Ray Shero and the NHL Draft

Over in the Brandon Sutter beats the Bruins thread, I had a long, long post written out on my thoughts on Ray Shero and the Draft. Apparently, it was literally too long, so I decided to move it here. It's mainly directed at stoopidful, although it's not meant to be an attack, rather intelligent discussion.


Stoopidful's comment:

Last year Shero could have drafted a fine forward with the number eight pick but chose to reach for Pouliot. There is now a log jam in defense "that not a soul could choose but hear." I know the adage that you cannot have too many defensemen in your organization; however, Shero is proving it to be wrong.

I have a few things to say about this, with the caveat in place that I'm much better at evaluating baseball than hockey. That said:

a) Despite the criticism thus far of Ray Shero's drafts, it seems to me he's done just fine. That statement is based on a fact I'm presuming. I assume that like baseball, a vast majority of quality NHL players come from the first round. If not the first round, then the first few rounds. Now, as pointed out elsewhere in this thread, Kunitz and Dupuis went undrafted. The same can be said for a guy like Martin St. Louis. The point is, there are exceptions (Brandon Beachy if you want same baseball information; although it's much harder in baseball because there are 40 - were 50 - rounds unlike the 7 in hockey), but I don't think those exceptions break the rule at all. To back up my statement with a bit of empirical data, I looked through every draft from 2000 on.

The findings. Well first, I need to state my criteria. I'm sure there are better ways to evaluate players than all-star appearances - a player could be really good and productive for years and never make it to the all-star game (Jordan Staal for example) or they could have a fluke good year - but I figured it was a quick and dirty way to evaluate "quality NHL players" although maybe I should use the word impact. Anyway, to the numbers.

Since 2000, there have been 74 different players that have made an all-star game appearance. Of those 74, 51 were selected in the first round compared to 23 outside the first round. Of those 51 in the first round, 32 were drafted in the top 10 selections in the draft. Of the 23 outside the first round, 9 were selected in the second round. Converting those into percentages.

60 of the 74 players that made an all star appearance that were drafted from 2000 on were drafted in the top 2 rounds of the draft. That's 81.0%. 51 in the first round. That's 68.9%. 32 in the top 10 of the draft. 43.2%. It's also very much worth nothing that since Shero has taken over as GM - crediting him the 2006 draft class and on - not a single player drafted outside the first round in the entire NHL has made an all-star appearance. Now granted, most players drafted outside the first round that have the upside to become all-stars need development time; that's precisely why they aren't drafted in the first round, but the 2011 season was the 5th season after the 2006 draft.

My ultimate point is this. Because of the success rate of first round draft picks versus the rest of the draft and undrafted free agents, GM's should be largely evaluated on how their first round picks do when it comes to the draft. Adding in my defense to that, you rightly pointed out that since 2006, only 6 players drafted by the Penguins are currently on an NHL roster. To me, that seems adequate. Sure you want guys to step like Kris Letang from the third round, but that seems to be a rare occurrence. Just having Bortuzzo and Jeffrey on a roster from picks outside the top round or even top 2 rounds seems like a bonus to me. Could it be better? Sure. Is that contribution adequate though? I think so and I think so because there hasn't been a single all-star drafted outside the first round in the entire NHL since Shero has been drafted. He's at least keeping up with the rest of the league. So, I think attention should be turned to how Shero has done in the first round.

I don't believe he should get much credit for drafting Staal. Yes top 3 picks bust, but you can't be any better off than drafting in the top 3 and the fact that Staal did not bust shouldn't count in favor of Shero in my mind, at least too much. Which brings us to the 2007 draft and on. It's worth noting that since 2006, the Penguins have not drafted inside the above pick 20 once. Remember, 43.2% of all-stars were drafted in the top 10 and Shero hasn't drafted there since Staal until this past year.

Outside the top 10, Shero has drafted the following guys Angelo Esposito (2007), Simon Despres (2009), Beau Bennett (2010), Joe Morrow (2011), Derrick Pouliot (2012), Olli Maata (2012). Esposito was shipped to Atlanta as part of the Hossa deal. He's been a bust, not having appeared in an NHL game yet. The Pens 2008 first round pick also went to Atlanta in the Hossa deal. Since then, the Penguins draft picks all look solid. None have proven anything significant, but this year has at least demonstrated that Despres and Bennett should be NHL contributors. Despres looks like he has a solid shot to be a top-4 defenseman and Bennett top-6 winger. I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility for either to become all-stars, especially Bennett playing with the guys he will play with.

