Was Gretzky good, average or bad at drafting?

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 2:47 am by Jason Gregor


What should we consider a success when looking at a five-year span of NHL drafts? If a team lands one superstar and a few solid players is that good? Do you need to have one solid player from each year? I think we will all have different views of success, and after a conversation on twitter with Jonathan Willis I wanted to look at all 30 teams draft success between 2007-2011.

The conversation began while looking at the Arizona (then Phoenix) Coyotes’ drafts when recently hired assistant general manager of the Oilers, Keith Gretzky, was the head of amateur scouting in Phoenix. Willis was concerned about their drafting in the second round especially, and mainly in the later rounds. A valid concern, while I argued they had some very good first round picks, every year but one, and basically built their current defence in these years.

I felt, before way too many hours of research, they would be at worst middle of the pack. Not great, but not a bottom feeder, so here is a look at all 30 teams and their draft results from 2007-2011.


Anaheim Ducks:

Anaheim Ducks 2:2

Anaheim Ducks 1:2

To date their picks have played a combined 2,639 games. They didn’t draft a superstar, but they never had a top-ten pick, however, Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, Kyle Palmeiri, Jake Gardiner, Rickard Rakell and John Gibson are solid players. Josh Manson has really blossomed as a 6th rounder, and could be another top-four defender very soon. I’d argue the Ducks success drafting D-men is the best in the league over the past ten years,

Arizona Coyotes:

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes’s picks have played 2,240 games thus far. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is arguably the best player from the 2009 draft. He is a top-ten defender in the NHL. He’s elite. Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker, Connor Murphy and Michael Stone are solid players. Louis Domingue is showing signs of being a solid goalie.

Calgary Flames:

Calgary Flames

So far their picks have played 1,834 games. Johnny Gaudreau was a steal in the 4th round and he’s one of the youngest players of this five-year span. TJ Brodie was another stellar pick. Mikael Backlund has developed into a solid two-way player. Ferland and Bouma are good depth guys, while Markus Granlund and Sven Baertschi have shown glimpses they could become useful regular NHLers.

Gaudreau and Brodie are top-end players and if we look at this five-year span again in five years, I suspect the Flames will look even better when those two have played more games.

Chicago Blackhawks:

Chicago Blackhawks 2:2

Chicago Blackhawks 1:2

They have played 2,646 thus far. The Hawks won the 2007 lottery and grabbed Kane and he’s become one of the most dangerous players in the NHL. Brandon Saad has worked out very well. Markus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Ben Smith, Brandon Pirri and Joakim Nordstrom are solid contributors. They haven’t had much success with D-men during this window and outside of Kane, they have had more success in rounds 2-7 than they have in the first round.

Colorado Avalanche:

Colorado Avalanche

Their players have played 2,907 games so far. Their 2009 draft was outstanding landing Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and Tyson Barrie. The Avs were good in odd numbered years, and didn’t get much from the 2008 or 2010 drafts, which illustrates how difficult it can be to continually see your picks pan out. Gabriel Landeskog and Kevin Shattenkirk were excellent picks as well. 

Dallas Stars:

Dallas Stars

The Stars first round picks haven’t been very good, but their 5th rounders have been excellent with Jamie Benn and John Klingberg. The Stars have 2,034 games from their picks thus far. Their misses in the first round has hurt them a bit, which is why I will always argue you can’t rank a draft window without including every round. First round picks don’t always pan out.

Edmonton Oilers:

Edmonton Oilers 2:2

Edmonton Oilers 1:2

Their picks have played 3,097 games. Jordan Eberle was an outstanding choice at #22 in 2008 and Oscar Klefbom, if he can stay healthy, looks like a very good 19th pick. Sam Gagner looked like he was turning a corner in 2012/2013, but he wasn’t able to build off of that season. Martin Marincin, Brandon Davidson and Tobias Rieder have emerged as solid players. Taylor Hall is one of the league’s best LW, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was a solid pick as well.

Los Angeles Kings:

LA Kings 2:2

LA Kings 1:2

The Kings have a whopping 4,405 games from their picks, and much of their success came after the first round, outside of Drew Doughty and Brayden Schenn. Doughty is a stud and a main reason they won Cups in 2012 and 2014, but their depth picks have been great. Wayne Simmonds, Alex Martinez and Tyler Toffoli are productive players. The Kings have had great success from their bottom six with Dwight King, Jordan Nolan, Kyle Clifford and Nick Shore. Slava Voynov was an excellent pick, and if he hadn’t been such a douchebag off the ice the Kings D corps would be even better. They landed one superstar and many solid players.

