Much of the focus of this upcoming draft is based around what the Hurricanes will do with their first round pick, and rightfully so. The Hurricanes have a top-five pick in what is considered the best draft in years and have a very good chance of landing an elite prospect next month. The hype of adding someone like Jonathan Drouin, Valeri Nichushkin or Aleksander Barkov to your team's system is well justified, so it's going to be very exciting to see what the Canes do with the fifth overall pick. However, there is a lot more to the draft than just the first round and the Hurricanes are going to need to make good use of all of their picks.
Until recent years, the Hurricanes drafting outside of the first round is something I haven't been pleased with because the team hasn't been able to land many full-time NHL-ers and it's led to some depth issues within the organization. Drafting and scouting are obviously only part of the question since player development also plays a big role but whatever the case is, the Hurricanes haven't been able to get a lot out of their draft picks since 2000. Now, this has changed a lot in recent years with the Hurricanes finding gems like Justin Faulk in the second round and adding interesting prospects like Zac Dalpe, Michal Jordan, Danny Biega, Keegan Lowe and Victor Rask to their system, but the jury is out on whether or not they are future NHL-ers.
Either way, the common belief is that you need to build a strong farm system to be a contending team and I would expect this to be even more true in future years with the cap going down. This isn't to say that all of your prospects need to be future stars, but drafting well and having a good farm system can be a cheap way to bolster a team's depth as opposed to bidding for free agents. The Hurricanes have been taking the steps they need to improve this in recent drafts but only time will tell before we know how successful they are.
Going over the Hurricanes recent drafts got me thinking, though. The Canes may have not been able to get much out of their picks outside of the first round, but it wouldn't shock me if other teams had similar issues with drafting outside of the first round. The talent level at the top of the draft is always what is the most scrutinized, but I feel like after the top 50 players or so, the draft itself becomes sort of a grab bag. Think of it, you have a pool of hundreds of players to select from and it's probably difficult for even the best scouts to figure out which players have the best chance of becoming NHL-ers out of such a huge field. By the time you get to the third round, it seems like the difference between the 60th and 70th best player is kind of miniscule and executives will likely draft to their team's needs and let their development staff take over.
Drafting is critical to a team's success but how much of it is based on picks outside of the first round? After the jump, we'll take a look at how some recent playoff teams have constructed their rosters and where in the draft they acquired most of their players.
Broad Street Hockey had a great post showing how every team in the league constructed their roster and I'm going to build on that by looking at every team that has made the playoffs since 2009-10 and follow it up by showing which round most of their drafted players are from. Kurt's post at Broad Street Hockey showed that the average NHL roster consists of a good mix of draft picks, trade acquisitions and waiver claims and the same holds true for recent playoff teams.
A good chunk of the rosters of recent playoff teams consisted of players they drafted, but they also had plenty of help from outside sources through trades and free agent acquisitions. I think most rosters are constructed this way because some teams are better at drafting than others and even the best GMs have had their share of busts in the first round. It's also tough to hit home on every draft pick and some prospects aren't fully developed until they are in their early 20's, so gaining help through outside sources is just as critical as good drafting. Which round each player is acquired in varies for every teams, but there are some trends that are easy to spot when looking at the yearly results.
Half of the teams that made the playoffs in 2009-10, had at least four players who they took in the first round on their roster, Washington being the most extreme with 11 first rounders. Those who are in favor of tanking their way to the top might point to this as a formula for success, but I think the downward spiral of the Edmonton Oilers has shown us that it doesn't always work. That being said, most of these franchises benefited from high first rounders including the very successful Nashville Predators, who took Ryan Suter with the seventh overall pick in 2003.
What sets Nashville apart from some of the other teams here is that they drafted well in the later rounds, gaining five roster players from the 3rd-5th rounds and four more players from the rounds after that. Drafting is only one piece of the puzzle, but I think it's more important for small market teams like Nashville and they've managed to do a fantastic job of it over the years.
The Sharks and Red Wings are other teams that have done well with their late-round picks and the Devils, Bruins, Sabres and Avalanche also got solid contributions from picks outside of the first round.