Morrow has only seen his stock soar since being drafted. I'm not sure of the perceived validity of these two sites (in baseball; the industry leaders on prospecting are considered very reputable and very good), but both Hockey Prospectus and Hockey's Future rank Morrow as the Penguins best prospect. (As an added note, he is ranked ahead of both Despres and Bennett by both sites. Despres is ranked 31st overall by Hockey's Future and 68th by Hockey Prospectus. Bennett is ranked 82 by Hockey Prospectus, Hockey's Future only goes to 50.) Comparing him to the entire NHL, Morrow is ranked 26th and 35th by HF and HP respectively. The point is, based on those rankings and the fact that there are still players from multiple draft classes as prospects, Morrow would have been drafted higher than 20 in hindsight. I will add in that recently, some reports have came out with concerns about Morrow, so his stock could arguably be on a bit of a decline.

Opinions are mixed on Pouliot. HF has him ranked 41st overall, while HP does not have him in their top 100. HP has Maata at 97. It is worth noting that HP is very high on Brian Dumoulin (who came over in the Staal deal), ranking him 58th, ahead of Despres. You can also factor in Scott Harrington (drafted in the 2nd round in 2011) who gets solid praise; HF has him ranked ahead of Dumoulin. That leads me to point b)

b) You argue that Shero has managed to break the adage, "You can never have too many defenseman." I disagree. Even if you aren't a fan of Shero's drafting, he's been tremendous at one thing so far. Trading defenseman. Out: Ryan Whitney, Alex Goligoski. In: Chris Kunitz, Eric Tangradi, Matt Niskanen, James Neal. That's really all that needs to be said. It's probably too early to call it an absolute lock of a trend, but the early returns are fantastic. It seems to me that if it comes to it in a few years and we're running out of space for Letang, Despres, Morrow, Maata, Dumoulin, Harrington, Pouliot, etc to play, he can ship one off in another excellent deal. I see no evidence to make me think otherwise. Playing time shouldn't be the issue either. If Shero really believes in the guys who haven't proven themselves yet, then trade the guys who have, which will most likely be Despres and Morrow.

c) Finally, not taking Forsberg. In one sense, I'm with you. I actually can't even remember if I followed the draft in-depth live. I don't think I did. However, when I did see we traded Staal, I immediately went to look what we got and then who we used the pick on. I think saw Forsberg still on the board after the 8th pick and I was a bit perplexed and a bit angry. I was under the impression he was a top 3 or top 5 talent. I also knew that we had Morrow and other good young defense prospects. I looked up where Pouliot was ranked and thought to myself "Really, he might have fallen to 23." I remember have conversations post-draft with friends lamenting about how we got a reasonable return for Staal but then used the pick on another defenseman instead of Forsberg.

Now I have a bit of hindsight. Part of it comes from revisiting that 2007 draft. Angelo Esposito was at one time considered the top prospect overall heading into the draft. IIRC, he was still a top 5 guy up until draft day and then his stock began to slip a bit due to attitude and effort concerns. I was elated when the Pens grabbed him at 20. I figured that he wouldn't ever be as good as Crosby or Malkin, but maybe he could come close. He hasn't played a single NHL game. It's worth noting that maybe Shero felt burned by that pick (although we quickly traded him) and looked back on it when he passed on Forsberg. I don't even know if that's a bad or good thing; maybe Forsberg will be amazing. However, that's not my point. My point is it's pretty obvious what happened. First, for whatever reason, the Penguins had Pouliot higher on their board than Forsberg. Second, they had reason to believe that he wouldn't be around with their other first round pick. Honestly, it's really that simple. At this point, I don't mind it either. Looking back at what Shero probably learned from Esposito and then how he's done with Despres, Bennett and most recently Morrow, I'm willing to give Shero the benefit of the doubt when it comes to drafting. I think he's done pretty dang well in the first round and I expect that to continue in 2012 and onwards.

The content expressed in fanposts does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the staff here at FanPosts are opinions expressed by fans of various teams throughout the league but may be more Pittsburgh-centric for obvious reasons.

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