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[Article] Vancouver Canucks Scouting vs. Simple Statistics


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I found an interesting article on CanucksArmy about our scouting record. Not sure if this should be a new thread or be posted onto a existing thread...

I was recently having a Twitter discussion with Canucks Army contributor Patrick Johnston (@risingaction) and regular reader Ryan (@Verviticus), in which we were essentially arguing which Canucks entry draft in the Ron Delorme Era was the worst (it's probably 2007, although 2002, 2000, and 2009 are all pretty miserable too).

We came to the conclusion that, man, Vancouver's drafting really has been inexcusably awful for over a decade now. Sure, there have been a handful of home runs with guys like Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, and Ryan Kesler, but nearly every Canucks fan can name The One That Got Away or That Guy They #ShouldOf Drafted. Still, every team in the NHL passed up Shea Weber or Patrice Bergeron or Milan Lucic, so is Ron Delorme's record as head of Canucks amateur scouting really that much worse than everyone else?

To find out, I decided to design an extremely basic you-don't-have-to-even-think method of drafting and compared it to Vancouver's draft record under Delorme. I've put a summer intern with nothing but a book of CHL stats and no access to any non-Canadian junior league up against an entire team of world-travelling, game-watching professional amateur scouts. If the Canucks' brass can't clear this woefully low hurdle, then holy hell they are awful.

Spoiler: it's even worse than you think.

The Method

The Pension Plan Puppets have a running gag over on their blog about whether Dave Nonis (or Brian Burke or whoever the hell runs the Leafs these days. Shanahan? Lieweke? Carlyle? It's hard to keep track!) can out-GM a potato. They outline a set of rules that the potato has to abide by and compare the teams' theoretical moves under the leadership of a potato to those made by the actual team. An excerpt from this past summer:

You get the idea."Dave Nonis and Randy Carlyle made some controversial moves yesterday, so to figure out whether the duo deserves accolades or scorn, I thought I would compare Nonis' July 5th Leafs roster to a potato's.

Rules: The potato cannot extend the Leafs' UFAs, nor can it sign new ones. We will consider Colton Orr's extension a "July 5th" move. It will not undo trades, so Bolland and Bernier are still on the roster. Lastly, the potato must re-sign RFAs at 200% of their previous AAV - it's a potato, not a skilled negotiator. So how did our two GMs fare?"

You can read that article here.

Anyways, to avoid totally ripping off PPP's shtick, we'll say our sole amateur scout is the only thing more useless to a hockey game than a potato: Tom Sesti--

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--I mean, uh, we'll say our scout is a summer intern called "Sham Sharron". Sham will not pick and choose his draft selections. He has no access to game tape, he has seen no games, and he has no fancy stats or analytics to aid his decision. He will select all players by the following rules:

  1. All players selected will be from the Canadian Hockey League.
  2. Goalies are voodoo, they will not be selected at any time.
  3. Defensemen are voodoo, they will not be selected at any time.
  4. The Canucks' selection will be the player still on the draft board that scored the most points in their 17 year old CHL season that was for-realsies taken between Vancouver's selection and Vancouver's subsequent selection.
  5. No other information other than the total number of points a player had in his 17-year old season (his first year of draft eligibility) is considered. This information was freely available at the time each draft was held.
  6. Ties are broken on the basis of points per game.
Starting with the 2000 NHL entry draft, here's how Ron Delorme and his crew got their asses handed to them by Fake Intern Sham Sharron:

2000

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Sham and Ron agree on Brandon Reid in the 7th round, but Sham finds top-6 winger and Corsi God Justin Williams at 23rd overall. Vancouver finds 26 pointless games of Nathan Smith.

2001

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Vancouver did well in 2001, finding two impact pros in Kevin Bieksa and R.J. Umberger. However, Sham managed to find future 3-time 30-goal scorer Jason Pominville to compliment the Sedins and Kyle Wellwood and P-A Parenteau to supplement Vancouver's depth. As we'll see though, Wellwood is eventually forced out of Vancouver's system by some even better talent at C. I'm Gladskikh the Canucks avoided that awkward situation..

