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Drafting Goaltenders (2000-2002)

This article is the second part of my series on which teams do a good job of drafting goaltenders.  Yesterday I looked at how teams did from 2003-2005 and found that although early round picks tend to perform better than late round picks, the gap in performance isn't enough to justify choosing goalies early in the draft.  I also noted that there were a few teams that may be using distinct draft strategies over that three-year period, whether it was systematically ignoring goaltenders or using only late-round picks to draft them.  Today's article will focus on the years 2000-2002.  After the jump we'll look at the data and compare the results from this period to the years 2003-2005.

Before I get rolling, I should first remind readers of the criteria I'm using to evaluate individual draft picks:



With that criteria in mind, here's how each team fared from 2000-2002:


You know that a list is good when the Calgary Flames are at the bottom of the heap.  On the other hand, you know that there's a problem when Jeff Deslauriers can push your club to fifth spot.  Deslauriers is probably the biggest example of jobbing the system I can think of.  He was drafted 31st overall which means he's as close to a first round pick as one can be while still getting only the second round pick starting subtraction.  He was also never intended to be a starting goaltender for the Oilers this season but because of the injury to Nikolai Khabibulin, he played in 48 games.  These two factors combine to give Deslauriers an individual contribution of +8 to the Oilers' score. Clearly, there are still some kinks to work out (suggestions welcome).

Setting the Oilers aside, there are some teams on this list who are still set to make big gains.  Craig Anderson has established himself as an NHL goalie and will probably drag the Chicago Blackhawks into positive territory by the end of his current contract with the Avalanche.  If they can stay healthy, Kari Lehtonen (somewhat likely) and Rick DiPietro (extremely unlikely) should also improve the numbers for Atlanta and Long Island respectively.  Cam Ward will almost certainly push Carolina's total higher for years to come, as will Ilya Bryzgalov for Anaheim.  Henrik Lundqvist could well put the Rangers at the very top of this chart in ten years time despite the anchor of failed first round pick Dan Blackburn pushing down the Rangers' score.

The Rangers, it turns out, are an interesting case.  They were the only one team that used a first-round pick to select a goaltender in both three-year segments.  And not only were they first rounders, both picks were in the top ten!  Admittedly, the pick of Al Montoya in 2004 probably had a lot to do with Dan Blackburn's injury but that's still an awful lot of draft capital to invest in goalies, especially considering their performance. Henrik Lundqvist being plucked out of the seventh round in 2000 really saves them.

Lundqvist's performance illustrates another problem with this kind of evaluation.  To some degree, I'm measuring luck as much as skill or strategy.  Some teams have done well in both segments (Anaheim, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Ottawa and Tampa are in the top ten both times), and some have done poorly in both segments (Vancouver and Florida are in the bottom ten both times) but it's not enough to say with confidence that these teams are either very good or very bad.  Further, how much credit should the L.A. Kings get for drafting Cristobal Huet?  Or the Flyers for Roman Cechmanek?

For those two examples, I think the answer is both "quite a bit" and "not much" at the same time.  From 2003-2005, the teams identified as following the "lots late" strategy in the draft were the Flyers, Kings, Lightning, Predators and Sharks.  The Flyers, Kings and Lightning continued that trend in this three-year segment with all three teams choosing at least four goalies and none in the first two rounds.  That makes six consecutive years of data for these teams with a lot of goalies drafted and none in the first two rounds which may imply a distinct strategy from management.  If so, they deserve some credit for following what is, in my opinion, a very good strategy but not much credit for having one of their many shots in the dark pan out. The Predators and Sharks, meanwhile, also avoided choosing goalies in the first two rounds for another three-year period, but this time took three goalies or less overall.  Still, they may well belong in a group with the Flyers, Kings and Lightning as teams who have decided not to select goalies in the early rounds.

Other teams who employed  the "lots late" strategy from 2000-2002 but who didn't from 2003-2005 are the Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings.  All three clubs picked four or more goalies in the third round or later from 2000-2002 but then picked at least one goalie in the first two rounds from 2003-2005.  The Penguins in particular are an interesting case.  The failure of all six of the guys they drafted late from 2000-2002 to make even a dent at the NHL level may have been one reason they decided to use the first overall pick on Marc-Andre Fleury in 2005.  Personally, I still it was a mistake (imagine that team with Eric Staal) and that the Penguins could have found goaltending close to what Fleury is providing on the free agent market. 

There were also teams from 2003-2005 who selected only one goaltender.  However, the Red Wings, Islanders, Avalanche and Coyotes all selected at least three goalies from 2000-2002 which suggests that the idea of never selecting goalies hasn't been a persistent strategy for these clubs.  The only two teams to select one goaltender from 2000-2002 were the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens, two teams with strong and relatively young netminders in Martin Brodeur and Jose Theodore (seriously, he won the Vezina in 2002) when these drafts took place.  Basically, flat-out never choosing goalies doesn't seem to be a strategy used consistently by NHL teams.


Here's the breakdown of how many goalies were taken in each round of the draft over these three years and how each group performed:


As expected, the goalies drafted in the first two rounds see their average total rise as time passes.  We also see that the average first rounder isn't a good bet to be starting for your team eight to ten years after being drafted.  Of the nine goalies who were selected in the first round from 2000-2002, only four of them managed to start forty games in any one NHL season.  So - and I'll make sure to mention this at least once in each of the four posts in this series - don't take goalies in the first round.

One final point of comparison that I found interesting between 2000-2002 and 2003-2005 is that the number of goalies picked really starts to take off in the fifth round both years.  So, if you happen to be working for an NHL team and your team has an obscure goalie in mind, it might behoove you to select said netminder in the fourth round before a lot of teams start throwing out names.