10 Years of Drafts – Part 3

Part 3 of 3.

If you missed Part 1 or 2, you can  read them here and here. Basically I am taking a look back at the drafts from 1998 to 2008.  For this last post, I am focusing on 2005, 2006, 2007 and finally, 2008.

A quick reminder of what information I am posting for each draft year:

  • Number  of players drafted (which strangely fluctuates from year to year!)
  • Percentage of players drafted  that have yet to play a single NHL game. I didn’t omit players who played one or two games because I think it’s pretty incredible that they were even able to play in the NHL at all.  If I were to make a calculation of players drafted who actually made a career out of playing NHL hockey, we’d be looking at percentages of less than 20%
  • Highest drafted player to have never yet played a single NHL game – aka the first round bust
  • Player I wish the Habs had drafted instead of….  I never looked at the first round because it was far more fun to look at late round “lucky picks”. Besides, I was in no mood to get into the ” 2003:  Should have picked [insert 20 player names here] instead of Andrei Kostitsyn” debate

note: I used the wonderful www.hockeydb.com for the draft statistics, and good ol’ Google searching to learn more about the players that never were.

2005 Draft – Ottawa

# Drafted
% Never Played
Highest Pick to Never Play
I wish the Habs had Drafted…
…instead of
230
57.4
13- Marek Zagrapen (Buf)
7-230 Patric Hornqvist
7-229 Philippe Paquet

The lockout is over! The lockout is over! Sidney Crosby goes to Pittsburgh and much to the chagrin of many Habs fans, the Montreal Canadiens use their highest pick since 1984 to draft goaltender Carey Price, 5th overall. Who was left on the board? No one that hasn’t had the same inconsistencies as Price. People say…why didn’t we take Anze, what about Setoguchi? Thing is, they have had ups and downs and both are having a worse season than Carey.  So right now, I’d take Price over anyone else left on the board after the 5th pick in 2005.

As we have seen before, the highest pick yet to play in the NHL is again found in the middle of the pack. Marek Zagrapen’s story is the common story. He came over to the QMJHL from the Czech Republic when he was about 16 or 17 and put up over 1.5 points a game for his two seasons there.  He was described as a flashy playmaking centre…unfortunately he was also described as having a bad attitude and not pushing himself to take it to the next level. So, after two mediocre seasons in the AHL he fled for Europe, played a mediocre season in the KHL and now is with the Czech league. He’s been called the Sabres worst pick of the decade. His mother must be very proud.

Some of you may be wondering about my wish pick, because in all honesty, their are definetly better late round picks than Patric Hornqvist (ie Keith Yandl), but there’s something special about being the last guy picked and still making a career in the NHL. The Habs picked the guy before last, and he hasn’t played a game. My wish pick is more of a “good for you!” pick, because of all the years this series looked back at, Hornqvist is one of only two players picked last to actually make it to the NHL.

2006 Draft – Vancouver

# Drafted
% Never Played
Highest Pick to Never Play
I wish the Habs had Drafted…
…instead of
213
65.3
19- Mark Mitera (Ana)
2-50 Milan Lucic
2-49 Ben Maxwell

We are getting to draft years where they are still too recent to know the full impact. For instance, 65% of those drafted haven’t played a game, and over 70% in 2007 and 2008 also haven’t played an NHL game. I suspect these numbers will change, and will even off to the average 55% range.

Montreal Canadien fans: we are VERY VERY lucky that Anaheim picked Mark Mitera (19th) before we picked David Fischer (20th), or we’d have the honour of highest drafted player to never play an NHL game. Though we aren’t our of the woods just yet. Mark Mitera has been progressing, and he may be called up for an NHL game this season or next…

So what has stopped this first rounder of 2006 from making it “to the show”. For starters, he spent four years at Michigan because he wanted to finish his degree. Then, in his last year, he tore his ACL. The consensus is that he is good enough to play at the highest level, but he is behind the rest of his draft year because of his fours years playing CCHA hockey. Ducks fans are still hopeful that he will make the jump.

