The Value of a Draft Pick
Analyzing the value of every NHL draft pick since 1992.
6m30s. January, 2018. Data correct as of October, 2017.
The NHL Entry Draft takes place every June, when 31 general managers get together and take turns selecting the rights to young hockey players. Some of them work out, and some of them don’t. But every year, also in June, somebody always brings u the question of how we value draft picks. When Elliotte Friedman, a journalist for Rogers Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada, brought it up this past summer, it got me thinking. How do we put a value on a draft pick? Friedman’s article linked to another report, this one by Stephen Burtch, containing a few graphs and insights that confirmed it: first round picks generally (read: almost always) produce better results. He also pointed out that teams exchange draft picks with “alarming frequency”, something I had never really thought about before. Which of these trades worked out? Which didn’t? How can we tell?
While the data to support these insights is available in abundance, it generally comes in tables full of statistics, or spreadsheets packed with numbers and percentages. This might get my heart rate up a few notches, I can imagine it has the opposite effect for many. So I set about turning it into something visual, a tool we can have fun with and maybe gain some insights from. I combined data from hockey-reference.com with the magic of Python and R Studio to analyze every draft pick since 1992 and compare them across the board.
While some metrics lend themselves quite well to this sort of visual, others really don’t. Dom Luszczyszyn’s Game Score, for instance, lets us compare players across all positions quickly and simple. Other stats, like goals or assists, aren’t so simple (i.e. a defenceman is likely going to have score fewer goals than a left winger, so he’ll look like a less valuable player). I’ve converted these into something I call stat share, meaning a player’s share of each stat (e.g. goals or assists) relative to his position, and that’s what’s presented here.
Feel free to jump right in, or continue to scroll and I’ll tell you all about it.