Knowing your chances; playing the percentages
Drafting an NHL-calibre player is a science in and of itself. The pool is large. But, the jump from Junior, or even Europe's top leagues to the NHL is substantial. The game is fast. As such, the ability to make split-second decisions at top speed is paramount. With all this said, looking at past drafts tell us which countries and which leagues are producing the most NHL talent. We can also study which rounds produce the most NHL talent, and at what percentage. Going even further than that, we can view which countries or leagues produce the most talent in specific rounds.
The study is in its early stage, but the results are interesting none-the-less.
Breaking down the nine NHL drafts between 1999 and 2006 we can see which rounds have produced the highest percentage of NHL players, and at what rate. For the sake of this study, we will define an NHL player as any draft pick that has played more than 200 games. It is for this reason that the current study stops in 2006, as any player draft since would be hard-pressed to have already played 200 games; particularly a High School, NCAA or European prospect.
As expected, the first round produced the highest percentage of NHL players. In fact, 64% of players drafted in the first round through those years have played 200 or more NHL games. In terms of leagues, between 1998 and 2003 80% of NCAA players drafted in the first round played 200-plus games, followed by the OHL (77.5%), and the WHL (70.6%). The percentage of first round draft picks from other leagues or countries are as followed; QMJHL (60%), Sweden (60%) Russia (50%), Czech Republic (50%), Finland (50%). The lowest percentage of first round picks to play 200-plus games came from US high School hockey, as only 25% of first round picks drafted out of high school through those years have played 200 or more NHL games.
As for the second round, 25% of players chosen in this round have become NHL players. In terms of leagues, the highest success-rate came from the OHL, where 42% of draft picks became NHL-players. The NCAA had the second-best success-rate at 33%, followed by the Czech Republic (25%), and the QMJHL (25%). The success-rate of second round pucks from other leagues or countries are as follows; WHL (16%), Finland (14%), US high School (12%), and Russia (9%).
In the third round, 16.2% of players drafted have become NHL players. During the years studied, an incredible 50% of third round picks from Finland have become NHL players. The next highest success-rate belongs to both the QMJHL (26%) and the OHL (26%); the Q actually has the slightly higher percentage when not rounded-off. The NCAA produced a success-rate of 21%, followed by Sweden (20%) and the WHL (19%). Russia and the Czech Republic have identical percentages at 16.7%, while no US high school players drafted in the third round during these years has established themselves in the NHL.
Nine percent of players chosen in the fourth round have become NHL players. In terms of leagues or countries, the success-rates also drop substantially. US high school hockey actually has the highest success-rate in this round, with 20% of USHS players drafted in the fourth round becoming NHL players. Sweden and the Czech Republic follow with equal success-rates of 12.5%. The success rates of other leagues are as follows; OHL (8%), NCAA (6%), QMJHL (5%), Russia (4%), WHL (4%), and Finland (0%).
The fifth round has actually produced the lowest percentage of NHL players than any round save for the now defunct ninth. Only 7% of players chosen in the fifth have played more than 200 NHL games. In terms of leagues, 21% of NCAA players chosen in the fifth have become NHL players, followed by the OHL with a success-rate of 18%. The success-rates of other leagues or countries are as follows; Sweden (12.5%), Czech Republic (9.1%), and the WHL (8%). The QMJHL, Russia, Finland, and USHS dis not produced any NHL players in the fifth round.
As for the sixth round, 10% of players drafted in this round have played 200-plus games. In terms of leagues, 29% of players drafted in the sixth round out of Finland have become NHL players, while 18% of WHL players have become NHLers. The success-rates of other leagues or countries are as follows; QMJHL (15%), Russia (15%), Czech Republic (13%), OHL (13%), and the NCAA (7%). No sixth round draft picks from Sweden or US high school hockey during the years studied have played 200-plus games.
Eight percent of seventh round draft picks have played 200-plus games. In terms of leagues, 15% of players from sweden drafted in the seventh round have become NHL players, while 14% of QMJHL and WHL players have met our minimum game requirement. The success-rates for other leagues or countries are as follows; Czech Republic (11%), Finland (9%), and the OHL (4%). The NCAA, Russian and US high school hockey have yet to produce NHL players in the seventh round.
Although these rounds no longer exist, it is interesting to note that an impressive 29% of players from the Czech Republic drafted in the eighth round have played over 200 NHL games, while 25% of players from Finland chosen in the ninth round have become NHL players.