The Value of a 1st Round Pick (Or Two)

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    By now, I’m sure many of you have seen ESPN’s report of a significant offer by the Maple Leafs for Phil Kessel: two 1st round picks and a 2nd round pick. The general reflex reaction that we’ve been conditioned to by the Toronto media the last few seasons is to avoid moving 1st round selections by any means necessary. The thought of moving two such commodities is beyond horrifying. I’ve seen the name Taylor Hall used as the backbone of many an argument over the last few days, often associated with the “chance” of landing said player. If we’re gonna turn this into a game of chance, let’s at least get all the cards on the table.

    We’re going into the 2009-2010 season within a matter of weeks, which means that up until now, the last draft class to have finished the 3 year entry level contract period is the 2006 group. So, we’re going to use the last 10 years worth of high draft picks to gauge the value or probability of landing an impact player. This gives ample time for players of that group to have made their mark as NHLers. Because that’s what we’re all ready scared about right? The potential of losing a high draft pick, let’s say top 10. Here are the Top 10 selections for the draft classes for the years 1997-2006. The exercise is very simple: identify and keep count of how many players you would rather have instead of Phil Kessel. Assume that all these players are 21 years old will go on to accomplish what it is they have accomplished:

    1997: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Olli Jokinen, Roberto Luongo, Eric Brewer, Daniel Tkaczuk, Paul Mara, Sergei Samsonov, Nick Boynton, Brad Ference

    1998: Vincent Lecavalier, David Legwand, Brad Stuart, Bryan Allen, Vitaly Vishnevski, Rico Fata, Manny Malholtra, Mark Bell, Michael Rupp, Nik Antropov

    1999: Patrik Stefan, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Pavel Brendl, Tim Connolly, Brian Finley, Kris Beech, Taylor Pyatt, Jamie Lundmark, Branislav Mezei

    2000: Rick DiPietro, Dany Heatley, Marian Gaborik, Rostislav Klesla, Raffi Torres, Scott Hartnell, Lars Jonsson, Nikita Alexeev, Brent Kahn, Mikhail Yakubov

    2001: Ilya Kovalchuk, Jason Spezza, Alexandr Svitov, Stephen Weiss, Stanislav Chistov, Mikko Koivu, Mike Komisarek, Pascal Leclaire, Tuomo Ruutu, Dan Blackburn

    2002: Rick Nash, Kari Lehtonen, Jay Bouwmeester, Joni Pitkanen, Ryan Whitney, Scottie Upshall, Joffrey Lupul, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Petr Tacicek, Eric Nystrom

    2003: Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Nathan Horton, Nikolai Zherdev, Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, Ryan Suter, Braydon Coburn, Dion Phaneuf, Andrei Kositsyn

    2004: Alex Ovechkin, Evegeni Malkin, Cam Barker, Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Al Montoya, Rostislav Olesz, Alexandre Picard, Ladislav Smid, Boris Valabik

    2005: Sidney Crosby, Bobby Ryan, Jack Johnson, Benoit Pouliot, Carey Price, Gilbert Brule, Jack Skille, Devin Setoguchi, Brian Lee, Luc Bourdon*

    2006: Erik Johnson, Jordin Staal, Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom, Phil Kessel*, Derrick Brassard, Kyle Okposo, Peter Mueller, James Sheppard, Michael Frolik

    My picks: Thornton, Marleau, Luongo, Lecavalier, Sedin, Sedin, Heatley, Gaborik, Kovalchuk, Spezza, Nash, Bouwmeester, Fleury, E. Staal, Vanek, Phaneuf, Ovechkin, Malkin, Crosby, E. Johnson, Toews, Backstrom

    Of the 98 possible candidates (minus Bourdon and Kessel), I would have selected 22 players instead of Phil Kessel (22.45%). What does that mean? How does that translate with two top 10 picks?

    Chances of selecting two players better than Kessel = .2245 x .2245 = 5.04%

    Chances of selecting one player better than Kessel = 2 x .2245 x (1-.2245) = 34.82%

    Chances of selecting no players better than Kessel = (1-.2245) x (1-.2245) = 60.14%

    That means that even with assuming the extreme unlikelihood of back-to-back top 10 selections, I would have a 60% chance of not landing a player of Phil’s calibre (by my valuation). Those lauding the draft choices, I suggest you try the exercise yourself and have a quick go at the percentages. What are the “chances” that you’ll be disappointed?

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