2010 NHL Draft Preview - Fishing Holes

About a year ago, Kent Wilson wrote an article which mentioned the tendency of certain teams to draft an atypically large number of players from certain leagues.  The article is actually is actually entitled "The Best Player Available Myth," so that right there should give you an idea of what it's about.  The whole article is well worth a read but I'm going to focus on the following excerpt from that article for today's piece:

"This may be why clubs develop what I call "fishing holes", by which I mean they concentrate their scouting in certain amateur/developmental leagues (for the Flames, it's the WHL/CHL) - they can become familiar with the relative degree and value of the competition and therefore can more capably gauge a prospects level of performance."

Now, the Flames are an extreme example drafting more players from one league (WHL) than any other NHL club but it is true that all teams have their own "fishing holes," i.e. areas where they draft proportionally more players than the rest of the league.  After the jump we'll take a look at the tendencies for all thirty NHL teams.

What I've done in the following charts is taken all of the players selected in the last five NHL entry drafts (2005-2009) and calculated what percentage of draftees were taken from each league.  Here are the percentages for each of the leagues:

Fishing_holes_totals_medium

The next several charts will group teams by division and look at how much their draft tendencies diverge from the NHL norms listed above.  Each chart will be colour-coded with "hot" spots (marked in red) and "cold" spots (marked in blue).  The more pronounced the shading is, the more that team diverges from the league norm.  If the team stays within 2% of the league average, there is no shading, a difference of 2-5% gets light shading, 5-10% more pronounced and 10%+ is brightly coloured.  I'll use the WHL as an example: a team that drafted between 14.01% and 18.01% of their prospects from the WHL receives no shading.  Between 11.01% and 14.01% would be shaded lightly blue, 6.01% and 11.01% a more pronounced blue and anything less than 6.01% bright blue.  Between 18.01% and 21.01% would be shaded lightly red, 21.01% and 26.01% a more pronounced red and 26.01% or more, bright red.

Fishing_holes_pacific_medium

Fishing_holes_northwest_medium

Fishing_holes_central_medium

Fishing_holes_southeast_medium

Fishing_holes_northeast_medium

Fishing_holes_atlantic_medium

One of the fun ways that this data may help is in looking at prospects leading up to the draft.  The Oilers, for instance, have a couple of second round picks and I know that I'll be taking a closer look at the Swedish prospects slated for the second round a bit more closely as we approach the draft.  Here's a quick synopsis of each team's favourite and least favourite spots relative to league average:

Fishing_holes_summary_medium

And now, just a few quick notes on some things I found interesting:

  • The Los Angeles Kings had the most draft picks of any team over the last five years with 46.  They also happen to diverge less from league norms than many of the other clubs.  This should warn us to take the data with a grain of salt, especially the areas that are lightly shaded.  The sample size here just isn't very large.
  • No one had fewer draft picks than the Vancouver Canucks who ended up with only 29.  In that the draft was seven rounds all five years, a team would have 35 picks if they made no trades and always signed their first round picks.
  • Several teams took one player from a less prominent league.  The Thrashers took one player from the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, the Bluejackets one from the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, the Avalanche one player from a Norwegian league, the Kings one from the Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League, the Wild one from a Belarussian league, the Devils one from the Atlantic Junior Hockey League, the Rangers one from the Western Ontario Junior B Hockey League and the Maple Leafs one from the Alberta AAA Midget Hockey League.
  • And then there's the Senators.  They selected one player from the Kootneay International Junior Hockey League, one player from a Latvian league and one player from a Canadian high school.  They're also one of two teams - the other is Chicago - who have all three of the CHL leagues as "cold spots."
  • The Boston Bruins, Phoenix Coyotes and New York Rangers drafted 11 Czechs over the last five years.  The rest of the NHL drafted 14.  NHL teams took more players out of the BCHL than they did out of the Czech Republic and more out of the AJHL than they did out of Slovakia.  Those leagues are really hurting for young talent.
  • The Dallas Stars must take kids out of the smaller leagues on purpose.  Their "hot spots" are the BCHL, the OPJHL, US high school and US midget.  All of those players are on track to go the NCAA route but the Stars may also feel that those players get fewer views from other teams and thus they have a better chance at uncovering a very talented player.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins didn't select a single player from the WHL in the last five years.  Darryl Sutter stands in awe of their foolishness.
  • The Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames love players from the WHL.  Somewhat surprisingly, the Oilers really don't and yet they still trusted their WHL scout and took Cameron Abney.  So weird.  In  perhaps the least surprising revelation on the chart, the Wild also love US high schoolers.
  • The Carolina Hurricanes haven't taken a single player from a US high school or the USHL (outside of the U18 team). I wonder if they bother scouting that area.

The next project will be to check the hot spots for these teams and see if they've had more success than usual finding good players in these areas, so look for that sometime before the draft.  Also, feel free to make notes and observations of your own in the comments!

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