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A Look At Sixth Overall Picks From the Last Ten Years

The anxiety is over. The hockey gods did not bestow upon us the Swedish sensation Rasmus Dahlin. Rather, Detroit fell one slot, and will pick sixth in the 2018 NHL entry draft. This will be the Red Wings highest pick since 1990 when they selected Keith Primeau third overall. From the looks of it, however, the Wings are set to land a very good player, who will most likely become our best prospect.While we’ll be diving into each potential pick here at Wingsnation.com, what does previous draft history tell us? Looking at the history of not just sixth overall picks, but other available players could hint at what kind’ve player we’ll select on June 22nd. For this, I chose to only look at the past ten drafts from 2007-2016. Which means I’m excluding the 2017 draft, since it’s too early to tell what we have with those players.

The list below is each sixth overall pick and their draft year:

2016 Matthew Tkachuk
2015 Pavel Zacha
2014 Jake Virtanen
2013 Sean Monahan
2012 Hampus Lindholm
2011 Mika Zibanejad
2010 Brett Connolly
2009 Oliver Ekman-Larsson
2008 Nikita Filatov
2007 Sam Gagner

The majority of these players have gone on to have good NHL careers, some even being impact players. Excluding Tkachuk, Zacha, and Virtanen (their careers are just starting) every one of these players have played at least 300 NHL games, except Filatov. Filatov is the only player who could be labeled as a bust, as he never lived up to expectations and was unable to play a full season in the NHL. After 53 NHL games spread across four seasons, he left for the KHL. Brett Connolly and Sam Gagner also never became impact players, but have both managed to be proven NHLers. Jake Virtanen looks to be heading this way as well, but it’s still too early to say.

The high end of the spectrum is Ekman-Larsson and Lindholm. Both have become top pair defensemen. With this year’s draft being heavy on defense, chances are another stud blue-liner comes out of this class. In Detroit’s case, these should be the players they hope to get. In a tier slightly lower, players like Zibanejad, Monahan, and Tkachuk have also become key players in the NHL.

Based on those ten players, chances are looking pretty good Detroit walks out of Dallas happy. With only one player failing to hold an NHL job, I’d say we’re in pretty good shape. I would like to point out, however, that none of these players have ever won the Calder trophy, and I wouldn’t say any of them are bound for the Hall-of-fame. So the chances of the Wings landing a steal are pretty slim. If it makes you feel any better, Gagner shares a record with Wayne Gretzky.

But this can vary from team to team. Some scouting staffs haven’t always identified the best player with their sixth pick. For fun, let’s look at some players who were still available at six, but passed on and went in the same range.

2016 Clayton Keller
2015 Ivan Provorov
2015 Zach Werenski
2014 William Nylander
2012 Filip Forsberg
2011 Mark Scheifele
2011 Sean Couturier

I’m not going to dive into these players, but it just shows that some high quality players can slip to the sixth pick. It just takes a smart scouting staff to take the right player.

At the end of the day, Detroit is going to take a step forward in the rebuild. The graph below shows just how much value they’re expected to add with the sixth pick:

Graph courtesy of Sean Tierney of hockey-graphs.com

Now its up to Ken Holland & co. to make the right selection. This pick could make or break the team, but history tells us we shouldn’t have to worry.