I’ve been having some odd dreams recently, sort of related to the NHL draft. I’ve made my complaints in the past about the selections made by New Jersey Devils. And then I dreamed I was arguing with a yam. It went something like this.
Me: Yes, I do believe the New Jersey Devils’ drafting has been a disappointment. It’s part of the reason why they're rebuilding now.
Yam: Psh, that's because the scouts overthink it. I could have done a better job.
Me: How are you even talking? You are a yam.
Yam: The power of belief.
Anyway, the yam went on to also proclaim that A) it’s a cousin of the potato that stepped in for Toronto’s GM a couple years back by this Bower Power post at Pension Plan Puppets and B) it thinks Sham Sharron, a summer intern who claims to be as smart and hardworking as a potato, is all hat and no cattle. Sharron was used by Rhys Jessop at Canucks Army used for a similar experiment regarding Vancouver’s past picks. I figured on giving this yam a shot because who was I to just argue with a yam? That's silly.
Me: OK, yam, we’ll go through the past New Jersey Devils draft picks. How far back do you want to go?
Yam: Ten years.
Me: Fine. How are you going to do this?
Yam: That Sham Sharron thought he was potato-level lazy. He looked up numbers and stuff. I would just rely on Central Scouting Service rankings. They’re part of the NHL, they have to know stuff. Whoever was the highest ranked by them should’ve been picked by the Devils.
Me: OK, CSS rankings it is. So how will you decide between European and North American based skaters? Not to mention goalies and skaters?
Yam: I won’t. I’m a yam.
Yam: I’m just going to use the North American skater rankings. It's the longest list, most players are drafted out of North America, and so those rankings will give me the most options.
Me: So no goalies. No players from Europe. Just whoever had the highest CSS ranking when the Devils’ pick came up. No trades of the pick. No rationalizations on how this affected the draft in that year.
Yam: Yes. I’m a yam. I don't care about the space-time continuum.
Me: OK, then get to it. We’ll sum up games played and points to keep things consistent.
Yam: You do it.
Me: This is your idea.
Yam: I’m a yam. I’m lazy. I can't look up stuff online anyway.
In order to get the information needed for this experiment, I needed CSS rankings from the past, actual draft results, and a source for basic stats for comparison. Fortunately, all three are available. The Draft Analyst has final rankings by CSS as far back as 2002. For draft results, HockeyDB has a complete history by team. As for stats from the player’s draft year and their NHL career, Elite Prospects has it all. Let’s jump right into it. I’ll even let the yam have its say.
Yam: What a crummy class by New Jersey. Only Vladimir Zharkov played beyond one season and even that didn't last long.
Me: Uh, yam? I don’t know if you have a name, but, uh, you kind of whiffed in 2006. Even harder than the Devils. Only Cory Emmerton actually made it into the NHL. Even so, he's not there anymore. He's playing in Switzerland now with HC Ambri-Potta. At least four out of the eight actual guys picked got a chance in the NHL.
Yam: What's that ‘X’?
Me: I was surprised that Graham Potuer wasn’t drafted by anyone at all yet he made the top 100 in CSS’ North American skater rankings. I’ll be marking those picks with an ‘X’ under ND for not drafted.
Yam: 2007 will be better anyway.
Yam: Come on!
Me: You managed to nail the Mike Hoeffel pick in the second round. That didn’t work. Neither did any of the others that came from your list.
Yam: It’s not like the Devils benefited from Matt Halischuk.
Me: No, but he turned into Jason Arnott for a season and made it to the pros. That’s a lot better than Matt Fillier.
Yam: I’ll be proven right in time!
Yam: That time isn’t 2008.
Me: Four undrafted players!
Me: Say what you want about 2008’s class but Adam Henrique was a home run and Patrice Cormier helped bring in Ilya Kovalchuk. Mattias Tendenby didn’t work out but he was way better than Colby Robak.
Yam: He was ranked in the top ten!
Me: So he was.
Yam: HA! I win!
Yam: Score one for the yam! Eat me, Sham Sharron!
Yam: Just by CSS rankings alone, I picked out a crew that ended up with more points and more games played.
Me: No, you didn’t. New Jersey's picks combined for 475 games and your picks ended up at 467. Also, you both had Seth Helgeson. Cody Eakin and Jordan Schroeder versus Jacob Josefson, Eric Gelinas, and Alexander Urbom may be kind of a push. However, it's not much of a win.
Yam: Well, I’m a yam, what do you expect?
Yam: Booyah! I win again!
Me: You didn’t win 2009. But you did win 2010. I’ll give you and your method that.
Yam: Tyler Toffoli was waaaaaaay better than Jon Merrill. And a goalie? Stantislav Galiev says, “Get out of here." If Patrick McNally makes it - he just entered the AHL after four years at Harvard - then it’s a blowout win over the real draft class.
Me: How...how did you know that? I thought you were a yam and couldn't look up stuff online.
Yam: That was a lie. I’m actually that lazy.
Yam: So you did.
Me: I don’t think any Devils fan would trade it for Dougie Hamilton and some long shots. And is that Myles Bell?
Yam: Yes. He was a defenseman then.
Me: I see that. The Devils actually drafted him in two years. Apparently, he would've went before then.
Yam: Again, I don’t care about the space-time continuum.
Me: I think you want me to move on than looking at Hamilton and a lot of nothing.
Yam: You’d be right.
Me: At this point, we’re entering the draft years that are a bit too early to judge. In your case, I think you’d agree here.
