A quantitative analysis of Canadiens draft picks

Friday is the beginning of the National Hockey League entry draft, when the 30 teams select young players, each hoping that they pick out a diamond in the rough and that their pick becomes the next superstar and doesn’t spend the next decade wallowing in minor leagues or get concussed and give up on hockey altogether.

And it’s the time when amateur general managers pontificate, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, on the failed choices of yesteryear, looking further down the list to find players who would turn out to be superstars, but failing to look up the list to find duds that weren’t taken.

I was curious about finding a more quantitative, non-subjective way of evaluating historical draft choices that takes into account both the overlooked superstars and the avoided mistakes. So I thought, why not just compare the Canadiens’ draft pick in a given year with the pick that came just before or just after?

With some help from Hockey DB, I took a look at the three picks before the Canadiens’ first-round selection, and the three picks after, from 1994 to 2013.

Needing some simple metric to determine success, I went with total games played. It’s an incomplete figure, sure, but it also serves as a pretty simple way to separate those who made long careers in the NHL from those who barely or never made it at all.

I score success and failure this way: if the player the Canadiens selected played more regular-season NHL games than two of the three players selected before him, it’s a success. If he plays fewer NHL games than two of the three players selected after him, it’s a failure. If it’s both (or neither), it’s neutral. (In case of ties, the number of career regular-season points breaks the tie.)

Here’s how it looks:

1994

  • 15th pick: Alexander Kharlamov (Capitals) — 0 GP
  • 16th pick: Eric Fichaud (Leafs) — 95 GP, 1 point
  • 17th pick: Wayne Primeau (Sabres) — 774 GP, 125 points
  • 18th pick: Brad Brown (Canadiens) — 330 GP, 29 points
  • 19th pick: Chris Dingman (Flames) — 385 GP, 34 points
  • 20th pick: Jason Botterill (Stars) — 88 GP, 14 points
  • 21st pick: Evgeni Ryabchikov (Bruins) — 0 GP

Verdict: Success.

1995

  • 5th pick: Daymond Langkow (Lightning) — 1090 GP, 672 points
  • 6th pick: Seve Kelly (Oilers) — 149 GP, 21 points
  • 7th pick: Shane Doan (Jets) — 1315 GP, 862 points
  • 8th pick: Terry Ryan (Canadiens) — 8 GP, 0 points
  • 9th pick: Kyle McLaren (Bruins) — 719 GP, 207 points
  • 10th pick: Radek Dvorak (Panthers) — 1260 GP, 590 points
  • 11th pick: Jarome Iginla (Stars) — 1310 GP, 1167 points

Verdict: Fail. Spectacularly.

1996

  • 15th pick: Danius Zubrus (Flyers) — 1169 GP, 574 points
  • 16th pick: Mario Larocque (Lightning) — 5 GP, 0 points
  • 17th pick: Jaroslav Svejkovsky (Capitals) — 113 GP, 42 points
  • 18th pick: Matt Higgins (Canadiens) — 57 GP, 3 points
  • 19th pick: Matthieu Descoteaux (Oilers) — 5 GP, 2 points
  • 20th pick: Marcus Nilson (Panthers) — 521 GP, 168 points
  • 21st pick: Marco Sturm (Sharks) — 938 GP, 487 points

Verdict: Fail.

1997

  • 8th pick: Sergei Samsonov (Bruins) — 888 GP, 571 points
  • 9th pick: Nick Boynton (Capitals) — 605 GP, 144 points
  • 10th pick: Brad Ference (Canucks) — 250 GP, 34 points
  • 11th pick: Jason Ward (Canadiens) — 336 GP, 81 points
  • 12th pick: Marian Hossa (Senators) — 1090 GP, 995 points
  • 13th pick: Daniel Cleary (Blackhawks) — 921 GP, 385 points
  • 14th pick: Michel Riesen (Oilers) — 12 GP, 1 point

Verdict: Fail. Though Samsonov would eventually play for the Canadiens.

