Sunday, June 21, 2009

Goalies in the First Round

For those that haven't read Kent's old article on drafting goaltenders, it really is a must read. It certainly convinced me that drafting goaltenders is a waste of time in the early rounds. A lot of this post will be piggybacking off of those conclusions as well as the point system that I created for my own posts about drafting goaltenders (here, here and here). Goaltenders were awarded points as follows:

The goalie plays an AHL game - 2
The goalie plays 40+ AHL or NHL games in a single season - 2
The goalie plays an NHL game - 1
For the team that drafted him - 1
The goalie plays in 50 NHL games over his career - 1
For the team that drafted him - 1
The goalie plays 40+ NHL games in a single season - 4
For the team that drafted him - 3
The goalie plays 40+ NHL games in at least five different seasons - 4
For the team that drafted him - 3
The goalie is nominated for the Vezina trophy - 4
For the team that drafted him - 3

In the following table I decided to include all goaltenders that were drafted between 1990 and 1999 so that the majority of them will have already established their level of ability. The table should be pretty self-explanatory:

The results here are somewhat expected. Goaltenders chosen in the earlier rounds tend to do better than goaltenders chosen in the later rounds although things really drop off after the third round. Still, the average goalie taken in the second round does a bit worse than 50 career NHL games for the team that drafted him. In other words, JDD. There isn't a big enough sample for goalies taken in the top ten to really come up with an average but it is significant to me that 15 points would mean the goalie played at least 40 NHL games for the team that drafted him for no less than one and no more than four seasons. It may be easier just to take a look at all 20 goalies taken in the first round from 1990 to 1999:

Half of the goalies taken in the first round end up not contributing at a level higher than a backup goaltender. Furthermore, many of the goalies that do go on to have success do so on other teams (Luongo, Giguere). Even the goalies that "work out" are often not the best goalies drafted. Of the goalies that received more than 15 points only 5 out of 14 were drafted in the first round (the others not already mentioned are Turco, Nabokov, Theodore, Potvin, Carey, Osgood, Salo, Khabibulin and Turek) and that doesn't include goalies who came into the league without being drafted (like Curtis Joseph).

As Kent so eloquently stated in his article on this subject, the goaltending position is unique. Either you're one of the most important contributors on the ice or you're not playing at all. Far too often, goaltenders taken early in the draft aren't playing at all and teams are using a valuable asset (a first round pick) on what looks to be a coin flip where the most common payoff (a short term starting goaltender) is something that's readily available on the cheap during the summer. And it's not as though the situation is getting better. Marek Schwarz (17th overall) has yet to have an impressive AHL season. Devan Dubnyk (14th overall) hasn't been much better. Neither has Al Montoya (6th overall) and he's already on his second organization. Hannu Toivonen (29th overall) has burnt through two organizations and is now playing in Finland. In short, don't use your first round pick on a goaltender.


Kent W. said...

Thanks for the kudos.

Puck prospectus and Illegal Curve writer Richard Pollock did a similar (but more extensive) analysis to mine on the draft/goaltenders and came to a similar conclusion.

I wonder if any NHL GM's think this way?

Scott said...

Thanks for the heads up with regard to the Puck Prospectus article. I must admit that I don't read much of the stuff there, mostly because there isn't any opportunity for discussion.

As far as GMs/organizations that might think along these lines... from 1990-1999 the following teams didn't draft any goaltenders in the first two rounds: Anaheim, Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis and San Jose. If we expand it to 2004 the only teams left standing is San Jose. Dean Lombardi was the GM in San Jose for a lot of this time period but he just drafted Bernier in the first round for LA so if it is a strategic decision by the Sharks it wasn't coming from the GM.

YKOil said...

Based on all the EXCELLENT work I have read from Kent and yourself I am thinking that every NHL GM has to add an extra question to their draft lists if a goalie is listed as the next 'BPA', namely:

Best Player EVER?

In other words - unless I can look at the kid and say he could be one of the top goalies to play the game, at the least in his generation, I just do not say that name.

I may still screw up (Storr) but at least I'm not taking the Hillier's of the world.

Based on my own stuff, which was ancillary to other work but it popped out rather obvious, I would add the second question:


Goalie development times are either REALLY short or REALLY long. You just can't 'hide' a goalie like you can a forward.

So, even if I see a goalie that might make the grade, if I don't see a guy who will be playing EFFECTIVE hockey for me in the next 3 years I have to say no.

Think about it - JDD was picked in 2002! That is a 7+ year development curve. That's insane.

Of course, as it gets later in the draft those restrictions fall away.

Scott said...

I agree with you YK. If you're drafting a goalie in the first round you had best be sure that he's going to be great to generational talent. Just looking at guys taken in the top ten from 2004 and back we have Lehtonen, Krahn, LeClaire, DiPietro, Luongo, Storr, Finley, Montoya and Fleury. Of those nine guys how many are fit the description? Luongo for sure. DiPietro is hard to evaluate because of his injuries but he, Lehtonen and Fleury all probably should be good goalies over the long haul. I'm not sold on LeClaire and then the other four look like bustville. So even with guys taken in the top ten you're only 50/50. All of the guys who look good were taken in the top five picks. If you're picking 6th or later in the draft that any goalie that was a sure thing will probably already have been taken.

YKOil said...

So there you have - the third question to ask.


Draft Depth?

Which is to say, if a goalie makes my BPA early because, as much as anything, the draft depth is weak then I should NOT be calling that name.

Any GM who asks those three questions on every goaltender that pops on his list, chosen before the flyer picks (round 6 and 7 for me), would easily (imo) NOT be calling out Bacashihua, Munro, Dubnyk, Schwarz, etc.

Fun stuff :-)