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Covering anything hockey but mostly stories involving my favourite team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. I try to update the blog every day or two and encourage comments and suggestions. Some of my influences are TSN's Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie. Enjoy







Thursday, March 4, 2010

Toronto's going to have a tough time aquiring a high-level forward for at least a couple years

First of all let's start by examining what the leafs have to work with draft-wise in the next two entry drafts:

2010 Entry draft picks:
3rd round (Toronto)
4th round (Phoenix)
5th round (New Jersey)
5th round (Toronto)
7th round (Phoenix)
7th round (Toronto)

2011 Picks
2nd round (Toronto)
4th round (Toronto)
5th (Toronto)
6th (Toronto)
7th (Toronto)
7th (Anaheim)

What I see here is a clear lack of quality picks coupled with a relatively low quantity given that we're in a supposed "rebuilding" phase.

Now heres a look at some interesting statistics regarding the ages, draft positions and other methods of acquiring top level NHL players:

Current scoring leaders and draft positions (as of 6pm March 3rd):

Name - Draft round/number (age) d: drafted by current team, t: traded to current team

1. Ovechkin - 1/1 (24) d
2. H. Sedin - 1/3 (29) d
3. Crosby - 1/1 (22) d
4. Thornton - 1/1 (30) t
5. Backstrom - 1/4 (22) d
6. St. Louis - Undrafted (34) t (traded early in career)
7. Stamkos - 1/1 (20) d
8. Kane - 1/1 (21) d
9. Gaborik - 1/3 (28) t
10. B. Richards - 3/64 (29) t
11. Heatley - 1/2 (29) t
12. Malkin - 1/2 (23) d
13. Kopitar - 1/11 (22) d
14. Kovalchuk - 1/1 (26) t
15. Semin - 1/13 (25) d
16. Marleau - 1/2 (30) d
17. Parise - 1/17 (25) d
18. Getzlaf - 1/19 (24) d
19. Plekanec - 3/71 (27) d
20. Green - 1/29 (24) d
21. Perry - 1/28 (24) d
22. Nash - 1/1 (25) d
23. Iginla - 1/11 (32) t (traded in draft year)
24. M. Koivu - 1/6 (26) d
25. Lecavalier - 1/1 (29) d
26. D. Sedin - 1/2 (29) d
27. Connolly - 1/5 (28) t (traded 2 years after draft)
28. Kesler - 1/23 (25) d
29. Statsny - 2/44 (24) d
30. Eriksson - 2/33 (24) d

- Average age: 26
- Average draft position: ~13th overall
- 25/30 drafted in 1st round
- 2/30 2nd round
- 2/30 3rd round
- 1/30 undrafted
- 22/25 drafted in 1st round
- 8 first overall picks
- 5 of top 8 are 1st overall picks
- 10 of top 12 drafted 4th overall or earlier
- 17 of 30 drafted 10th overall or earlier
- 22/30 remain on same team they were drafted by
- 25/30 still on the same team they were farmed with

What this essentially tells us is that top notch NHL scorers are almost unconditionally acquired through the draft and are typically selected in the first round. Toronto will have some serious difficulty getting their hands on a franchise player without a first round pick in the next two drafts. It also shows how much the Kessel deal will impact the future of the team as the lottery pick we would have had for the 2010 draft has huge potential to produce a marquee player. If the leafs continue on their current path, Boston is likely to receive a top 3 selection and acquire the potential franchise forward which Toronto badly needs.

