Today was a big day in the hockey prospect world: TSN’s insider extraordinaire, Bob McKenzie, released his final 2019 NHL Draft rankings, meaning that just about every major pundit has released their rankings ahead of this Friday’s draft. But why is the release of the McKenzie draft ranking so important? Well, according to some research that I conducted last week, Bob McKenzie’s draft rankings have been the most accurate at predicting how the NHL Draft will go of any other ranking in the business. Not convinced? Let’s dive in:
A Look at the Last 5 Years
First and foremost, this exercise is attempting to uncover which set of draft rankings is the most effective at predicting the draft order, not how those prospects will pan out as NHL players. I’m going to discuss rankings by a variety of great scouts who have fascinating insights and may have been better than McKenzie at scouting the development of the prospects, but that is not the goal here. With that in mind, I compiled data of the last five drafts from eight different talent evaluators who are considered at the top of the field: Bob McKenzie (TSN), Craig Button (TSN), Corey Pronman (ESPN/Athletic), ISS, McKeen’s Hockey, Hockey Prospect, The Hockey News, and Future Considerations.
For each of these eight, I looked at their top 20 in each draft and then compared it to the actual result, pick-by-pick. I used three criteria to assess accuracy: how many of the top 10, 15, and 20 picks they got right. That is, not the order (too difficult), but the general ballpark. For example, if you had Filip Zadina third last year you get a point for being correct since you had him in the top 10 and he was picked in the top 10, even if he wasn’t picked at exactly the slot you had. I also kept track of how many players ranked in the top 20 were picked in the second round of the draft over the five year span as well. The results are shown in the chart below:
As seen in the chart, McKenzie comes out on top in ever single category, and often by a significant margin. On average, in the past five years, 8.8 of the 10 prospects he had ranked in his top 10 actually go in the top 10 of the draft. While that is impressive, what perhaps is most impressive is that 17 of his top 20 go in the top 20 on average, and he’s only had two players in his top 20 slip into the 2nd round over the past 5 years. That part is important for Red Wings fans, as it means that it is almost certain that no one in his top 20 this year is going to be available at pick #35, when Detroit drafts again in the 2nd round. On the other side of the coin, Corey Pronman comes out as the least accurate and with the highest degree of 2nd round error as well, which isn’t terribly surprising. Pronman is a very good scout whose opinions I value highly, but it is important to note that his opinions are not always shared by everyone around the league.
Finally, it’s important to note that this data largely aligns with an anecdotal sampling of McKenzie’s work as well. McKenzie has been quite good at picking up the trends that often surprise on draft day before they happen. For example, while some in the hockey world were surprised when Montreal picked Jesperi Kotkaniemi third last year, McKenzie had him in his top 5. He also had Brady Tkachuk ahead of Filip Zadina a year ago, which was an early sign that the talented Czech winger was going to fall down the board a bit.
Once again, if you’re looking at how the prospects are going to pan out as NHL players, I recommend using a wide range of data to reach that conclusion from most/all of these scouts. They are all incredibly knowledgeable and respected sources of information and all have their value in the NHL Draft world. However, when it comes to predicting what’s going to happen in the Draft this Friday, I would recommend looking at one set of rankings, and that set is Bob McKenzie.