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NHL Draft: It might make sense for the Penguins to trade down

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Previewing value of draft picks in trades

NHL: NHL Draft Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Next weekend is the 2019 NHL Draft with the first round Friday night and the next six rounds on Saturday. The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to go 21st overall in the first round, then don’t pick again until 98th overall (which is Buffalo’s high fourth round pick, acquired in the Conor Sheary trade). After that the Pens don’t pick again until 145th, which is their own fifth round pick.

Lacking so much and only having one pick in the top 90 and two picks in the top 140, getting more draft picks would be a good idea for Pittsburgh. The best way to do that would be to trade back from the first pick.

This is also supported in the way this draft is setup. Going at #21, all the marquee, obvious blue-chip players will be long gone. The Pens may hope a prospect like Cam York or Ryan Suzuki might fall — and if a highly ranked player does fall, stay and take him!

But another scenario could be that at 21 there’s about five-six players all about the same. All with high potential ceilings, but all carrying a bit of risk to get there. Also, identification is a real problem at #21. It’s obvious that someone available will be good, but difficult to predict on draft night just who that will be.

In that case, why not trade back? It could be worth it, look at this data from Broad Street Hockey:

I pulled a list of trades from ‘06 to ‘12 which met these criteria:

The trade involved only picks, not players (since I don’t want to have to estimate how valuable those player are to get a sense for the market opinion about picks)

The exact position of every pick was known at the time of the trade (i.e. no trades that include a future 2nd round pick, since I don’t want to have to estimate how likely that pick was to be 31st or 60th)

This gave me 46 trades to work with -- 46 samplings of the underlying market exchange rate in the cap era. Now all I had to do was work out the conversion factors that explained those trades to get an estimate of how much value GMs put on each pick.

Pick #21 has a value (1-100, 100 being highest) of about 22.

A decent enough trade — according to the past market set, it would mean Carolina giving up pick #28 overall (value: ~15) and pick #59 overall (value: ~4) and pick #90 (value: 1.1) to get up to #21 overall.

Or something like NYI giving up pick #23 and pick #57 to move up two spots at 21.

Takes two willing teams to tango, but depending on how the draft board shakes out, the Pens might have a chance to regain some picks they’ve traded away if they’re willing to move down at all.