1998

  • 13th pick: Michael Henrich (Oilers) — 0 GP
  • 14th pick: Patrick DesRochers (Coyotes) — 11 GP, 0 points
  • 15th pick: Mathieu Chouinard (Senators) — 1 GP, 0 points
  • 16th pick: Eric Chouinard (Canadiens) — 90 GP, 22 points
  • 17th pick: Martin Skoula (Avalanche) — 776 GP, 196 points
  • 18th pick: Dmitri Kalinin (Sabres) — 539 GP, 162 points
  • 19th pick: Robyn Regehr (Avalanche) — 1023 GP, 186 points

Verdict: Neutral. A fail if it wasn’t for the fact that the three players before him did much worse.

1999

(The Canadiens didn’t have a first-round pick this year, having traded the 10th pick to the Islanders, who took Branislav Mezei — 240 GP)

  • 36th pick: Alexei Semenov (Oilers) — 211 GP, 33 points
  • 37th pick: Nolan Yonkman (Capitals) — 76 GP, 10 points
  • 38th pick: Dan Cavanaugh (Flames) — 0 GP
  • 39th pick: Alexander Buturlin (Canadiens) — 0 GP
  • 40th pick: Alex Auld (Panthers) — 237 GP, 7 points
  • 41st pick: Tony Salmelainen (Oilers) — 70 GP, 18 points
  • 42nd pick: Mike Commodore (Devils) — 484 GP, 106 points

Verdict: Fail.

2000

  • 10th pick: Mikhail Yakubov (Blackhawks) — 53 GP, 12 points
  • 11th pick: Pavel Vorobiev (Blackhawks) — 57 GP, 25 points
  • 12th pick: Alexei Smirnov (Ducks) — 52 GP, 6 points
  • 13th pick: Ron Hainsey (Canadiens) — 673 GP, 207 points
  • 14th pick: Vaclav Nedorost (Avalanche) — 99 GP, 20 points
  • 15th pick: Artem Kryukov (Sabres) — 0 GP
  • 16th pick: Marcel Hossa (Canadiens) — 237 GP, 61 points

Verdict: Success. In fact, a double success here, since Hossa also played better than the two players before him.

2001

  • 4th pick: Stephen Weiss (Panthers) — 680 GP, 398 points
  • 5th pick: Stanislav Chistov (Ducks) — 196 GP, 61 points
  • 6th pick: Mikko Koivu (Wild) — 601 GP, 452 points
  • 7th pick: Mike Komisarek (Canadiens) — 551 GP, 81 points
  • 8th pick: Pascal Leclaire (Jackets) — 173 GP, 4 points
  • 9th pick: Tuomo Ruutu (Blackhawks) — 625 GP, 332 points
  • 10th pick: Dan Blackburn (Rangers) — 63 GP, 0 points

Verdict: Neutral.

2002

  • 11th pick: Keith Ballard (Sabres) — 590 GP, 174 points
  • 12th pick: Steve Eminger (Capitals) — 488 GP, 99 points
  • 13th pick: Alexander Semin (Capitals) — 578 GP, 494 points
  • 14th pick: Chris Higgins (Canadiens) — 601 GP, 293 points
  • 15th pick: Jesse Niinimaki (Oilers) — 0 GP
  • 16th pick: Jakub Klepis (Senators) — 66 GP, 14 points
  • 17th pick: Boyd Gordon (Capitals) — 560 GP, 143 points

Verdict: Success.

2003

  • 7th pick: Ryan Suter (Predators) — 672 GP, 313 points
  • 8th pick: Braydon Coburn (Thrashers) — 575 GP, 157 points
  • 9th pick: Dion Phaneuf (Flames) — 680 GP, 371 points
  • 10th pick: Andrei Kostitsyn (Canadiens) — 398 GP, 222 points
  • 11th pick: Jeff Carter (Flyers) — 636 GP, 460 points
  • 12th pick: Hugh Jessiman (Rangers) — 2 GP, 0 points
  • 13th pick: Dustin Brown (Kings) — 720 GP, 415 points

Verdict: Fail, even though Kostitsyn was hardly a flop as a player.

