If your team holds a top-five pick, do you want them to trade it or keep it? It's a dilemma faced by GMs and armchair GMs around the world; trade it and you often get immediate NHL talent, but keep it and you might find a potential cornerstone of your franchise.
In the next week, we'll take a look at how the past 20 years have treated the top-five draft picks. This will present some sense of where certain draft positions correlate to NHL careers (and really, just how well those scouts have done their job). Today, we'll start with two decades of #5 picks, with #4 picking up on Monday and counting down daily leading up to the 2010 NHL Draft on the 25th.
I've graded each player on a scale of one to five using this criteria:
0: Failed to sustain an NHL career
1: Career depth player
2: Effective role player
3: Top-six forward/top-four defenseman/starting goalie
4: Top-line forward/#1 defenseman/upper-tier starting goalie
5: Hall of Fame potential
I'm starting with the 2006 draft and working backward all the way to the 1986 draft. That gives us a good sample of 20 modern era players; for recent draft picks, they get enough time to develop -- though these judgments may be premature as younger players on this list haven't hit their prime yet.
We'll start with the #5 pick and count our way up. Here we go, from most recent pick down with their score.
Phil Kessel: 4
Carey Price: 3
Blake Wheeler: 3
Thomas Vanek: 4
Ryan Whitney: 3
Stanislav Chistov: 0
Raffi Torres: 2
Tim Connolly: 3
Vitaly Vishnevski: 1
Eric Brewer: 3
Richard Jackman: 1
Daymond Langkow: 3
Jeff O'Neill: 3
Rob Niedermayer: 2
Darius Kasparaitis: 2
Aaron Ward: 2
Jaromir Jagr: 5
Bill Guerin: 4
Daniel Dore: 0
Chris Joseph: 1
Let's break this down by grade:
5: 1 player (Jaromir Jagr), 5%
4: 3 players (Phil Kessel, Thomas Vanek, Bill Guerin), 15%
3: 7 players (Carey Price, Blake Wheeler, Ryan Whitney, Tim Connolly, Eric Brewer, Daymond Langkow, Jeff O'Neill), 35%
2: 4 players (Raffi Torres, Rob Nidermayer, Darius Kasparaitis, Aaron Ward), 20%
1: 3 players (Vitaly Vishnevski, Richard Jackman, Chris Joseph), 15%
0: 2 players (Stanislav Chistov, Daniel Dore), 10%
What do you get if you draft in the fifth spot? Well, there's a pretty good chance that the guy will make the NHL and be around for a while. Of this group, just a hair more than half spent regular time in some form of primary position (top-six/top-four). If you add in the career role players such as Aaron Ward or Raffi Torres, then you get 75% of those players drafted as having some meaningful role in the NHL.
In short, it's a breeding ground for potential. Whether that potential gets fulfilled is often due to a number of factors, and injury is certainly one of them (Tim Connolly). But it's a safe bet that these guys will get a regular NHL shift.