NHL Draft: Which teams have been striking gold with depth picks

Friday June 27th, 2014

So, you're hearing your favorite team found the next Milan Lucic in the third round or snagged the steal of the draft with an offensive spark plug in the sixth. It's just a matter of time now before these fortuitous picks are part of a team that brings Stanley Cup glory to your town.

Not so fast, Bub.

Sure, there are gems to be found in rounds 3-7 and it's likely that more than a couple were stockpiled for the future this past weekend in Philadelphia. But unless you're a fan of Columbus or Nashville or Los Angeles, you might want to refrain from planning the parade route just yet.

There's a reason why players slip down to the late rounds. Maybe they're not big enough or there's problem with their skating or they don't have the hockey sense to match their talent. Separating the ones that catch your eye from the ones that might eventually put it all together is as much about luck as scouting skill, but some franchises seem to have an edge over others in identifying that latent talent.

Who are those teams?

To find out who has been doing the best job of mining NHL talent in the deep cuts, we looked at the past nine drafts, dating back to the post-lockout class of 2005. We tabulated the total selections that each team made (from a low of 37 for the Coyotes to a high of 55 by the Blackhawks), the number of players who appeared in at least one NHL game (the Yotes had just four, the Maple Leafs dressed 16), how many appeared in at least 100 games (the Blue Jackets had eight; several teams had zero), and most importantly, the total games played for each organization by late picks (from a woeful 71 for the Canucks up to 2,152 for the Jackets).

We also looked at the scoring production each team got from its late-round selections, even if there's not a clear apples-to-apples comparison to be made. It's worth noting which teams were able to find offensive punch like Jamie Benn (129th overall by the Stars, 2007) while others fired blanks, although that's not the only measure of a successful pick. Getting 300-plus games of energetic fourth line work is tremendous value from a seventh-rounder like Derek Dorsett (189th overall by the Jackets, 2007), even if he has potted just 31 goals during his career. Defensemen like two-time Cup winner Niklas Hjalmarsson (108th by the Blackhawks, 2005) can be valuable and consistent contributors without putting up big numbers.

We also included goalies in the counts because you can't ignore the acumen/luck that went into scouting them even they don't do much for the scoring totals. Jonathan Quick (72nd overall by the Kings, 2005) has produced just eight assists during his career, but his two Stanley Cup rings suggest he was a nice pickup. Ben Bishop (85th by the Blues, 2005), a 2014 Vezina Trophy finalist, was a nice call, too, although he reached elite status with the Lightning after a stop in Ottawa.

What does all this reveal? Well, Vancouver's scouting, by any standards, has been an "Ender's Game"-scale disaster. Of course, that's not news to the team's fans, who have long believed that anyone could have done a better job than former director of amateur scouting Ron Delorme. Looking at these results, they're probably right.

Edmonton, Florida, Winnipeg and Calgary haven't done themselves any favors, either. The inability to identify deep talent has kept them buried near the bottom of the standings for years.

On the other end of the scale are teams like the Jackets and the Predators. While their drafting prowess hasn't translated into playoff success yet, it has allowed them to stay competitive despite lower payrolls.

And the Kings? They don't win those two Cups without late-round support pieces Alec Martinez (95th, 2007) and Dwight King (109th, 2007) and, of course, Quick.

The draft may be a crapshoot, but it's clear that some teams have better aim than others after the first two rounds, where the low-hanging fruit is found.

team

picks

played in nhl

total games

points

best pick

Ducks

41

8 (19.5 percent)

2 played 100 or more games

556

65-92-157

Matt Belesky

, #112 (2006): Finished season on team's top line.

Coyotes

37

4 (10.8 percent)

2 played 100 or more games

742

92-237-329

Keith Yandle

, #105 (2005): Top two defenseman

Bruins 

40

11 (27.5 percent)

2 played 100 or more games

722

130-185-315

Brad Marchand

, #71 (2006): Three-time 20-goal scorer

Sabres

50

9 (18 percent)

3 played 100 or more games

1,049

93-210-303

Chris Butler

, #96 (2005): Closing in on 400 games as depth defender

Flames

46

10 (21.7 percent)

3 played 100 or more games

516

21-81-102

T.J. Brodie

, #114 (2008): Averaged 24:03 TOI last season, second on team

Hurricanes 

42

7 (16.7 percent)