2002

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'02 was a disaster for Vancouver, as they failed to find a single NHLer with their 11 selections. Sham whiffs on the majority of his picks too, but unearths Matt Stajan in the late 2nd round and Max Talbot in the 7th.

As an aside, this was my absolute favourite thing I discovered while doing this project: the guy Vancouver actually drafted in the 7th round, 214th overall, was a guy by the name of Marc-Andre Roy. You'll notice that he played 58 games in his draft year, had no goals, and just one assist. So why did Brian Burke's Vancouver Canucks waste a pick on that coke machine?

I bet it had something to do with this:

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Yes, those are SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTY THREE minutes in penalties in just 68 games. According to Hockeyfights.com, Roy had 41 fighting majors that year, which account for a total of 205 of those penalty minutes. I don't know how one accrues 448 extra PIMs without fighting, but I assume it involves criminal activity, human sacrifice, and satanic worship at centre ice.

Thing is, Roy wasn't the only super-ultra-mega goon roaming the QMJHL back then. I came across quite a few guys with massive PIM totals running through this study. I don't know much about Q hockey in the early 2000's, but I have to assume it was a total gong show.

2003

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The 2003 draft is legendary for the sheer number of quality picks that the first and second rounds produced. However, it wasn't a really deep draft as the number of late round successes were kind of limited. Sham misses Ryan Kesler here, but picks up future ex-Flyers captain Mike Richards, as well as Clarke MacArthur. Under Sham's drafting, Brad Richardson also starts his Vancouver Canuck tenure a decade sooner than he would in real life.

2004

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The 2004 draft is probably the crown jewel of the Delorme Era. Vancouver's gamble on a goalie in the first round paid off, and Delorme and Co. also discovered future NHL regulars Alex Edler, Jannik Hansen, and Mike Brown. Sham takes Brandon Dubinsky over Cory Schneider and Liam Reddox (who somehow managed to sneak in 100 career NHL games...?) instead of Edler, but almost had Kris Versteeg in the 4th round instead of Peter Pohl. Versteeg has 49 points to Pohl's 50, but did so in fewer games. If Sham was allowed to use points per game, he does not pass up Versteeg. But alas, Sham is not allowed to think, so we're left to wonder what could have been. A MacArthur-Dubinsky-Versteeg 3rd line in 2011? That would have been something.

2005

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I never like bringing up 2005 because of the circumstances surrounding the Luc Bourdon selection. Looking back though, I was pretty stoked about him, but disappointed that Vancouver passed on the great big goofy looking guy with the funny name from the country that no one had ever heard of. I have an Anze Kopitar Kings jersey, and I get filled with regret looking at it knowing that Vancouver was this close to drafting the guy I'd decided was going to be one of my favourite players.

Granted, Sham whiffs on Kopitar too and takes Marek Freaking Zagrapan 10th overall. What the hell, Sham. You were awful in 2005. Next year, take a GOOD OL' CANADIAN BOY in the first round instead.

2006

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Claude Giroux.

Ron Delorme and Co. cost Vancouver Claude Giroux.

I mean, this would make foregoing the 2004 haul worth it on its own.

The obvious, unthinking choice in 2006 was Claude Giroux at 14th overall. And they still screwed it up.

2007

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2007 was the trainwreck year. Not a single player drafted by the Canucks even made the American Hockey League, let alone coming close to sniffing the NHL. Unfortunately, Sham is unable to make anything from this mess either. Just to prove he's not infallible, Sham also passes on dynamic Lewiston MAINEiacs sniper David Perron, but in favour of Brett MacLean instead of Patrick White. Eugh.

At least MacLean had played 18 more NHL games than Vancouver's entire actual 2007 draft class.

2008

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In his first draft under Sham Sharron's guidance, Mike Gillis saves himself a lot of grief and selects Tyler Ennis 10th overall. He'll fit right in on the second line with Claude Giroux and Jason Pominville. Or maybe he'll take Justin Williams' spot on line 1 with the Sedins. Or maybe he'll fill a checking role in place of one of the MacArthur-Richards-Burrows line. Or maybe he can just tear up the AHL with Mathieu Perreault since we already have Matt Stajan, Brandon Dubinsky and Max Talbot on line 4... *sobs uncontrollably*

2009

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Neither Sham nor Delorme have a banner year. Sham misses Ryan O'Reilly by one point, but Taylor Beck, Linden Vey, and Phil Varone all go on to form a very strong core of a good AHL team. By the time 2013-2014 rolls around, all are nearing NHL readiness scoring nearly a point-per-game in the AHL, but are being held back because of Vancouver's absurd depth at forward.

