*For those of you who haven’t seen my earlier post(s) I am going through each of the 30 teams and breaking down how they have drafted over the past 15 years. The other teams can be found here:
- Anaheim Ducks
- Arizona Coyotes
- Boston Bruins
- Buffalo Sabres
- Calgary Flames
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Colorado Avalanche
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Dallas Stars
- Detroit Red Wings
- Edmonton Oilers
- Florida Panthers
- Los Angeles Kings
- Minnesota Wild
- Montreal Canadiens
- Nashville Predators
- New Jersey Devils
- New York Islanders
- New York Rangers
- Ottawa Senators
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- San Jose Sharks
- St. Louis Blues
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Vancouver Canucks
- Washington Capitals
- Winnipeg Jets
To make this post I went through all of the Pittsburgh Penguins picks between 2000 and 2012.
Many of these players were drafted but traded to other teams where they played most of their careers. Despite playing most of their careers on other teams I still used their full NHL stats for two reasons:
1) The team drafted players they believed to have potential; whether or not they fulfilled their potential on that team doesn’t necessarily matter. The important thing is that the team recognized a players true potential and the players that were selected lived up to it.
2) You could argue that they wouldn’t turn out to be the same players if they stayed on the team, and you’re probably right, but I decided to do it this way so that I could specifically focus on the teams drafting ability and not the player development.
TL;DR – With the second most top five draft selections between 2000 and 2012 the expectations for the Penguins first round drafting were one of the highest in the league. Crosby, Malkin, J. Staal, Fleury, Whitney, and Orpik round out an impressive list of selections that rank the Penguins first round drafting as one of the best in the league. In stark contrast their second round drafting was the second worst in the league with only 1 of their 12 draft picks skating in more than 75 games (8% success rate). Pittsburgh’s third round drafting was more than four times better than their second round with a success rate of 38 percent (second highest in the league). The Pens were similarly successful in the depth rounds where their success rate of 16 percent tied for second highest in the league. As a whole their high point totals from first round draftees and consistent success in the depth rounds have the Pens as a lock for top 10 position with the potential to crack the top five in my final rankings.
TOTAL PICK DISTRIBUTION
- 30 of 104 players drafted since 2000 have played 50+ games in the NHL (29%)
- 25 of 104 players drafted since 2000 have played 100+ games in the NHL (24%)
- Draftees (incl. goalies) since 2000 have played a total of 9977 games
- Skaters (excl. goalies) drafted since 2000 have played a total of 9317 games and accumulated 4634 points (0.50 PPG)
- Draftees since 2000 have an average of 51 points and 96 games played
- Best draft year: 2005 – Sidney Crosby (1st), Kris Letang (62nd), Joe Vitale (195th)
- Worst draft year: 2008 – No picks in the first three rounds. 1 NHL game played between four other picks.
Best Picks Since 2000
- Forward: Sidney Crosby
- Defenseman: Kris Letang
- Goaltender: Marc-Andre Fleury
- Most Games by a Draftee: Brooks Orpik (781)
- Most Points by a Draftee: Sidney Crosby (853)
FIRST ROUND PICKS
- 10 of 13 players drafted in the 1st round have played 100+ games in the NHL (77%)
- First round picks have played a total of 4563 games and accumulated 2635 points (0.67 PPG)
- First round picks have an average of 220 points and 351 games played
- Notable picks: Sidney Crosby (1st, 2005), Evgeni Malkin (2nd, 2004), Marc-Andre Fleury (1st, 2003), Jordan Staal (2nd, 2006), Ryan Whitney (5th, 2002), Colby Armstrong (21st, 2001), Brooks Orpik (18th, 2000), Simon Despres (30th, 2009), Olli Maatta (22nd, 2012), Beau Bennett (20th, 2010)
- Included Olli Maatta (98 GP) and Beau Bennett (96 GP) as exceptions to the 100+ GP success threshold
SECOND ROUND PICKS
- 1 of 12 players drafted in the 2nd round have played 100+ games in the NHL (8%)
- Second round picks have played a total of 655 games and accumulated 260 points (0.40 PPG)
- Second round picks have an average of 22 points and 55 games played
- Notable picks: Alex Goligoski (61st, 2004)
THIRD ROUND PICKS
- 6 of 16 players drafted in the 3rd round have played 100+ games in the NHL (38%)
- Third round picks have played a total of 1719 games and accumulated 635 points (0.37 PPG)
- Third round picks have an average of 45 points and 107 games played
- Notable picks: Kris Letang (62nd, 2005), Erik Christensen (69th, 2002), Daniel Carcillo (73rd, 2003), Nick Johnson (67th, 2004), Robert Bortuzzo (78th, 2007), Brian Strait (65th, 2006)
FOURTH TO NINTH ROUND PICKS
- 10 of 63 players drafted between the 4th and 9th rounds have played 100+ games in the NHL (16%)
- Fourth to ninth round picks have played 3040 games and accumulated 1104 points (0.37 PPG)
- Fourth to ninth round picks have an average of 21 points and 48 games played
- Notable picks: Tyler Kennedy (99th, 2004), Maxime Talbot (234th, 2002), Matt Moulson (263rd, 2003), Jake Muzzin (141st, 2007), David Koci (146th, 2000), Chad Johnson (125th, 2006), Dustin Jeffrey (171st, 2007), Joe Vitale (195th, 2005), Michael Ouellet (124th, 2000), Tomas Surovy (120th, 2001), Paul Bissonnette (121st, 2003)
- Between 2000 and 2012 Marc-Andre Fleury was the only goaltender the Penguins drafted before the third round
WHAT WE LEARNED
Since the 1st overall is very different from 30th overall I used this TSN article, which estimates a player’s probability of playing 100+ NHL games based off their round selection, to determined how well a team drafted in the first round relative to their pick placement. In other words, I determined if a team drafted well or poorly in the first round by comparing their success rate to the historical league average.
