The NHL Entry Draft is right around the corner which signals the time of year where teams are letting go of the past and embracing the future. There is huge anticipation as franchises can drastically alter their future in a matter of hours with a great pick or a monumental trade. Although the spotlight will be on the first few picks, it’s the later rounds that can help shape a franchise into a contender.
The Winnipeg Jets will be looking to re-stock their cupboards after many of their previous picks are either on the Jets roster or have since moved on. The Jets are without a pick in the first round because of the Stastny deal, so the Jets will have to be content with 60th overall, or try to move up via trade. No matter what happens on draft day, there are some good principles to follow when choosing players. Here is a list of Do’s and Don’t’s for Kevin Cheveldayoff as he navigates the murky waters surrounding the 2018 draft.
Do draft the best player available. The age old question still stands. Should a team draft the best player available, regardless of position, or should a team draft according to the needs of the organization. The answer is to draft the best player available regardless of position. From a pure value perspective it makes sense to always take the best player with the highest chances of success.
Developing players is a tough task so teams need to maximize their chances of landing players in the NHL down the road regardless of their position. The other aspect is that teams can have multiple people that play the same position. NHL teams have four lines and three defensive pairings. This means room can be created if there happens to be an extra RHD or LW.
WWYDW: Do You Draft For Need Or Best Available? https://t.co/xBkjG2LEUh
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) June 20, 2018
Don’t draft for positional need. The real problem with drafting a specific position is that NHL players often take multiple years to develop. This means a team has to anticipate their needs three or four years down the road which is nearly impossible given the amount of moving parts within an organization. The other issue with drafting a specific position is that there is no guarantee a player will eventually play in the NHL. Outside of the top few picks, it can be tough to develop players into consistent NHL players. If Winnipeg needs a LHD and they fill it with their first pick, it could be trouble if he doesn’t develop into an NHL calibre player.
Note that this doesn’t apply for the later rounds as much as the earlier rounds. The difference between prospects in round five or six is much smaller than the difference in first round prospects. This means that if a team is trying to fill certain positions, they should wait till the later rounds where there is less difference between prospects.
Do anticipate long-term needs. Many teams go into the draft with only the next season firmly in their minds. The teams that can go into the draft with the big picture are the ones who tend to come out on top. Being able to picture what the organization will look like a few years down the road is important for success. There are no quick fixes for NHL teams, and rebuilding can take time. The Jets played the long game from the beginning by taking Scheifele in the first round when there were other players that were more ready for the NHL right away. This ability to look down the road and anticipate where the pieces will fit is one of the most important details of being a general manager.
Don’t be afraid to be bold. Often times a hard-working, energy prospect will make it to the NHL because most teams still employ at least one defensive line. This means that players who don’t have excess skill can still make the team based on their hustle and work ethic. Teams take these players because it seems like they are developing well when they make the NHL roster.
When it comes to the draft, many are too afraid of taking the scorer who is more likely to bust (and play less than 200 NHL GP).
Many evaluators aren't afraid enough of taking the player who plays 200+ NHL games, yet provides minimal value over a replacement level player.
— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) June 20, 2018
Most teams actually need to take more risks for the players who have the top line talent, but might never develop. This would mean risking more picks on players who have one or two flaws but have more natural ability. A lot of managers like to make the safe pick because it puts less of a target on their back and gives them an ‘easy win’. However, this way of thinking can lead to missing out on a great prospect while being content with mediocrity.
Do look for teams that are desperate. Every team views the draft slightly differently with some teams always trying to move pieces around to acquire the right player, where other teams are content to make their picks and move along with their summer. This is a time where some managers are willing to overpay because there is so much external pressure to land the right prospects. Smart managers are able to capitalize on the tendencies of other teams and get extra value for their picks while the draft is going on.
Don’t overlook players because of one negative aspect. Teams can miss out on great prospects because they limit their search to specific types of players. A common theme is that teams are scared to draft small players. This has slowly been going away the past few years but a lot of teams are still scared of drafting short players even if they have enough skill to make the NHL.
Other teams look for high character players. A negative interview or a bad attitude can spell disaster for some prospects. Sometimes the players with bad reputation deserve it, but often they lose the attitude as they grow up. Remember back to your own teenage years and some of the things you did. These players are in the spotlight so much that one off-ice issue can send them shooting down the rankings. Smart teams can grab these players with a later pick and hold onto them while they become mature adults and leave their teenage decisions behind.
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