2010

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Despite no draft picks until the 4th round, Sham finds Brendan Gallagher and this is just getting silly. Vancouver has 4 first lines and probably multiple Stanley Cups at this point and Sham is hailed as the greatest hockey mind to ever live. We erect a statue in his honour for finally drafting MOAR GIANTZZZ.

2011

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We're getting into "too early to call who's better" territory now. Basically everyone in these two drafts is still a prospect. That being said, I'd take Sham's top-3 picks over Vancouver's because Prince, Catenacci, and Pageau probably have a better shot of one of them developing into an above-average NHL player than Jensen, Honzik, and Grenier do. But hey, you never know. Also, Sham allows Vancouver to benefit from Ondrej Palat's extremely fluky development which is just gravy at this point.

2012

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This is Ron Delorme's final year as the director of amateur scouting for the Vancouver Canucks, and it's too soon to tell if he's defeated Sham in his last hurrah. I tend to think not, because I prefer Bozon, Gordon, and Smith to Mallet, Hutton, and Myron, but Ben Hutton looks like he could swing that in Delorme's favour.

With his stellar draft record, Sham is retained as the Canucks' head of amateur scouting and is allowed the 2013 NHL entry draft as well.

2013

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I prefer Mantha to Horvat despite the age concerns, and I like Bjorkstrand far more than Cassels, but I'm torn on Petan/Shinkaruk. Greg Chase could prove to be a good pick in round 6, so I give the early nod to Sham's most recent draft over the Canucks' actual one, but that's open for plenty of debate, especially if Bo Horvat does defy the odds and become a Bergeron-type two-way force at the NHL level. As each and every one of you knows, I'm skeptical though.

Conclusion

So who did better, Vancouver's actual scouting staff or our friend Sham who restricted himself to just one year of goal data in just the CHL and watched exactly none of the games? Well, here are all the guys who have played one or more full seasons worth of games drafted by each group:

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If Vancouver never kept a single amateur scout on staff, never paid any attention to junior hockey anywhere in the world, never watched a single game, never did any in-depth research, never prepared for the draft for more than three hours each year, and simply took the next highest scoring CHL forward with every selection they had, they would have drafted over 4000 more games of future NHL experience, nearly 1000 more goals, and over 1500 more assists than they did under the Ron Delorme regime. Vancouver's scouting since 2000 has not just been useless, it's been a cataclysmic failure on all fronts, and probably the single largest reason why the Canucks have not been able to accrue enough assets to build a perennial Stanley Cup contender.

This study was hardly in-depth. The methods for selecting players were extremely straightforward and comically simplistic. No shred of information that wasn't already available at the time was used. There were still massive whiffs under this system. Good players were still passed up and first-round busts were still selected. Yet it outperformed the actual Canucks draft record to a degree that shouldn't be possible, both in terms of player quality and player quantity.

The knowledge and opinions of a scout are only worthwhile if they can outperform any idiot with access to the internet. Vancouver has proven definitively that their scouts have been entirely worthless since Ron Delorme took over the gig in 2000, since they haven't been able to outperform what an idiot with the internet would have done. You, reader, could have done the job better than the professionals. It's now up to the professionals to figure out how to get their competitive edge back.

Let's hope it starts this year.

Here's the link to the article

http://canucksarmy.com/2014/5/20/we-think-the-vancouver-canucks-may-have-a-scouting-problem

Obviously, hindsight makes it easy to criticize but if we based our drafting on simple statistics we would have Giroux, Gallagher, Pominville and Ennis on our team...

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And no defensemen and no goalies.

Yeah that's true. But we could always sign free agents and acquire them through trades. We didn't draft Luongo, Hamhuis, Garrison, Ballard, Stanton, and Tanev. We'd also have a lot more trading chips if we drafted better players.

