Who Many Quality NHL Players Are There In Each Draft Year?

To really judge which how well players and teams performed relative to their draft position, just looking at who made it to NHL to play a single game really isn’t the best metric, since the bar needs to be higher in order for a player to have a real impact for their organization.  So what is the better, next level cut to provide a good measurement of a quality draft pick who made an impact in the NHL.  After looking at the players selected from 2005-2016 the bar for players I recognized and having reasonable careers and stuck around for a few years seemed to be about 160 games.  Two years of games, even if it was over several years looked about right.  Then when I researched that the NHL players are eligible for a pension when they played 160 games, I felt confident that this second cut seems quite reasonable to confirm that the scouting organizations for teams did a good job at picking a ‘winner’ – or better said, a quality player.

Here is a summary of the quality players (as defined as having played at least 160 games in the NHL) by year from 2005 to 2016. As you can see,  each draft typically has 20%-25% of the players drafted end up as quality players, with a typical deviation of about 6%.

Less than 50% of players selected in the NHL entry draft play at least one game in the NHL

Being draft by an NHL team is certainly no guarantee of ever making it to the show.  Since 2005 only about 43% of players picked in the draft ever played a single game at the NHL level. The draft class of 2011 had the most success with almost 56% of players drafted that at least had a cup of coffee with the big club.  Clearly, the more recent draft years will continue to increase the penetration of prospects who break the single game barrier, but the on average the number seems to consistently asymptotically approach the 50% limit with a couple of expectations.


% of Drafted Hockey Players Who Make it to the NHL

Note: As of the end of the 2016-17 NHL regular season

How to evaluate NHL Draft team success

Over the past few weeks I have been analyzing the results of NHL Entry Draft since 2005.  Over the coming weeks I will be trying to answer the following macro-level questions:

  1. What is the best way to evaluate a team’s drafting success factoring in when they have picked and how many draft picks they have selected?
  2. Which teams have been the most successful at drafting since 2005?
  3. What is a draft pick worth when trading to move up or down?

In order to answer these questions, there is some basic groundwork that needs to be covered to understand the norms or benchmarks of player success during that time.  As a result I will start by providing some general draft insights to help understand the sliding scale of outcomes that can be seen at various stages in the draft.  To start here are some foundational questions which will be answered:

  1. What percent of drafted players make it to the NHL by draft round?
  2. How many of the players who make it to the NHL turn out to be ‘quality’ players?
  3. What are all the various perspectives in which to evaluate a team’s draft success?
  4. Why does a team’s draft success not directly correlate to on-ice success? i.e. which non-draft factors

Hopefully the data and analysis I provide will show fans a more balanced perspective on where their expectations should be set for the draft and their current prospects.