A Net With No Sure Bets Part 2: Team Performance

June 5th, 2020 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

You don’t need a week of study, a big spreadsheet and an ability to sort and decipher data to come to the conclusion that the Calgary Flames have been miserable at drafting goaltenders over their existence … but it certainly helps to identify just how painful their lack of success has been.

Recently we’ve seen an Athletic article looking at the 1990 draft and the Flames taking Trevor Kidd while moving up in a trade with New Jersey, leaving the Devils to settle for Martin Brodeur. It’s a painful example of missing out on a solid goaltender, but merely scratching the surface when it comes to misery for the Flames. At least Trevor Kidd played!

The true mission of looking into the data however, wasn’t to hang the Flames out to dry, they’ve done that just fine on their own. Instead it was to see what other teams are doing? What is the frequency of goaltenders taken per draft per team? Do the successful teams draft a lot of them? Very few? Do they draft them high in the draft or in later rounds?

We will tackle these and additional issues in a three part series

Part 1 – League Tendencies
Part 2 – Team by Team Performance
Part 3 – Flaming Failure

Part 2 – Team Performance

In part two we will identify which franchises have earned the most “draft points” during this time period for selecting goaltenders.

The table to the left is sorted by draft points for the 30 franchises; I removed Vegas from the mix as they’ve only been to two drafts and haven’t really established any true averages. To be consistent through this article the teams that appear in a coloured font will do so in every ranking going forward to make it easier to reference the teams that have had success (red), abject failure (blue), and somewhere between (black).

Five franchises specifically are worth mention. Anaheim with 34 points, the Thrashers/Jets franchise with 33, Washington with 30, and L.A. and Ottawa with 27.

Anaheim – Have drafted three elite goaltenders in 20 years by my value system. John Gibson, Frederick Andersson and Illya Bryzgalov (who barely made the cut above the starter category as a cut off). The Ducks picked up another 4 points for Martin Gerber.

Atlanta/Winnipeg – The Jets as they drafted two elite goaltender in Connor Hellebucyk (a great example of the adjustment pushing a relatively young goaltender up the ranks) and Kari Lehtonen, a starter in Ondrej Pavelec and then three guys that had a cup of coffee.

Washington – The Caps have two elite goaltenders drafted as well in Braden Holtby and Semyon Varlamov, but have two others that could climb into a higher status in the Avalanche goaltender Phillip Grubauer, and recent draft pick Illya Samsanov. The Capitals could be at the top of this chart in a season or two.

Los Angeles – The Kings have Jonathan Quick as Elite, Cristobal Huet having “played” as well as three goaltenders that had a cup of coffee.

Ottawa – The Senators have had success on the draft floor with goaltenders with Brian Elliott classified as elite, Robin Lehner a starter and Ray Emery just short of the games needed to move into starter category. They also had three goaltenders classified as having a cup of coffee.

As you move down the list you’ll see Calgary near the bottom with 10 draft points, and we will dig into that in detail next week in the third goaltender piece. Ten points puts them near the bottom, essentially clear of only five teams, and two by a whisker.

With the Martin Brodeur reference above it’s interesting to see the Devils in last place. They’ve drafted only Mackenzie Blackwood (moving up the chart) and Scott Wedgewood as goaltenders worth mentioning in the last 20 years.

But is there a recipe to finding goaltending? Obviously scouts have to make selections, but what about frequency and where these players are selected?

Goalies Drafted

It goes without saying that you can’t draft a quality goaltender without expending picks on goaltenders. All else held equal, teams that select more stoppers should find more quality goaltending through the draft. But has that been the case?

As expected, a lot of the teams that had success in the draft expended a reasonable amount of draft capital towards the position. As you can see on the right, five of the “red” teams (draft success from the previous table) occupy spots in the top eight chart for goalie quantity.

Notable exceptions to the down side would include the Flyers and Avalanche, both of whom used an above average number of picks on goalies, but didn’t get the quality that the would have expected given their frequency. The Flyers lead the entire list with 25 goalies selected in 20 draft years, but only five teams have had less success when it comes to draft points from selecting goaltenders. In their defence however they do have Carter Hart moving up the list, which should continue if he keeps the starter position in Philadelphia. Additionally, they have six goaltenders taken in recent drafts that are still deemed to be developing.