For instance, based on Sham Sharron's drafting, we would only need one of Claude Giroux, Mike Richards, Justin Williams and Brandon Dubinsky to compliment Henrik Sedin as our top two centres. Sure, we could keep them all if the salary cap allowed us to but we could also trade them for blue chip prospects or proven NHL defencemen.

I'm not hating on Canucks scouts. Obviously, they don't want to draft bad players either and I'm sure there are a lot of intangibles to consider when drafting. But it's just interesting to see the benefits of using only simple statistics to draft.

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And no Sedins or other Europeans,

This is the third time I have seen this posted, its on the first page of lets fire all the scouts thread, its good for comic relief but why make a thread about it?

The Sedins were drafted in 1999. This article looks at 2000 and onwards. But oops. My bad. Definitely did not see this posted in the thread.

Mods please delete this thread.

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I'm confused by the methodology.

They state that they take the CHL player with the most points but frequently take players in the 1st round with less points than players in the 2nd round. Can anyone explain that to me?

Also, if points is the only determinant, how can a player be picked in the 7th round with 11 points? I can't believe that was the highest point total of CHL forwards available.

Even by picking players that were passed over in a single draft I have a hard time understanding how they compared draft eligible players as being in their 17th year. This is strangely amiss.

Edit: Take the Ramzi Abid pick in 2000. Since he got 135 points in his first draft eligible year of 1998, he wasn't eligible in 1997, then he should have been the 1st round pick.

Why is Wellwood picked after Corbeil?

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Drafting is not an exact science. There are no methods or formulas that can be applied to improve results because there are far too many variables.

The Canucks drafting has not been great, true. But this idea that there are other teams that have mastered it and are continually selecting the best players is wrong. Every team passes on great players in order to take players that end up being busts.

All you can do is select the player that has the best mix of skills, character, intelligence, and work ethic and provide them with everything they need to succeed. The rest is on them. That's where the huge x factor exists.

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Why do I get the feeling the whole point of this is to justify drafting Ehlers?

But yes our scouting I think needs some real improvement. I think the real issue is the Marc Andre-Roy pick.

They saw a guy with tons of penalty minutes, so thinking here was a tough guy to add "truculence", they blew a pick on him.

Just like in the Quinn era we drafted Shawn Antoski. We wasted an 18th overall pick on a goon.

After Antoski Winnipeg drafts Tkachuk, after that New Jersey drafts Martin Brodeur.

Maybe the human equation is where the issue is. :)

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But yes our scouting I think needs some real improvement. I think the real issue is the Marc Andre-Roy pick.

They saw a guy with tons of penalty minutes, so thinking here was a tough guy to add "truculence", they blew a pick on him.

Not sure you can really blow a 7th round pick considering 99% of them never make the NHL.

This whole thing ignores the fact that there are other things that take place other than simply looking at stats. Like testing the prospects strength and fitness at the combine, and interviewing them and their coaches to see what kind of people they are.

This process can sway teams away or towards certain players big time. If a guy has poor character and isn't committed to working hard, then lots of teams will avoid them.

Claude Giroux is a poor example IMO because 8 other teams passed on him. Does that mean they all have terrible scouts too? Or is it more likely that there were other factors at the time that made teams pass on him?

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  • All players selected will be from the Canadian Hockey League.
  • Goalies are voodoo, they will not be selected at any time.
  • Defensemen are voodoo, they will not be selected at any time.
  • The Canucks' selection will be the player still on the draft board that scored the most points in their 17 year old CHL season that was for-realsies taken between Vancouver's selection and Vancouver's subsequent selection.
  • No other information other than the total number of points a player had in his 17-year old season (his first year of draft eligibility) is considered. This information was freely available at the time each draft was held.
  • Ties are broken on the basis of points per game.

This is the primary error in their methodology. By taking only players that were actually chosen in this window, you ARE making use of scouting - in fact you are making use of the consensus scouting of all NHL teams. This is why CHL players with higher points totals are still available in later rounds of "Sham's" picks. Eliminate this factor and I'm sure Sham's performance drops off considerably.

There is also bias if the best players in the league over this period of time within Vancouver's draft range happened to play in the CHL.

There are lies, damned lies, and then statistics.

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I'm confused by the methodology.