Minnesota Wild:

Minnesota Wild

The Wild has amassed 2,227 games with their best success coming on the blueline in Nick Leddy, Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella. Mikael Granlund took longer than they expected to develop for a 9th overall pick, but he’s now in their top-six. Erik Haula is looking like a very good 7th round selection. Leddy is a prime example of a GM not helping his amateur scouts, because he traded Leddy away eight months after he was drafted, and they traded him along with Kim Johnsson for Cam Barker. Ouch

Nashville Predators:

Nashville Predators 2:2

Nashville Predators 1:2

The Preds have seen their picks play 2,942 games thus far. Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Matthias Ekholm are all top-four defenders for the Preds. That is outstanding. Colin Wilson hasn’t lived up to his 7th overall status thus far, but he’s teased Nashville with some solid play in the playoffs. Craig Smith was an excellent 4th round pick, and the Preds really stocked their current roster via the 2008 and 2009 drafts. 

San Jose Sharks:

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks have 2,549 GP and it is basically from seven players, and four of them came from the 6th and 7th rounds. The Sharks only had two first rounders, Logan Couture, great pick at #9 in 2007, and Charlie Coyle. They have had virtually no success other than Matt Nieto between the 2nd and 5th rounds, but Justin Braun, Nick Bonino, Jason Demers and Tommy Wingels have been steals late in drafts. An example of why we have to include all rounds to accurately evaluate the drafting success of a team, IMO.

St. Louis Blues:

St. Louis Blues 2:2

St. Louis Blues 1:2

The Blues have been rewarded with 3,088 GP thus far. Most of their success has come in the first round with Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, David Perron, Ian Cole and Lars Eller. Jake Allen is now their starting goalie, Jori Lehtera is a solid depth guy and Joel Edmudson will likely be a solid top-four D-man moving forward. The Blues made their first round picks count.

Vancouver Canucks:

Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks were atrocious during this five-year run and they’ve only seen 704 games from their picks. Cody Hodgson has almost half of those, 328, and he’s still unsigned and might be out of the league. Hodgson was their only pick in the top-22, so that is a factor, but they haven’t done much outside the first round. Kevin Connauton and Frank Corrado are the best non-first-round picks.

Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers:

Winnipeg Jets:Atlanta Thrashers 1:2

Winnipeg Jets:Atlanta Thrashers 2:2

I’m sure Don Waddell still has nightmares over taking Zach Bogosian ahead of Alex Pietrangelo with the third pick in 2008. Bogosian is a solid defender, but Pietrangelo is an Olympian. The ATL/WPG franchise has garnered 2,052 GP thus far. They haven’t drafted an elite player, but have landed a few solid forwards in Mark Schiefele and Evander Kane. Kane’s off-ice issues are a major concern, and something I hope the NHL looks at very seriously, but on the ice he has been a decent player.


Boston Bruins:

Boston Bruins

The Bruins had solid run prior to this five year stretch, however, In this span they’ve only received 1,506 GP from their picks thus far. Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton were very good picks, but they traded them both away after acquiring both picks in a trade for Phil Kessel. Joe Colbourne has taken a long time to develop and is coming off his best season, and Ryan Spooner is looking like a solid complementary player. Zack Trotman has looked like a quality 7th round selection and could become a regular this year.

Buffalo Sabres:

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres have managed 2,200 GP thus far, with Tyler Myers emerging as the best player. All their first-rounders have played, but only Myers and Ennis have been consistently productive players. Marcus Foligno, Zack Kassian, Mark Pysyk and Brayden McNabb have had varying degrees of success, with McNabb looking like he’ll become the most impactful of the four.

Carolina Hurricanes:

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes picks have played 2,560 games thus far. Their 2010 draft was outstanding grabbing Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk and Freddie Andersen. The problem for the Canes was they didn’t sign Andersen and he went back in the 2012 draft and Anaheim selected him in the third round.

That is a prime example of once a player is picked the scouting staff has very little say. Clearly Canes management didn’t feel Andersen was worth signing to an ELC and let him go back in the draft. There are many steps between draft day and playing in the NHL, and many of them are not the responsibility of the amateur scouting staff. Development and drafting have to go hand-in-hand if an organization wants to have success in the entry draft so we always have to keep that in mind when evaluating the draft success of any head of amateur scouting. We’ve seen in Edmonton where the owner or GM will tell your head scout who to draft, which is never a good idea. It has happened in other markets as well.

