletcher’s.

Comparables

Team Picks Made Played in NHL % Made NHL % From First 2 Rounds Played Full Season % Played Full Season % From First 2 Rounds
Team Picks Made Played in NHL % Made NHL % From First 2 Rounds Played Full Season % Played Full Season % From First 2 Rounds
Minnesota 59 22 37.29 54.55 12 20.34 75
Detroit 68 27 39.7 51.85 17 25 52.94
San Jose 60 18 30 44.44 12 20 58.33
Nashville 70 29 41.43 41.4 17 24.29 47.06

And, just to be clear, we’re looking at percentage of picks that made the NHL/played at least a full season’s worth of games, and then the percentage of those players who were picked in the first two rounds. Cool. Good talk.

Now, with context, how does all this look? In short, still a bit concerning. Admittedly, it is a small sample for comparing, but still some of those success figures look less than stellar. His percentage of players that made the NHL are just about middling, but the percentage that carved out regular roles is on the low end. But the really scary numbers are those of the percentage of NHL players and NHL regulars that were picked in the first two rounds. Only 25 percent of their regulars, well below the level of the other teams, were picked outside of the first two rounds.

And that looks not great. With building from within and getting good contributions from players on their entry level contracts being one of the best ways to keep your team performing well while not being slammed up against the cap, having a management group that rarely hits outside of the first two rounds of the draft doesn’t bode well for success in this model.

And it’s time to throw in another disclaimer. We’ll acknowledge that grading drafting success can be kind of difficult because on the early end of this timeline, we know that teams weren’t the best at drafting. Every year when we get into the deep, dark days of the offseason, we see these retrospective pieces churned out, and we see how many objectively good players fell to the later rounds, because Reasons. Lapses happened.

And then, on the most recent end, while teams seem to have gotten better at drafting, it’s hard to know which picks were hits and which were misses because many of the players picked in, say, 2017, have only just turned 20. They’re still so young, and they have a lot of developing to do.

That said, we’re doing the best we can with the data we have available, and it feels like enough to make some observations about trends. And what this particular data set tells us is that, even if the still-youngsters that Fletcher picked with the Wild, his eye in the later rounds seems dubious.

But there still may be some good news, if all of this has got you a little worried! There seems to have been quite a bit of carry-over in the scouting department from the Ron Hextall era, that is, it was only the higher-ups that went in that department when Hextall was fired, and the waves stopped there.

We liked a lot of the picks that Hextall made, but he wasn’t the one doing all of the travelling around to watch these kids on a more or less consistent basis, that was the amateur scouts. And those same scouts are still around. So, it stands to reason that if the finders are still able to pick out these higher-upside project picks, it’s just a matter of Fletcher liking the same guys as them.

It’s a lot of ifs that we’re dealing in right now, as is the case with any new GM’s first draft. Fletcher’s history might leave a bit to be desired, but he’s got a clean slate here in Philadelphia. He’s got nine picks to work with this year, and it’s up to him to prove that he can do something with them.

All stats via CapFriendly and hockey-reference.

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