The NHL draft floor in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
“I’ve been in this racket for 15 years and straight across the board this is the weakest draft. Straight across the board, without question.” – Canadian Hockey League scout in 2009.
That quote was from a story published on THN.com in 2009 about the junior prospects who would one day make up the 2012 NHL draft. Even that far back there were questions about the depth of talent available, a perception that carried through to this day.
“The talent was good in the first round, but the consensus of most people in the business was that this was not a deep draft,” said one Eastern Conference scout. “What that means is it’s harder to find the people from later on who will play, but if you look at every round of every draft there’s people who play well in the NHL, it’s just harder to find them. And there might not be as many in this draft.”
To be sure, there will always be plenty of NHLers in every draft. Even in the dreaded 1999 draft there were three players who have played more than 600 NHL games – and counting. As one scout explained in 2009, everyone is in the same pool playing with the same rules, so you can’t just throw your arms up in surrender. Someone is going to break out.
“Any draft you’re looking at value so you can find good players later on as well,” said a Western Conference scout. “Up front it’s not the sexiest, deepest draft of immediate talent. I think you look at the depth over the seven rounds - are you going to find guys who you find as a value player?”
The value this season was on the blueline and we saw this coming three years ago. Eight of the first 10 and 13 of the first 30 picks were defensemen, the most in the first round since 1996. The trend didn’t end there as 64 D-men were taken in the last six rounds. Round 3 had only seven blueliners taken, the lowest in the draft. Is this a signal of a bad crop of forwards?
“(The defensemen) are so good,” said the Eastern Conference scout. “It’s as simple as that. Every one of those guys who went in the first round is a good prospect and have some dynamic element to their game. These D-men eclipsed the forwards. You look at some of the forwards that maybe fell into the 10-20 range who might have been higher, but people were so taken by these defensemen.”
Time will tell just where this year’s crop ranks up against all the rest, but it’s too early to declare this the new 1999 nightmare.
But it is starting from behind and has some negative perceptions to beat – starting right from the top.
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web editor. His column appears regularly only on THN.com.
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