From a Calgary perspective, at least the they haven’t wasted a tonne of draft picks on goaltenders in this 20 year era. If you’re near the bottom in draft points, but also near the bottom in goalies selected you pretty much get what you asked for. The Flames have only called out a goaltenders name 14 times in the last 20 years, only six teams have drafted less goalies in this time period.

Expending High Picks

Another way to look at draft behaviour by team, and the success that comes with it, is to dig down into what clubs use quality picks on goaltenders, versus mid to lower round selections on flyers.

Speaking of Flyers, Philadelphia used the most picks on goaltenders as discussed, but none of those picks were in the first round. When expanded to the second round we find they’ve only used up two seconds as well, putting them near the bottom when it comes to parting with high end picks searching for goaltenders.

The chart to the left shows the teams sorted by first, and first and second rounds combined through the 20 years.

Dallas has used three first rounders, and an additional four second rounders in 20 years searching for goaltending, but finished in the middle of the pack when it comes to draft quality.

The Flames are 2nd (tied) in first round picks surrendered, and 2nd (tied) in top two rounds used with five, despite being near the bottom of the stack when it comes to draft quality. They may not have selected a large number of goaltenders, but they did surrender a lot of quality picks without the results you’d expect.

You don’t see a lot of red teams near the bottom, though Anaheim stands out on both lists for finding quality without using high end picks.

For the most part though, you need to use high picks if you want to find a starter, as we can see with the grouping of red teams in the 5th to 10th spots on both sorts. Blue teams certainly occupy a good deal of the spots on the bottom of the lists.

Overall Pick Value

A number of years ago, hockey analyst and twitter efficiando @DTMAboutHeart analyzed the NHL Entry Draft pick by pick in order to come up with a points system to rank each pick in terms of value. This gave you an idea of where value was found in the draft, while also providing the basis for what picks are worth in terms of trading down or up in the draft.

The table above looked at first and second round picks, but a total draft pick value table, which can be seen to the right, shows how much draft capital in total each team has spent on the unnerving search for goaltending.

As expected the chart shows a large grouping of blue teams (five of the ten) at the very bottom of the ranking, they didn’t use high picks on goatlenders, and with that they didn’t find high end goaltenders; pretty simple recipe.

You have to tip your cap to the Hawks, Sens, Preds and Ducks for not firing the expensive bullets but still finishing in the top ten when it comes to raking in high quality goaltending. That’s clearly the ultimate result for a franchise.

At the top of the list we see the Hurricanes and Capitals finishing where they’d expect; good results with a lot of value surrendered.

The Flames are once again a miserable example of spending lots of draft capital and basically having nothing to show for it.

Goalie Draft Champs?

Finally, … bringing it altogether we can rank teams by how many draft points they acquired per draft pick value expended.

The simple formula Draft Points / Draft Value x 1000 brings us the results in the table to the left (x 1000 to take the results out of a small decimal).

This is a more concise list than simple draft points, because it brings in an element of efficiency to the process.

Anaheim holds on to the crown (they had the best overall draft points as well), but Ottawa and Nashville have made big gains by finding high end quality without spending as much draft capital as the other successful teams.

Montreal and Toronto are noticeable for finding value without spending a lion’s share of their draft value. The Canadiens drafted both Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak in the 2o year time period, Halak landed with a ninth round pick! The Leafs were spot on in drafting Tuukka Rask, but unfortunately they handed him to the Bruins before he ever suited up in Toronto. They also added James Reimer with a third round pick.

At the bottom you see Florida with a 3.5 Pts/Value ratio as they used three first round picks, a 2nd and three 3rders and found only Jacob Markstrom to date. In their defense, one of the first round picks was used last year to draft Spencer Knight. If he pushes Bobrovsky aside their draft ranking will improve significantly.

The Flames are the second worst team on the list with a high out put of first and second rounders, and literally no success to date. The Flames do have Tyler Parsons and Justin Wolf listed as developing in the database, so maybe just maybe one of them can improve the team’s average which was crippled with the both Leland Irving and Brent Krahn going bust.

Look for part three next week, when we dig into the Flames specifically.


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