A few weeks ago, I completed an exercise using pGPS to look at the UFA prospects then Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis signed during his tenure at the time of their signings.
Seeing the have and have nots in terms of NHL potential proved an interesting endeavour. Unsurprisingly, Chris Tanev checked out as one of the better-rated prospects of the group when viewed through the lens of pGPS (Prospect Graduation Probabilities System) at the time of his signing.
In the comment section, and on Twitter, there were requests to do all of Mike Gillis’s draft classes. Well, ask and you shall receive. This past week was a week-long series reviewing the 2008-13 draft classes with pGPS.
Before we dive in, let’s make it clear that this isn’t a comparison between the previous regime and the current one. This is simply an exercise of looking back to see how those draft classes would’ve looked using the tools we have available to us now.
As mentioned above, I’ve spent the past week using the pGPS tool to look back at the drafts during the Mike Gillis tenure with the Canucks. I wanted to see how the players looked at the time of their selection and see how the high-end prospects trended throughout their development. Obviously, given that some of the drafts were less than five years ago, it’s not fair to fully judge them, but it did provide some insight.
We already knew that the Canucks struggled at the draft table during the Mike Gillis tenure, and going back through them re-iterated that. But with that said, the Canucks were near the top of the NHL for a good portion of his time, so selecting in the latter half of the first round every year doesn’t help. To put that into context, the Canucks lost in five games against the L.A. Kings in 2012, yet still selected 26th overall due to winning the Pacific Division and President’s Trophy. Swept in 2013 by the San Jose Sharks, and their own pick was 24th overall.
That puts any team at a disadvantage when drafting, as there is no chance of getting high-end talent to supplement their core. The Canucks acquired the 9th overall pick, at the cost of an elite goaltender, and they added an impact two-way centre in Horvat, who will be with the Canucks for the foreseeable future.
Not to mention, there were factors out of their control that derailed players careers – Cody Hodgson, Yann Sauve, Prab Rai, Mike Williamson, and Anton Rodin all suffered injuries that stagnated their development. Rai and Rodin were looked upon favourably by pGPS – now Rodin is trying to make the leap back to the NHL.
As we all know, the Canucks were trading away picks to add depth to a team that came within one game of winning the Stanley Cup. Draft picks are lottery tickets, and the Canucks were moving those lottery tickets for sure bets to help put them over the top.
With all the being said, it’s clear the Canucks had to extract value from the remaining picks they had and unfortunately missed on quite a few of them.
The idea of taking NCAA bound players with later picks was a sound thought process. If you look at quite a few of the players coming out of the NCAA, quite a few are 3rd, 4th, or 5th round picks who benefitted from the longer development path. That exact plan resulted in Ben Hutton.
I avoided comparing the two regimes throughout the entire process, as it’s not fair to compare year over year draft classes as each year varies in player quality. So looking at the Mike Gillis drafts’, it’s clear that they didn’t have a good record on the draft floor, even though some of the players that pGPS looked on favourably did pan out.
It is worth mentioning that the 2013 looks very positive. Which coincided with Eric Crawford being moved to director of player personal and having the final say on draft selections. So although Gillis was the man in charge at the time, it may not be fair placing the poor drafting blame entirely on him.
Hope everyone enjoyed reading the series.