2004

  • 15th pick: Alexander Radulov (Predators) — 154 GP, 102 points
  • 16th pick: Petteri Nokelainen (Islanders) — 245 GP, 41 points
  • 17th pick: Marek Schwarz (Blues) — 6 GP, 0 points
  • 18th pick: Kyle Chipchura (Canadiens) — 342 GP, 78 points
  • 19th pick: Lauri Korpikoski (Rangers) — 400 GP, 138 points
  • 20th pick: Travis Zajac (Devils) — 551 GP, 323 points
  • 21st pick: Wojtek Wolski (Avalanche) — 451 GP, 267 points

Verdict: Neutral. A super success if looking up, but a fail if looking down.

2005

  • 2nd pick: Bobby Ryan (Ducks) — 448 GP, 337 points
  • 3rd pick: Jack Johnson (Hurricanes) — 490 GP, 190 points
  • 4th pick: Benoit Pouliot (Wild) — 371 GP, 160 points
  • 5th pick: Carey Price (Canadiens) — 369 GP, 10 points
  • 6th pick: Gilbert Brule (Jackets) — 299 GP, 95 points
  • 7th pick: Jack Skille (Blackhawks) — 194 GP, 53 points
  • 8th pick: Devin Setoguchi (Sharks) — 459 GP, 249 points

Verdict: Neutral. Though try convincing someone that Benoit Pouliot is a more valuable player than Carey Price.

2006

  • 17th pick: Trevor Lewis (Kings) — 276 GP, 48 points
  • 18th pick: Chris Stewart (Avalanche) — 382 GP, 228 points
  • 19th pick: Mark Mitera (Ducks) — 0 GP
  • 20th pick: David Fischer (Canadiens) — 0 GP
  • 21st pick: Bob Sanguinetti (Rangers) — 45 GP, 6 points
  • 22nd pick: Claude Giroux (Flyers) — 415 GP, 377 points
  • 23rd pick: Semyon Varlamov (Capitals) — 210 GP, 6 points

Verdict: Fail. With extra we-could-have-had-Claude-Giroux whining.

2007

  • 9th pick: Logan Couture (Sharks) — 297 GP, 220 points
  • 10th pick: Keaton Ellerby (Panthers) — 211 GP, 26 points
  • 11th pick: Brandon Sutter (Hurricanes) — 415 GP, 152 points
  • 12th pick: Ryan McDonagh (Canadiens) — 246 GP, 103 points
  • 13th pick: Lars Eller (Blues) — 286 GP, 103 points
  • 14th pick: Kevin Shattenkirk (Avalanche) — 282 GP, 154 points
  • 15th pick: Alex Plante (Oilers) — 10 GP, 2 points

Verdict: Fail. Though we did eventually get Lars Eller, and fans are still complaining that we traded McDonagh to the Rangers.

2008

(No first-round pick this year. Montreal traded it to Calgary for Alex Tanguay, and the Flames picked Greg Nemisz — 15 GP)

  • 53rd pick: Travis Hamonic (Islanders) — 252 GP, 78 points
  • 54th pick: Patrice Cormier (Devils) — 49 GP, 5 points
  • 55th pick: Marco Scandella (Wild) — 165 GP, 32 points
  • 56th pick: Danny Kristo (Canadiens) — 0 GP
  • 57th pick: Eric Mestery (Capitals) — 0 GP
  • 58th pick: Dmitri Kugryshev (Capitals) — 0 GP
  • 59th pick: Tyler Beskorowany (Stars) — 0 GP

Verdict: Neutral.

