This will be Tyler Wright’s fourth draft as director of amateur scouting for the Red Wings. Overall he has made thirty-one draft selections which so far has resulted in 263 games played combined. Dylan Larkin – his diamond in the rough – has played 247 of those games. The only other players to have played in the NHL are Evgeny Svechnikov (sixteen games) and Dominic Turgeon (five games).
Now, as the organization embraces a rebuild, it is crucial that Wright and his staff work some mid-round magic. They need to land a blue-chip player with their top-ten pick and from there find quality players. With eleven picks in this years draft, they need to come away with at least an impact player and a solid NHL player or two.
Looking at previous years can help the club avoid shooting themselves in the foot.
Drafting for Positional Needs
I’m going to apply this rule to the first two rounds. At some point you have to start picking multiple defensemen because you are desperate in that area and by round three the crap shoot is on. But for a team like Detroit who has a top-10 pick and three other high picks, they need to draft the BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE. This is how you maximize assets people. There are some scenarios where I can understand drafting for position in the top-10, but the Wings aren’t in that scenario. Larkin and maybe Anthony Mantha are their only current core pieces. That is it.
In today’s NHL you need at least three solid forward lines to compete. I know Detroit’s defensive corps is in shambles right now, but their forward group isn’t looking too hot either. I’m not saying to avoid any position, I’m saying not target one at the expense of a very good player.
If we look at the work by Namita Nandakumar on NHL draft strategies we see the benefits of drafting the best player available.
Specifically looking at the Philadelphia Flyers 2007 draft, we see just how much better they could have done. Hindsight is 20/20, especially considering Philadelphia found two good NHLers, which is pretty good. Consensus matters here, but with Detroit having the most draft picks of any team this year they should be able to identify players worthy of taking a swing at in multiple regions.
Heavily Valuing Size
Hello darkness my old friend. Last year Detroit bought into the idea that they can’t build a team around smaller players – specifically on the blue-line. While true, that doesn’t mean they should sacrificing value on over half on their picks for some behemoths. The NHL is changing, with smaller players making major impacts with their skills and smarts rather than their physical dominance.
Look no further than Grand Rapids Griffins defensemen Dylan McIlrath. Drafted by the New York Rangers 10th overall in 2010 for his size and toughness, the franchise is deeply regretting that selection with Cam Fowler being selected just two picks later.
Unfortunately we still see stuff like this happening today. Just like the aforementioned drafting tor positional need early on, the logic of taking best player available is thrown out the window if size is in consideration. Nandakumar also did work on losing excess value by outlining the differences of potential in Alex DeBrincat and Trent Frederic.
DeBrincat – who fell because of size – had obvious talents, being only the second player in OHL history to have three straight 50 goal seasons. However, a player such as Fredric was taken before him despite clearly having a lower ceiling. Debrincat has provided Chicago much more excess value than Fredric has given Boston. Or in other words, Debrincat outperforms his entry-level contract significantly more, and down the road gives Chicago a player they would have had to acquired via free agency or trade, saving them a boatload of money.
Point of the story is say “screw size” and take the high ceiling guys.
Considering the Russian Factor
Mother Russia has produced some phenomenal talent in recent years. Yet, the fear of some Russian players not coming over to North America right away have led to massive steals. The most prominent examples being Nikita Kucherov falling to the second round, Evgeny Kuznetsov slipping to the twenties, and Kirill Kaprizov becoming a 5th round pick. It might be a few more years until Kaprizov comes to the NHL, but when he does it will have been worth the wait for Wild fans.
While we all want to speed up the process of this rebuild, the key is to be patient. Does it really matter if you have to wait five years for your 3rd round pick to play in the NHL? I’ll take that chance any day of the week.
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