0 played 100 or more games

305

18-29-47

Drayson Bowman

, #72 (2007): Yo-yo player may have run out of chances with 'Canes

Blackhawks

55

7 (12.7 percent)

3 played 100 or more games

875

94-165-259

Niklas Hjalmarsson

, #108 (2005): Steady top four d-man nearing 400 games

Avalanche

41

11 (26.8 percent)

3 played 100 or more games

608

58-120-178

Tyson Barrie

, #64 (2009): Prototypical puck-mover shows real promise

Blue Jackets

48

14 (29.1 percent)

8 played 100 or more games

2,152

175-281-456

Matt Calvert

, #127 (2008): Heart and soul of new Jackets

Stars

40

12 (30 percent)

5 played 100 or more games

1,166

192-268-460

Jamie Benn

, #129 (2007): NHL 1st team All-Star at LW for 2013-14

Red Wings

46

10 (21.7 percent)

2 played 100 or more games

603

94-109-203

Gustav Nyquist

, #121 (2008): First-year forward showed off first-line potential

Oilers

40

8 (20 percent)

1 played 100 or more games

400

22-52-74

Theo Peckham

, #75 (2006): Hard-nosed defender enjoyed one year as NHL regular

Panthers

49

9 (18.4 percent)

0 played 100 or more games

197

17-33-50

Vince Trocheck

, #64 (2011): His 2013-14 debut hinted at possible top-six role

Kings

51

9 (17.6 percent)

5 played 100 or more games

1,042

79-112-191

Jonathan Quick

, # 72 (2005): Two Cup rings and a Conn Smythe. Boom.

Wild

39

8 (20.5 percent)

2 played 100 or more games

689

85-83-168

Cal Clutterbuck

, # 72 (2006): More than 400 games as a premier agitator

Canadiens

43

7 (16.3 percent)

5 played 100 or more games

1,1223

170-244-414

Brendan Gallagher

, #147 (2005): Spark plug for their offense.

Predators

53

15 (28.3 percent)

5 played 100 or more games

1,388

222-355-577

Patric Hornqvist

, #230 (2005): Four seasons of at least 20 goals

Devils

45

10 (22.2 percent)

4 played 100 or more games

1,077

120-171-291

Adam Henrique

, #82 (2008): Top-six forward, playoff hero

Islanders

54

15 (27.7 percent)

4 played 100 or more games

1,191

89-218-307

Andrew MacDonald

, #160 (2006): Top-pair defender dealt to Philly at deadline

Rangers

41

9 (21.9 percent)

3 played 100 or more games

809

91-120-211

Carl Hagelin

, #168 (2007). Top-six forward entering prime years

Senators

49

13 (26.5 percent)

3 played 100 or more games

1,119

122-165-287

Colin Greening

, #204 (2005). Useful depth forward

Flyers

46

13 (28.3 percent)

1 played 100 or more games

495

42-55-97

Zac Rinaldo

, #178 (2008): Presented without comment

Penguins

42

12 (28.6 percent)

4 played 100 or more games

1,093

104-279-383

Kris Letang

, #62, (2005). One of the game's premier offensive d-men

Sharks

47

11 (23.4 percent)

6 played 100 or more games

 

1,195

93-224-317

Jason Demers

, #186 (2008). Top-four defender

Blues

44

8 (18.2 percent)

2 played in 100 or more games

418

14-22-36

Ben Bishop

, #85 (2005). Vezina finalist in 2013-14

Lightning

49

10 (20.4 percent)

3 played in 100 or more games

668

71-125-196

Ondrej Palat

, #208 (2011). Calder finalist could become top-line winger

Maple Leafs

47

16 (34 percent)

5 played in 100 or more games

1,403

121-258-379

Anton Stralman

, #216 (2005). Top-four defenseman nearing 400th career game

Canucks

40

5 (12.5 percent)

0 played in 100 or more games

71

4-7-11

Frankie Corrado

, #150 (2011). Blueliner is just potential at this point, but the best of a bad lot

Capitals

45

9 (20 percent)

4 played in 100 or more games

726

94-139-233

Cody Eakin

, #85 (2009). Developing into aggressive third center in Dallas

Jets

50

9 (18 percent)

0 played in 100 or more games

135

11-23-34

Paul Postma

, #205 (2007). Hard to believe this team struggles to make playoffs

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