Saturday, June 8, 2013

2013 NHL Draft Part 4--Moving up the ladder, a look at the 4th thru 6th picks

The 2013 NHL Draft will be upon us soon. The Buffalo Sabres, for the second season in a row, have four picks in first two rounds. They have the #8 and #16 in the first round, #38 and #52 in the second.

Many believe that the team should do anything they can to get into the top-3 this year to land a "franchise player." Sabres GM Darcy Regier is actively trying to move up, but going from 8th into the top-3 is nearly impossible, and as we see here, not many picks in the 4th-6th spots get moved.

Chances are the Buffalo Sabres will be drafting somewhere around #8.

The following series looks at past drafts from 1979-2003, bookending what are widely considered the best drafts ever over that 25-year span, and what that might mean for the Sabres in this year's draft.

In looking at 25 drafts from 1979 to 2003, having a pick in the 7-9 area of the draft wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Hall-of-Famers and All-Stars were there for the pickin' in those slots, especially in deep drafts or those with a strong top-9.

Moving up in the draft obviously increases the odds of landing an impact player (HOF, All-Star.) Just how much will be looked at today.

The #4-6 picks yeild quality in nearly all draft classes.

The Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning had the three worst records in the NHL last season and own the first three picks in the 2013 NHL draft. Seth Jones, Nate MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin had stellar junior seasons displaying superstar/elite talent and it would seem as if those three players will go to those three teams.

The consensus for this year's draft is that the first four or five picks all would garner 1st-overall pick consideration in last year's draft and that as many as eight players could be NHL-ready for the 2012-13 season.

The jury's still out on just how deep this draft is, but even the pessimist believes that there's a "deep top-ten" this year even though they see just an "OK first round."

With obvious strength in the top-three it would be hard to imagine any of those teams moving out of that slot, so it's the 4th thru 6th picks where things can get interesting.

Teams in that range are in various team-building stages and are looking to add an impact player there. They're also in a very good position to move up into the top-three if they have a trading partner, the assets to do so and are willing to make a "knock your socks off" type offer.

Or, if they think they can get the same type of player a few picks lower, they can trade down and get an extra pick.

It depends upon the team, where they are in their team-building process and how the previous season unfolded.

Teams in that range might be solid and consistent team like Nashville (4th-overall pick) but had an off season. Or they could be like the Calgary Flames (6th) who are in full-fledged rebuild mode.

The Carolina Hurricanes have the fifth pick and they have strength in some areas yet big holes in others.

All three of those teams in the 4-6 spots can find an impact player to fill their need in the draft this year.

Nashville needs scoring. Alexsander Barkov, considered by some as a top-three talent this year, is a big center who can put the puck in the net and will be there at #4 unless one of the top-three drop. In any scenario the Preds will be getting an impact player who's NHL-ready if they stay put.

If Carolina wants impact on defense, one of three d-men will be there for the taking. Or if they want a power forward on the wing, Valeri Nichushkin, who's also said to be NHL-ready, should be available.

And as Calgary begins their rebuild, there will be a number of players to chose from at #6 including big, highly regarded centerman, Sean Monahan, "the forgotten man," according to The Red Line Report's Kyle Woodlief (USA Today.)

Those picks in the 4-6 range have routinely provided an elite/impact player with significant upside, especially in a deep draft.

In the five drafts we've focused upon (1979, 2003, 1983, 1988, 1990) those 15 picks in the 4-6 range yeilded two HOF'ers (Mike Gartner, 1979; Steve Yzerman, 1983,)  one sure fire HOF'er (Jaromir Jagr 1990,) and six All-Stars.

Only one year--1988--would be considered a bust in that draft range with Darrin Shannon (#4, Pitt) playing more than 500 NHL games (506.).

The chances of landing an impact player (HOF'er, All-Star) is 60%.

Additionally, between 1979 and 2003 that 4-6 range yeilded four more HOF'ers:  Larry Murphy, Paul Coffey (1980,) Ron Francis (1981,) Scott Stevens (1982) and one future HOF'er in Peter Forsberg (1991.)

All totaled, those 25 draft years from 1979 to 2003 yeilded six HOF'ers plus 20 All-Stars to date for a total of 26 impact players in the 4-6 range. A 35% chance overall for a team to land an impact player in those spots.

Comparing the 4-6 range with the 7-9 picks, both ranges yeilded a 60% chance of landing an impact player in the five drafts encapsulated in this series.

The odds of landing an impact player overall using the 1979-2003 draft classes increase from 24% in the 7-9 range to 35% in the 4-6 range.

Maybe because of that, most teams retain those picks.

Looking at those 25 years, the 4-6 pick has changed hands seven times-1980, 1981, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002--or 9% of the time.

Recent draft history shows even a lesser chance of a team moving out of the 4-6 slots. From 2004-2012 those picks have changed hands twice--2004 and 2008--or 7% of the time.

For the Sabres and GM Darcy Regier, chances are that the 1-4 spots this year are off limits, a severe overpayment will be necessary to move into the 5 and 6 slots, and the 8th pick should be just as good as the 7th pick.

Which means that Buffalo will probably start the 2013 draft with #8. And even though the 8th pick normally doesn't produce a superstar, elite talent can be had there. That pick, along with a second first rounder (#16,) should add two significant pieces to the Sabres "new core."

Two is good, but adding a third 1st-round pick in this year's draft might even be better.

Next:  The LA Kings model

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