My wish-pick is a good one, especially given that we recently traded Ben Maxwell. Milan Lucic is the kind of player I hate when he isn’t on our team, but he is exactly the type of player that the Habs need. Lucic can score, but more importantly, he has a mean-streak, is tough, and there isn’t a player on the current Habs roster like him. Another person who wishes Lucic were a Hab? Mike Komisarek. Had Lucic not fought Komisarek in 2008/2009, Komisarek doesn’t hurt his shoulder, an injury that has plagued him ever since and contributed to his reduced ice-time. It should be noted however, that my sympathy for Komisarek is about zero, and I am happy he took the extra $500k to go to the Leafs….

2007 Draft – Columbus

# Drafted
% Never Played
Highest Pick to Never Play
I wish the Habs had Drafted…
…instead of
211
%73
4- Thomas Hickey (LA)
4-97 Linus Omark
3-73 Yannick Weber

I like the Habs 2007 picks, Max Pacioretty in the first round and our friend PK Subban in the second. Not too shabby Montreal! Does anybody remember the line PK gave after his was picked? A reporter asked him “what does PK stand for?” and without missing a beat he replied “Penalty Kill”… And that’s when I fell in love :)

As I said, we are into the more recent drafts, so the number of players to not yet play is surprisingly high, as is the highest pick to never play in the NHL (yet). With the #4 pick, LA went with Thomas Hickey. It was a surprising pick, as he was definitely not projected to go that high. None the less, he did win two gold medals with at the World Juniors for Canada, and was captain of the 2009 team. From what I’ve read, his first professional season in the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs was injury plagued and he appeared in less than 20 games, thereby stalling his development and entire year. This season, he was invited to the Kings training camp, but was sent back to the Monarchs.

Keep in mind, he is a defenseman that was drafted in 2007, and we are only in 2011, so it hasn’t been that long. Defenseman always take longer to develop and he will eventually get a call-up as he is still a highly regarded prospect. There are many good pieces on the net about Hickey. The all  speak about his dedication, his speed and his vision. You can read them here, here or here. His status of being the highest drafted player to never see NHL ice is not a permanent one, and I am willing to bet he gets his shot next season.

About my wish pick – don’t get me wrong…I like Weber, it’s just that I have to make this decision and there’s really no one else that I’d replace with who the Habs picked. I’ve only seen Omark play a couple times, but that shootout goal was a sure-fire way to make a splash and a name for himself. In 5 years, I might not feel the same, but right now, on the Habs roster I would like Omark over Weber.

2008 Draft – Ottawa (again!)

# Drafted
% Never Played
Highest Pick to Never Play
I wish the Habs had Drafted…
…instead of
211
%75.4
11- Kyle Beach (Chi)
7-186 Jason Demers
5-138 Maxim Trunev

When I first started writing this series, the #10 pick, Cody Hodgson (Van) was the highest drafted player to never play. He has now played about 8 games, and so the honour now goes to Kyle Beach. This may also change soon, as Beach has been called up before, he just didn’t actually get to play.

Kyle Beach is a rough and tumble power forward. He has a reputation for not being able to keep his emotions in check and has had issues on and off the ice with teamates. I don’t like labelling these prospects as bad seeds, but everything I have read about Beach refers to his nasty streak and his inability to control his emotions. Check out his penalty minutes at every level he’s played in! By that same token, everyone also speaks about his tremendous skill.  This article seems to be a good balance on both points of view. It demonstrate that the Blackhawks still have him high on their depth chart as he was one of a few select Chicago prospects invited to join the team during their Stanley Cup run… apparently to “get a taste of it”.  Beach is learning to control himself, and the Hawks hope he can fill the hole left by Byfuglien, if not this season then hopefully next season.

My wish pick is Jason Demers. As you may have noticed, I am partial to the Sharks…some might say they are my 2nd team. There are handful of Sharks players I would love to see in a Habs uniform, and Jason Demers is one of them. He’s no Markov in terms of QB’ing the powerplay, he isn’t even a PK Subban. But he’s big and strong, and has an offensive upside. I would take him over Paul Mara, Alexandre Picard or Yannick Weber any day.

=================

Conclusion

I’ll make this short…it’s already been a long read. After reviewing 10 years of drafts, I have this to say: In order to make it to the NHL, no only do you need to be the best at every level, but you need to be lucky. A lot of these guys who haven’t been called up aren’t any worse than someone like a Picard or a Pyatt or a White. In order to be drafted you obviously have hockey skills, but I think a little luck, a nice shift here or there while your GM is looking, makes all the difference.

Hope you enjoyed the 3-part series!

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