|1st Round Pick Position||# of Picks||Probability of Success|
|1 – 5||5||96%|
|6 – 10||1||74%|
|11 – 15||0||54%|
|16 – 20||3||62%|
|21 – 30||4||58%|
Between 2000 and 2012 the Penguins had the second most top five picks in the league (tied with Columbus, Florida, and Winnipeg). As a result their expectations for success were one of the highest in the league at 72 to 78 percent.
|Round||Expected Success Rate||Actual Success Rate|
|1||72 – 78%||77%|
|2||26 – 32%||8%|
|3||21 – 26%||38%|
|4+||10 – 15%||16%|
Despite having only 4563 games played by first round picks (10th of all teams) Penguins draftees have 2635 points which is good for fifth best in the league. Their points per game of 0.66 ranks highest in the league and their average points per draftee of 220 is second best only to Philadelphia. While Pittsburgh hasn’t drafted successful players in the first round of every draft the players who made it have become some of the best in the league.
Pittsburgh’s second round drafting has been anything but successful. Of their 12 picks only Alex Goligoski has play more than 75 career games. Their overall success rate of 8 percent is the second worst in the league and only two percent better than the last place Coyotes. There really isn’t much more to say about their disastrous second round drafting.
After their disastrous second round drafting the Penguins recovered very well in the third. Their third round success rate is more than four times better than their second and ranks second best in the league. Kris Letang was an exceptional find at 62nd overall but outside of him most of their third round selections have been bottom six forwards or bottom four defensemen. As a whole their average points per players and average games played per player both rank fourth best in the league.
With 10 of their 63 draftees skating in 100+ games and four accumulating at least 100 career points the Pens have been excellent at finding NHL quality players in the late rounds. Their success rate of 16 percent is tied with Nashville and Columbus for second best in the league, however, their average points per player ranks 6th and average games played ranks 9th. The Pens have found a number of NHL regulars in the depth rounds but don’t often find star caliber players or point producers; Michael Ouellet and Matt Moulson are their only late round picks with a career PPG higher than 0.50.
Looking at their drafting as a whole the Penguins have performed very well compared to the league average:
|100+ GP (%)||21%||26%||+5%|
Outside of some horrible second round drafting the Penguins have met or exceeded expectations in all other rounds. Their first round drafting is led by a star caliber group of players who have led them to the playoffs almost every year since their revitalization in the mid-2000’s. Consistency is a term that best describes their drafting in the third round and later where they’ve found 16 NHL regulars with 79 picks (20 percent success rate).
As a whole their success rate of 26 percent is tied with four other teams for the highest in the league. Pittsburgh’s draftees have an average points per game of 0.50, the highest in the league. It’s no surprise that Crosby and Malkin significantly inflate this stat as the two combine for more than one third of the teams total points. Their average draftee has played 96 games which ranks sixth best in the league while their average points per player (51) ranks second best. Depending on how the remaining seven teams have drafted, the Penguins have a legitimate chance at cracking the top five in my final rankings.
Since posting the article I have received a lot of great comments that support or refute my conclusions on Pittsburgh’s drafting success.
Firstly, a few people have mentioned the change in Pittsburgh’s drafting success from Craig Patrick (1989 – 2006) and Ray Shero (2006 – 2014). From 2000 to 2006 five of the Penguins seven first round picks were top five selections in the draft. Using the same formula from earlier in my post the expected success rate for Pittsburgh’s picks between 2000 and 2006 is 83 to 89 percent; their actual success rate between this period was 100 percent. From 2007 to 2012 only one of the teams six first round picks were in the top 20 and as a result their expected success rate is much lower at 53 to 58 percent; their actual success rate during this span is 50 percent. So while a success rate drop from 100 percent to 50 percent is certainly drastic it’s a little more understandable when you consider where their picks in the first round have been throughout the years.
|Years||Expected Success (%)||Actual Success (%)||Difference|
|2000-06||83 – 89||100||+11|
|2007-12||53 – 58||50||-3|
A second point that was brought up was that the Penguins haven’t drafted any quality forwards since Crosby, Malkin, and J. Staal. Since 2006 the Penguins have drafted only two forwards in the first round: Angelo Esposito and Beau Bennett (both taken 20th overall). By now it’s pretty safe to consider Esposito a bust as he spent his last season in the Australia and never played a game in the NHL. Beau Bennett on the other hand got his first extended look in the NHL last season (49 GP) and will be looking to expand on his playing time this season. So, the Penguins lack of home-grown forwards aren’t necessarily a result of poor drafting but rather a lack of sample size.
If the Penguins aren’t picking forwards in the first round who have they been drafting? After drafting no defensemen between 2003 and 2007, four of their five picks between 2008 and 2012 were blueliners. The Penguins preference for defensemen over forwards is fairly obvious, especially between 2009 and 2012:
- In 2009 both their first and second round picks were defensemen with 4 of their 7 total picks being d-men.
- In 2011 both their first and second round picks were defensemen
- In 2012 both of their first round picks were defensemen
Perhaps it’s all just a coincidence. Maybe the Penguins believed the best available picks were defenders most years; maybe they felt they were lacking in defensive depth and were comfortable with their group of forwards; maybe Shero intentionally drafted puck moving defensemen in order to use them as trade pieces late. Only members of the Penguins organization can say for sure. What I can say with confidence is that the Penguins haven’t produced star forwards like Crosby or Malkin because 1) they haven’t had picks in the top five and 2) they have seldom selected forwards in the first round.