2009

  • 15th pick: Peter Holland (Ducks) — 68 GP, 17 points
  • 16th pick: Nick Leddy (Wild) — 258 GP, 93 points
  • 17th pick: David Rundblad (Blues) — 55 GP, 9 points
  • 18th pick: Louis Leblanc (Canadiens) — 50 GP, 10 points
  • 19th pick: Chris Kreider (Rangers) — 89 GP, 40 points
  • 20th pick: Jacob Josefson (Devils) — 118 GP, 25 points
  • 21st pick: John Moore (Jackets) — 173 GP, 29 points

Verdict: Fail. (As essentially confirmed by the team this summer.)

2010

  • 19th pick: Nick Bjugstad (Panthers) — 87 GP, 39 points
  • 20th pick: Beau Bennett (Penguins) — 47 GP, 21 points
  • 21st pick: Riley Sheahan (Red Wings) — 44 GP, 24 points
  • 22nd pick: Jarred Tinordi (Canadiens) — 30 GP, 4 points
  • 23rd pick: Mark Pysyk (Sabres) — 63 GP, 12 points
  • 24th pick: Kevin Hayes (Blackhawks) — 0 GP
  • 25th pick: Quinton Howden (Panthers) — 34 GP, 6 points

Verdict: Fail. Though that might change once Tinordi gets a chance to compete at the NHL level.

2011

  • 14th pick: Jamie Oleksiak (Stars) — 23 GP, 2 points
  • 15th pick: J.T. Miller (Rangers) — 56 GP, 10 points
  • 16th pick: Joel Armia (Sabres) — 0 GP
  • 17th pick: Nathan Beaulieu (Canadiens) — 23 GP, 4 points
  • 18th pick: Mark McNeill (Blackhawks) — 0 GP
  • 19th pick: Oscar Klefbom (Oilers) — 17 GP, 3 points
  • 20th pick: Connor Murphy (Coyotes) — 30 GP, 8 points

Verdict: Success thanks to the tiebreaker.

2012

  • 1st pick: Nail Yakupov (Oilers) — 111 GP, 55 points
  • 2nd pick: Ryan Murray (Jackets) — 66 GP, 21 points
  • 3rd pick: Alex Galchenyuk (Canadiens) — 113 GP, 58 points
  • 4th pick: Griffin Reinhart (Islanders) — 0 GP
  • 5th pick: Morgan Rielly (Leafs) — 73 GP, 27 points
  • 6th pick: Hampus Lindholm (Ducks) — 78 GP, 30 points

Verdict: Success.

2013

Montreal picked 25th. None of the players picked after 16th have played a game in the NHL.

Verdict: Neutral.

Total

  • Success: 5
  • Fail: 9
  • Neutral: 6

Under Trevor Timmins (2003-present):

  • Success: 2
  • Fail: 5
  • Neutral: 4

Feel free to expand this to second, third and later round picks or judge by other criteria.

See also Quantitative analyses of Canadiens drafts by this forum post and this blog and here and here.

4 thoughts on “A quantitative analysis of Canadiens draft picks

  1. mario

    Interesting analysis. But I disagree with 2005 being Neutral.
    That draft year the best players were Crosby, Price, Kopitar, Turku Rask and Jonathan Quick. I think Habs did pretty well. However amongst them only Price has yet to win a Stanley Cup.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Interesting analysis. But I disagree with 2005 being Neutral.

      So do I, but this is an analysis based on a formula, not subjective criteria.

      Reply
  2. George

    Lots of ways to evaluate the draft.

    I look at how many solid NHL players a team can identify among their draftees. (solid to me is roughly 400+ NHL games)

    One player is fair, two good, more then that is a very good draft.

    Based on my reviews, Habs are among the better teams in that regard over the same period.

    The problem with the NHL draft is the young age compared with other sports. Most kids have alot of developing and maturing left to do on draft day. And most won’t improve enough to become solid NHL players.

    Reply

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