Columbus Blue Jackets:

Columbus Blue Jackets

Blue Jackets picks have played 2,749 games and much of it from seven players. Jacub Voracek and Ryan Johansen are very good players. David Savard is a quality Dman. Cam Atkinson has emerged as an outstanding 6th round pick and Boone Jenner looks like he will keep improving. Outside of Jenner the Jackets did nothing with 2nd round picks, but that doesn’t mean their overall drafting hasn’t been decent. It has been solid during these five years.

Detroit Red Wings:

Detroit Red Wings

The Wings picks have combined for 1,958 games. They haven’t picked a superstar or even a great player, but they Gustav Nyqvist, Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan are solid forwards. Petr Mrazek might turn out to be their best pick, but we’ll need to see more from him. Brendan Smith has been the best D-man thus far and he’s in their third pair. They also never had a selection in the top-20 during this time.

Florida Panthers:

Florida Panthers 2:2

Florida Panthers 1:2

The Panthers picks have played 2,752 games. Sixteen of them have played 50+ games. None have emerged as great yet, but Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, Dmitri Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, Vincent Trocheck, Matt Bartowski, Alex Petrovic and Jacob Markstrom are solid NHLers with different skill sets.

Montreal Canadiens:

Montreal Canadiens

They’ve combined for 2,128 games, and 1,579 of those games have come from their 2007 draft. They drafted two #1 defenders in PK Subban and Ryan McDonagh and a top-line winger in Max Pacioretty. Brendan Gallagher and Nathan Beaulieu were the other solid picks. The Habs and Panthers are examples of quality vs. quantity. The Panthers have more players in the league, but the Habs have the best ones. I’d prefer to select three legit stars over numerous good players and some role guys.

I wonder how good the Habs would have been if they hadn’t traded McDonagh for Scott Gomez. Wow, what a terrible trade for the Habs.

New Jersey Devils:

New Jersey Devils

The Devils’ picks have played 1,886 games. Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson were their best picks. They haven’t unearthed any gems other than Henrique in the third round.

New York Islanders:

New York Islanders 1:2

New York Islanders 2:2

The Islanders picks have played 3,990 games. Their 2008 and 2009 years were highly successful with a range of players from top-end guys like John Tavares and Travis Hamonic, to solid skill and role players in Jared Spurgeon, Josh Bailey, Calvin de Haan, Casey Cizikas, Anders Lee and Matt Martin. The Islanders drafting was very balanced during these years as they had players from almost every round pan out.

New York Rangers:

New York Rangers

Rangers have skated in 2,347 games. They’ve haven’t landed a high-end player, but they have some solid forwards in Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, JT Miller and Carl Hagelin. Dale Weise has become a very good 4th round selection. 

Ottawa Senators:

Ottawa Senators

The Senators picks are one of the few groups to play more than 3,000 games sitting with 3,013. Erik Karlsson is one of the best D-men in the game, and the best offensive defenceman. Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone were excellent late round selections, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau looks he could also be a steal. The Senators drafted very well at forward, defence and in goal landing Robin Lehner.

Philadelphia Flyers:

Philadephia Flyers

The Flyers picks have played 1,994 games. James Van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier were their best picks. They didn’t have much success with blueliners. Luca Sbisa was their best and he’s a third pairing guy. Patrick Maroon was an excellent 6th round selection. Couturier and Nick Cousins are the only two picks still on their NHL roster.

Pittsburgh Penguins:

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins haven’t had much success in this span with only 1,188 games played by their draft picks. Jake Muzzin was their best selection, 5th round in 2007, but they never signed him and he signed as a free agent with the Kings. Bryan Rust scored six goals in this year’s run to the Cup, while Tom Kuhnacki chipped in five playoff points. The Penguins made some stellar picks between 2002-2006 and landing Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang allowed them to remain competitive despite a five year span of unproductive drafting.

Tampa Bay Lightning:

Tampa Bay Lightning 2:2

Tampa Bay Lightning 1:2

The Lightning picks have played 3,089 games, but the value of those games is huge due to Steven Stamkos, Viktor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat. Stamkos and Hedman went #1 and #2, but they got Kucherov in the 2nd round, Killorn in the 3rd and Palat in the 7th. Five excellent picks. Radko Gudas was a solid 3rd rounder, and Vlad Namestnikov was 6th on their team in scoring last year while Brett Connolly has struggled to find consistency. Excellent drafting.

