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The Silliness of Grading NHL Drafts

28 Jun

No, I’m not an expert and neither are most people rating a draft that happened a few days ago.

During my time as a writer for several different websites, nothing annoyed me more than the task of grading a team’s NHL Draft picks. I throughly enjoyed writing about prospects, but the whole grading thing was silly.  How can you rate someone who has yet to step onto NHL ice?  Sure, we know about a player’s ability and where people think each player should go, but in the end, those are just numbers.  A player’s ability doesn’t change if he falls from where he was ranked in The Hockey News or anyplace else.  Yet, people take those numbers to heart and study those in creating mock drafts and the like.  Then, when a player falls, people get angry, or if a favorite isn’t chosen, the team is then deemed a “loser.”  People would debate grades and rankings vigorously even though nobody can see the future and just how good or bad that a particular player will be.

How is a team a loser in a draft that just happened?  Just because you have a particular favorite and your team didn’t choose him, or just because you’ve never heard of a guy, it doesn’t make it a bad draft.  I doubt many said Detroit was a winner after the 1998 Draft. Granted, they did pick Jiri Fischer but Pavel Datsyuk wasn’t drafted until the sixth round from the obscure team of Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg.  That same draft class for the Wings included the much more touted Fischer and Ryan Barnes.  In the end, the unknown guy from Russia was the class of their selections which is why it is so difficult to rate a draft and it’s somewhat foolish to even attempt it.  On paper, we can compare players and guess who’s going to develop but in the end, it’s all a guessing game.

On my last post, I mentioned Pierre McGuire’s enthusiasm for drafted players.  I pointed out Kenndal McArdle as an example.  McArdle may still develop into a bonafide NHLer but it sure doesn’t look like he will be the “monster” that McGuire exclaimed that he was.  On that draft day of July 30, 2005, I’m sure that McGuire considered the Panthers a winner just because of that pick.  McArdle had slid down from where many saw him going so it looked like a steal at pick number 20.  Today, that pick looks dubious as there are dozens of NHL regulars that were picked after him.  The Panthers looked like winners at the time, but time has completely erased that.  That draft year was brutal even by Florida Panther standards as not one of their picks has gone on to be a regular in the NHL.

It’s humorous to mock McGuire for that today or to go back to my old Hockey News Draft Previews and see what they say about various players.  I even enjoy mocking myself for some of the things that I wrote after drafts.  Same goes for reading past message board comments and e-mails.  I know why blogs, TV and other forms of media try to grade a team’s draft picks.  There’s an insatiable appetite for it.  No matter how accurate a pundit might be, very few people go back in the past and see if they were actually right.  It’s all forgotten too quickly for instant gratification.  People crave debates and ESPN has latched on to that with its various Pardon the Interruption style shows and segments for better or worse.  Grading drafts feeds that addiction and yeah it is fun to debate and argue certain points.  Just remember, don’t put too much stock into what anyone says when it comes to the draft and don’t get so worked up about it.  In the end, everyone is just guessing to entertain the masses and nobody is an expert when it comes to guessing.

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