What Can Fans Expect from 16th Overall?

May 31st, 2017 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Historically, history isn’t a great way of predicting the future when it comes to NHL Entry Drafts.

Every draft is different, the teams selecting in the various positions change, the eras of hockey come and go to say nothing of recent changes to technology that have helped scouting players and avoiding complete swing and miss results at the top of the draft.

The Flames draft smack dab in the middle of the June 23rd Draft in Chicago, but what does 16th overall get you in modern times?

First off lets build some fences around some of the data to make sense of it.

Number one I’m not a fan of looking back at the team’s history of drafting 16th overall. To me that’s just silly. However if you insist on the simplest of lines to draw the Flames have drafted once in their history in Calgary at 16th overall when they selected George Pelawa 16th overall 31 years ago in 1986. Pelawa was from Minnesota and was nicknamed the “Ice Box” because of his 6’4″ and 240 pound frame and the sports world fixated on Chicago and the “Fridge” William Perry. Pelawa died later that summer in a car accident.

The Atlanta Flames also had a 16th overall pick in 1973, the last pick overall in the first round of a 16 team leaugue and took Vic Mercredi who went on to play a whopping 2 games at the NHL level recording no points and no penalty minutes.

As you can see this just isn’t the way to best approach the draft coming up in less than a month.

So we moved our fence line out a bit looking at the Flames drafting around the 16th spot in the past, surely that will give us a more concrete tool to predict the pick this year right? Well I’d like to think so as the Flames took Al MacInnis with the 15th pick of the 1981 draft, certainly making up for taking Chris Biotti 17th overall in 1985. When it comes to success rates a one in three chance at a hall of famer would certainly be acceptable to me if I was on the team’s scouting staff.

Expanding a few more picks out and you can add Chuck Kobasew at 14th overall in 2001 and Jesper Mattsson at 18th overall in 1993 moving the club’s record in 5 selections to a hall of famer, a serviceable winger, two busts and a guy that died before he had a chance to prove anything; this is getting somewhat depressing.

But is looking that far in the past of an organization really worthwhile? The most recent of those picks is Kobasew who was taken 16 years ago by Craig Button, who is now ranking this year’s draft class for TSN. The Flames have had four general managers in place since Button was removed from the position, and numerous changes to their scouting staff; the club’s draft history back that far is of little consequence.

So we move the fence line out again; this time looking at 16th overall picks for the whole league.

This does little to improve my mood as the list from 1980 to 2013 is fraught with complete misses and a lot of marginal hockey players. Nikita Zadorov looks good, so too does Tom Wilson, Vladdy Tarasenko and Nick Leddy, but the shear number of busts in the 16th spot is far too long to mention.

But is this the way to really look at a draft? Looking at 33 straight 16th overall picks is still only 33 entries into a data set and not the beefiest of analyses. For example, 19th overall has many great picks including Ryan Getzlaf, Oscar Klefbom, Chris Kreider, Robyn Regehr, Dmitri Nabokov, Keith Tkachuk and Olaf Kolzig, but I’m not about to suggest that the Flames need to move down three spots at all costs.

Instead we’ll expand the fence again, but at the same time narrow it. This time we take advantage of the Flames holding the first pick in the 16-20 range and look at players taken in those five spots. Additionally we limit the data to a ten year window from 2004-2013 to look at more modern scouting times and come up with a ratio of success for teams that have chosen in this band.

The list to the right shows the results of the ten drafts by category ranging from core players (shaded red), to support players (shaded blue), developing players (green), and guys that didn’t make it (shaded grey). Admittedly the sorting into categories is pretty subjective, but I’m guessing most of my assignments would pass the average hockey fan stink test. In this scenario the draft breaks down into thirds. A team has a 32% chance of taking a core player, a 30% chance of taking a support or developing player (players in this category include Curtis Lazar, Mirco Mueller and Anthony Mantha), and the remaining 38% in a complete swing and miss as you land a bust, or a guy that barely played.

One in three isn’t bad, add in the recent success of the Calgary scouting staff and you begin to wonder if this group can best those odds by a nudge and land a player.

It shouldn’t be forgotten too that the club has the first pick of this group at 16, suggesting we need to have a quick look at the difference between 16 and 20 when it comes to success within this data.

The second table shows the break down of these same categories for picks 16 through 20. The fact that 8 of the 16 players deemed “core” were taken with picks 16 and 17 is a very good sign for the Flames as they get their pick of the litter once pick number 15 comes off the board. It’s interesting to point out that the “Miss” section is consistent through all 5 picks suggesting you are just as likely to be dead wrong with any of those 5 picks.

So there you have it.

With the first pick in the 16-20 group, a recent track record of unearthing talent in the draft under Brad Treliving, and a set of 5 pick history league wide that produces almost a third of the range to upper roster positions, I’m actually quite excited about the Flames first pick in three and a half weeks time.

Sure some drafts have more depth than others, this certainly isn’t 1993, but getting the best of the bunch should prove to be a solid addition to the Flame’s prospect stable and a great piece to add to the club’s young core.

Just don’t screw it up Tod; no pressure!


For additional banter here is the total list of players taken in those 50 picks and their placement in categories.

What players were boosted too far up the list? Which players were treated unfairly. With the Flames largely out of the playoff picture in this time frame they didn’t have a single selection in our data set keeping the player rating at least a little more objective.

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