Me: After all, Colton Sissons is only just making his way towards the NHL, Scott Kosmachuk, and the others are abroad, in the minors, or in Deblouw’s case, still in college. Likewise, Alexander Kerfoot is in college, Graham Black just got dealt for cap space, Stefan Matteau got moved for Devante Smith-Pelly, and so outside of Damon Severson, the Devils didn’t come away with much. But it may slightly change in a year or two.
Yam: So I could still win 2012.
Me: I wouldn’t get your hopes up.
Me: I see Myles Bell...twice. He makes this post three times due to his high CSS ranking.
Yam: Yeah, what of it? Let’s go Bell!
Me: You might have to do it in Norwegian. He played in that country last season.
Yam: Maybe you need to accept that not making the NHL is a success.
Me: It isn’t if you’re a NHL team making these picks with the hopes of those prospects playing for your team someday.
Yam: Well, yeah, but it’s still early!
Me: Maybe so, but Steven Santini and Miles Wood just got a taste and I think they’ll get more in the future - soon.
Yam: Let’s move on.
Yam: Hey, nobody made into the NHL. And two of those Devils picks aren’t even Devils anymore. I claim victory by default!
Me: I don’t see how. At this point, judging these classes is essentially based on who you’d rather have in your system.
Yam: Well, I prefer my picks!
Me: Even though nobody in real life picked two of them?
Yam: Shut up, and let’s move on.
Me: Lawson Crouse instead of Pavel Zacha? Oh, the fans would’ve hated that. and your method. In case the better past of the last ten draft years we’ve done in this experiment didn't show that.
Me: Again, this is another “What would you rather have?” situation where there isn't a real winner at all yeat. It’s entirely possible your five picks instead of the actual picks made by New Jersey will turn out to be better in time. But, again, Crouse instead of Zacha? Ooof.
Me: No last words before a summary?
Yam: I’m a yam.
Me: Of course.
The Totals of all Drafted Players by New Jersey that Made At Least One NHL Game
That's 23 players with a grand total of 2,217 games played, 227 goals scored, 421 assists awarded, and 648 points earned. The most successful picks based purely on length of NHL career were Adam Henrique in 2008, Matt Halischuk in 2007, Adam Larsson in 2011, and Jacob Josefson in 2009.
Yam: OK, let’s wrap this experiment up.
Me: You don't want to see your method’s totals?
Me: Too bad.
The Totals of all Drafted Players by Highest CSS Ranking (The Yam Method) that Made At Least One NHL Game
That's 12 players with a grand total of 1,231 games played, 193 goals scored, 289 assists awarded, and 482 points earned. The most successful picks based purely on length of NHL career were Cody Eakin in 2009, Dougie Hamilton in 2011, Tyler Toffoli in 2010, and Cory Emmerton in 2006.
Yam: Shut up.
Me: Your method was far less successful than what the Devils actually did. Even with nearly all of the picks being in the top 100 according to Central Scouting Services’ rankings.
Me: On top of that, your method yielded 18 players that weren't drafted at all in the actual NHL draft. None of those players ever made one single NHL appearance.
Yam: You need to check your privilege.
Me: It says your method sucks.
Yam: I suppose it did.
Me: I'll give you this, yam. This experiment doesn't invalidate the idea that the New Jersey Devils’ drafts since 2006 have not been all that successful. It just means that picking solely by a ranking from a scouting service - even one that's a part of the NHL - has a lot of flaws. While the rankings come from people who viewed the players and put in plenty of time and research into them, there’s only so much time to really compare so many different players in different leagues at different points in their development. Combined with the fact that the 17 or 18 year old (or older) player is being picked with the hope they’ll be a NHL player in the future, and so there’s a lot of inherent risk involved. To that end, the rankings by CSS or any other service should be seen with others as a consensus of multiple perspectives may reduce that risk.
On top of that, a ranking alone be it by CSS, International Scouting Services, Corey Pronman, and so forth, does not mean the prospect absolutely will be better for that team. It is possible that these prospects in New Jersey’s system may have turned out for the better (or worse). The needs of the organization’s system do factor to a degree, as does the arguments made by the scouts who’ve seen him. Putting a draft board together is difficult. Simplifying it down to just using a service, however, doesn’t guarantee success. It led to the opposite in this experiment. While that's not what you expected or thought of, it’s still something to takeaway.
Yam: OK. I’ve learned that much. Which is pretty good for a yam.
Me: One last thing, and I know you’re going to hate this but...
Yam: You have to talk about that scrub, Sham Sharron.
Me: Yes. Sham Sharron may not truly be as lazy like you or your cousin, the potato. However, his experiments would have yielded more success. While it's dated as it was done in 2014, Rhys Jessop at Canucks Army modified the experiment and ran it three times - each with a variation - for making picks solely among forwards in the Canadian major junior leagues based on points alone. He found that Sharron would have yielded a little more talent than the Devils actually did. Your mileage may vary on that given there are no defensemen, but it is better than your method of just doing an auto-draft based on the North American skater rankings by Central Scouting Services.
Yam: I didn't beat Sharron?
Me: I don’t know what you - or I - expected. You’re a yam.
Yam: Indeed, I am. Don’t rely on me for drafts.
Me: I certainly won’t.
More seriously, I won't be making posts in this much detail about odd dreams for some time. But I do hope you appreciate the purpose and conclusion of this experiment. As useful as CSS rankings may be to show how others rate a prospect or provide an idea about where they can go. But they shouldn’t be seen as a be-all, end-all statement that should guide teams into picking certain players. If the Devils just used it, then they’d be even worse off from a prospect and player perspective as they are now. Teams need to do their own homework to justify their board - and they do. So take the ratings of services with a bit more than a grain of salt and pay more attention about what they see in a prospect and/or why they rated them they way they did. Thank you for reading.