How well does this carry over to the next year?
We have a couple new teams making playoff appearances with the Anaheim Ducks and Tampa Bay Lightning, both of which receiving major contributions from their first round picks. The Ducks are a little more extreme than Tampa Bay since they had five first round picks on their roster whereas the Lightning only had three. Those three were Hedman, Stamkos & Lecavalier, so they definitely went a long way but Tampa Bay also had five picks from outside of the first round. The New York Rangers also made their playoff debut in this study and had a good mix of players they drafted in the first and second round.
Some changes with the incumbent playoff teams include the Coyotes having five first round picks on their roster and the Bruins having three after having only one the previous year. The funny part is that most of the Bruins best draft picks came outside of the first round with players like Lucic, Krejci and Bergeron. Being able to get players like this without the benefit of a high draft pick really shows why the Bruins have been one of the best franchises over the last few years.
Another interesting note here is that the Chicago Blackhawks got a lot of contributions from players they took drafted of the first round with seven total players selected. It still doesn't compare to the Sharks success at drafting in the late rounds, though.
The big change here is the New Jersey Devils having six first rounders on their roster after having four in their previous playoff appearance. They were one of the teams who were getting contributions from guys they took in the later rounds, but there they had only three of them in this season, one of them being Patrik Elias. Chicago also saw some changes this year, getting less contributions from players drafted after the first round while the Rangers went in the opposite direction and got quite a bit out of their second round picks.
St. Louis and Florida also made their debuts here and almost every homegrown player on their roster was taken in the first round. The Blues had a few players after that, the biggest one being David Backes in the second round, but a good piece of their rebuild was based around first round picks. Although, it's worth noting that a lot of them were acquired in the mid-to-late first round rather than the top ten, so they didn't "tank" to get these picks.
Meanwhile, the Sharks and Wings continue to make the playoffs with a large portion of their homegrown talent coming in the later rounds. Ottawa and Nashville also got some contributions from these players while also having a lot of first rounders on their rosters.
The Leafs are probably the most interesting team here because only two draft picks on their roster were taken in the first two rounds (Kadri & Kulemin) and the rest of their homegrown talent was found in the later rounds. The majority of their roster was acquired through trades and free agency, though. A team that benefited more from good drafting was the Islanders and only three of their draft picks on the roster came in the first round (Tavares, Bailey & Okposo). The majority of their home-grown talent came from good finds in the mid/late rounds such as Andrew MacDonald, Casey Cizikas and Frans Nielsen. Getting Travis Hamonic in the second round was a nice find, too.
The Montreal Canadiens also found their way back to the playoffs and got help from quite a few early draft picks. Although, most of them were already on their roster during their last playoff run with the exception of Alex Galchenyuk. They did see more contributions from guys they drafted in the later rounds like Brendan Gallagher, though. Other changes here are the Wings receiving less contributions from later round picks, likely from Lidstrom retiring, and the Bruins having only two players they drafted in the first round on their roster.
Overall, it seems that the importance of drafting well in each round depends on the team. San Jose, Nashville, Detroit and a few others have been able to build successful franchises based on strong drafting in the later rounds while Washington, Pittsburgh and St. Louis have acquired most of their most productive draft picks in the early rounds. Other franchises like Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles have drafted well all-around and it's played a role in their recent success.
Where do the Hurricanes stand in this? Well, they've got three first rounders playing key roles now in Eric Staal, Cam Ward & Jeff Skinner, a second rounder who might be their future franchise defenseman and a lot of other players who were acquired through trades or free agency (Semin, Jordan Staal, Gleason, Tlusty), so there isn't a lot of home grown talent in other words. They have a lot of guys who they developed within their organization, but not a lot of draft picks. I expect this to change over the next calendar year since Ryan Murphy should be with the team next year along with whoever they take in the first round in the upcoming draft. Either way, getting more out of their own draft picks could help the Hurricanes reach the playoffs again and hopefully this is something that will improve very soon. It'll be especially important next season with the team not having much cap space or room to improve through free agency.