Top Goaltenders by GAA (Min 30 games played):

1. Rask - 1/21 (22) t (traded before any NHL games)
2. Miller - 5/138 (29) d
3. Kiprusoff - 5/116 (33) t
4. Howard - 2/64 (25) d
5. Nabokov - 9/219 (34) d
6. Huet - 7/214 (34) t
7. Brodeur - 1/20 (37) d
8. Luongo - 1/4 (30) t
9. Vokoun - 9/226 (33) t
10. Bryzgalov - 2/44 (29) t
11. Lundqvist - 7/205 (27) d
12. Anderson - 3/73 (28) t
13. Quick - 3/72 (24) d
14. Mason - 5/122 (33) t
15. Thomas - 9/217 (35) t (before any NHL games)

- Average age: 30.2
- Average draft position: ~117th overall
- 3/15 drafted in the 1st round
- 2/15 2nd round
- 5/15 3rd-5th rounds
- 5/15 6th round or later
- Basically goaltenders are very difficult to predict
- 8/15 still on the same team they were farmed with

As the numbers display, drafting a successful goaltender requires a lot of luck (wide spread of draft rounds) . It is much harder for scouts to accurately predict a goalies future at such a young age than it is for that of a scoring forward. Trading for an elite goaltender however is a lot easier than trying to trade for an elite forward as teams often give up on a goalie before he reaches the apex of his career. The average age for a successful NHL goalie is about 30 right now so clearly they take longer to develop. With our abundance of late picks and current uncertainty in the crease, drafting a goalie might be a good idea in the upcoming draft

Top defencemen based on minutes played/game:

(There are several stats I could have used for defencemen but I felt this was the most comprehensive) 

1. Pitkanen - 1/4 (26)
2. Keith - 2/54 (26)
3. Bouwmeester - 1/3 (26)
4. Niedermayer - 1/3 (36)
5. Boyle - Undrafted (33)
6. Pronger - 1/2 (35)
7. Lidstrom - 3/53 (39)
8. Streit - 9/262 (32)
9. Beauchemin - 3/75 (29)
10. Chara - 3/56 (32)
11. Corvo - 4/83 (32)
12. Green - 1/29 (24)
13. Gonchar - 1/14 (35)
14. Doughty - 1/2 (20)
15. Whitney - 1/5 (27)
16. Rafalski - Undrafted (36)
17. Greene - Undrafted (27)
18. Robidas - 7/164 (32)
19. Quincey - 4/132 (24)
20. Markov - 6/162 (31)
21. Wisniewski - 5/156 (26)
22. Suter - 1/7 (25)
23. Seabrook - 1/14 (24)
24. Wideman - 8/241 (26)
25. Stuart - 1/3 (30)
26. Zidlicky - 6/176 (33)
27. Hamrlik - 1/1 (35)
28. Myers - 1/12 (20)
29. Campbell - 6/156 (30)
30. Phaneuf - 1/9 (24)

- Average age: 29.17
- Average draft position: ~70th overall
- Average draft position (top 15): ~46th overall
- 14/30 drafted in 1st round
- 1/30 in 2nd round
- 7/30 3rd-5th rounds
- 6/30 6th or later
- 3/30 undrafted
- 10/30 drafted in the top 10 overall

The leafs are looking fairly secure on defence now so drafting/trading for a top notch defenceman probably won't be a priority. The ability to draft top defenders without a 1st round pick is clearly possible but close to half of the top 30 were indeed selected in that round. Perhaps using some of the later picks to select defencemen and goalies rather than forwards provides the best odds of finding that diamond in the rough and producing elite talent. Even if the type of player selected does not quite meet our current needs, that player might be of high value to other teams and could provide a good return in the future.

The Leaf's 3 most pressing needs at this point are (a) Scoring forwards, (b) a Captain and (c) a Goalie
There are also 3 basic ways of acquiring players:
- Drafting
- Trading
- Free agency
I have already showed that we will not get a high-end forward through the draft anytime too soon with our lack of early picks and trading for such talent is extremely difficult in today's NHL. With all the long-term, big money contracts being handed out to the top players, trading will not address our scoring needs. Then comes the free agency which could potentially include a top notch NHL forward but it is rare and there are few impending options available over the next few years.
Burkie does certainly enjoy signing a lot of college free agents and has had some success with Jonas Hiller in Anaheim and Bozak looking promising for the Leafs. Maybe we'll get lucky and nab late bloomer like Martin St. Louis from the college ranks or some alternate league.

Ultimately, I feel we are kind of in somewhat of a bind when it comes to filling all the forward gaps in the lineup but hopefully Burke can work some magic and somehow get it done..