Toronto Maple Leafs:

Leafs 1:2

Leafs 2:2

The Leafs haven’t had much drafting success with only 1,509 games played. They traded away two first rounders in 2010 and 2011 which turned out to be the #2 and #9 selections (Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton). Nazem Kadri is their best selection while Luke Schenn is now a third pairing defender. Not much to show from these five years.

Washington Capitals:

Washington Capitals

The Capitals have 2,409 games played, but they are another team based on quality not quantity. They drafted an elite goalie in Brayden Holtby, two very good offensive D-man in John Carlson and a shutdown D-man in Karl Alzner, a top-end play maker in Evgeny Kuznetsov, solid 2nd liners in Marcus Johansson and Cody Eakin and a third pairing guy in Dmitri Orlov. They are the only team to have both their goalies drafted from this five-year span.


It is too early to accurately evaluate this five-year window, because some players won’t play anymore games, while other like Gaudreau look like they will have long, productive careers, but it does give us some good insight into how good or bad teams did at the draft table.

Below is a list of GP, top-six forwards, top-four D-men and how many picks are still on their original team’s roster.

*A top-6 fwd was top-6 in TOI last year on their team, while a top-4 D was top-four in TOI as well. I know it isn’t always accurate to rate a top-four defender on a 30th place team the same as ones on the top-five teams, so I realize some might not agree with every top-6 or top-4 ranking, but I used TOI rather than go with who I thought was one. I did this to limit the subjectivity of it.*

** I could have added starting goalies, and then Washington, St.Louis, Detroit, Ottawa, Anaheim and Carolina would have another impact player.**

TEAM           GP      Top-10 picks          Top-6 fwd       Top-4 D        Still on team

Los Angeles 4,405           3                          3                   3                   9
NY Islanders 3,990          4                          5                   2                   8
Edmonton     3,097          4                          4                   1                   5
Tampa Bay    3,089          3                         4                   1                   7
St.Louis        3,088           1                         2                   1                   8
Ottawa          3,013          2                          4                   1                   8
Nashville       2,942           1                         1                   3                   8
Columbus     2,749           3                         3                   1                   6
Colorado       2,907           2                         3                  2                   3
Florida          2,752           3                         2                   2                   6
Chicago        2,646           1                         2                   0                   2
Anaheim       2,639           0                         2                   3                   6
Carolina        2,560          1                         2                   2                   6
San Jose      2,549           1                         2                   2                   5
Washington   2,409          1                         2                   2                   7
NY Rangers  2,347          1                         3                   1                   4
Arizona         2,240           3                         2                   3                   6
Minnesota    2,227            2                        1                   3                   6
Buffalo         2,200            0                        1                   2                   2
Montreal       2,128           0                        2                   2                   3
WPG/ATL     2,052           4                         2                   1                   4
Dallas           2,039           1                         1                   1                   5
Philadelphia 1,994           2                         2                   0                   2
Detroit          1,958           0                         2                   0                  10
New Jersey   1,886           1                         1                   1                  5
Calgary        1,834           0                         2                    1                  7
Toronto        1,509            2                        1                    0                   2
Boston         1,506            3                        2                    1                   2
Pittsburgh    1,188            0                        0                    1                   3
Vancouver     704             1                         0                   0                   0



Keep in mind those numbers are based on draft picks and their production, regardless of which team they are currently playing for. Boston gets credit for Seguin, even though he is in Dallas now.

Arizona was 17th in GP, middle of the road, but only LA, Ottawa**, Anaheim** and  NYI have produced more top-minute players.

I’m certain everyone will have a different standard of what they deem successful. Ideally you would like success later in the draft, but not every first round selection pans out and if the ones you pick become impact player rather than role players, I’d argue a few of those picks are more valuable than many complementary players later in the draft.

I was stunned at how much production LA and NYI have received from their picks compared to the rest of the league, while Vancouver fans likely barfed when they saw the five-year run of futility by the Canucks. I’m curious to see if another team ever had a five year run as bad as Vancouver’s. That was terrible.

The Oilers run between 1986-1990 wasn’t very good. Not one player from 1990 played a single NHL game. The 1986 class played a combined 50 games, but 1987-1989 they managed 3,874 games from the likes of Josef Beranek, Shaun Van Allen, Anatoli Semenov, Shjon Podein, Geoff Smith and others. None were great player, but they were decent NHLers.

Vancouver’s drafting during this run was beyond bad.

Overall, I’d say Gretzky was just above average during these years. Their late picks were not good for the most part, excluding Stone, but he made their early picks count.

What do you see when you compare all the teams?

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