They state that they take the CHL player with the most points but frequently take players in the 1st round with less points than players in the 2nd round. Can anyone explain that to me?

Also, if points is the only determinant, how can a player be picked in the 7th round with 11 points? I can't believe that was the highest point total of CHL forwards available.

Even by picking players that were passed over in a single draft I have a hard time understanding how they compared draft eligible players as being in their 17th year. This is strangely amiss.

Edit: Take the Ramzi Abid pick in 2000. Since he got 135 points in his first draft eligible year of 1998, he wasn't eligible in 1997, then he should have been the 1st round pick.

Why is Wellwood picked after Corbeil?

I was wondering this as well. I think the 'intern' was asked to look at players rated to go in or near that round but he definitly doesn't say that.

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The supergoon penalty argument reminds me of Nick Ritchie, although to a far lesser extent. Ritchie collected 136pims this season, but had only 3 fighting majors. So 121pims were of the more questionable variety.

Compare this to Lucic's draft year, where he took 149pims, but fought 21 times. That meant only 44pims for Lucic were of the more questionable variety.

You might say that well Lucic was just a goon so all he did was fight and get off the ice. And that may hold true to a degree, but look at JD Watt, the Giant's other toughguy, in his draft year: 213pims, 17 fighting majors, resulting in 128pims of the questionable variety. That's WAY more penalties than Lucic.

Maybe we should take into account discipline when looking at toughguys with some scoring ability.

Compare that to Tom Sestito this past season. 213pims with 19 fighting majors. So 118 questionable pims.

And Kassian. 124pims w/ 3 fighting majors. 109 questionable pims.

This is just way too many penalties to be taking. Are we just getting more calls? Or is this just a lack of discipline?

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Based on the "roughing" calls officials make in junior, I wouldn't worry about Ritchie's PIMS too much.

If anything it likely means he's getting involved in the play physically.

If all those PIMS were hooking, slashing, and tripping calls, then I think you could make an argument. But I don't think they are.

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Based on the "roughing" calls officials make in junior, I wouldn't worry about Ritchie's PIMS too much.

If anything it likely means he's getting involved in the play physically.

If all those PIMS were hooking, slashing, and tripping calls, then I think you could make an argument. But I don't think they are.

Perhaps somebody should look into it if he's being considered. I've seen him shy away from after-whistle scrums in the playoffs, so i'm not sure if he's as rough and tumble as advertised.
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Perhaps somebody should look into it if he's being considered. I've seen him shy away from after-whistle scrums in the playoffs, so i'm not sure if he's as rough and tumble as advertised.

Probably because his team counts on him for scoring and he can't afford to be penalized for gooning it up between whistles

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And no defensemen and no goalies.

I'm sure we could trade a few of the surplus forwards we have for some. We've done ok picking up players in free agency anyway (Hamhuis, Garrison and Tanev come to mind for D, Lack and Eriksson in net) so I'm not terribly worried. Certainly not as worried as what we've missed out on using only a simple stat as foresight on who to draft.

I'm confused by the methodology.

They state that they take the CHL player with the most points but frequently take players in the 1st round with less points than players in the 2nd round. Can anyone explain that to me?

Also, if points is the only determinant, how can a player be picked in the 7th round with 11 points? I can't believe that was the highest point total of CHL forwards available.

Even by picking players that were passed over in a single draft I have a hard time understanding how they compared draft eligible players as being in their 17th year. This is strangely amiss.

Edit: Take the Ramzi Abid pick in 2000. Since he got 135 points in his first draft eligible year of 1998, he wasn't eligible in 1997, then he should have been the 1st round pick.

Why is Wellwood picked after Corbeil?

I was going to ask for an example, but then you provided one at the end. It's using their 17 year old season in the OHL as a factor, or their first draft eligible season. But then that's listed right in the results and you're correct, Wellwood had 118 points in 2000/2001, while Corbeil had 84.

What I think is the extra factor you aren't accounting for is the "for-realsies taken between Vancouver's selection and Vancouver's subsequent selection." If we just took Wellwood's point totals that year, then he would have been our first pick - even ahead of Pominville. But Wellwood was taken 134th overall in the real draft so the earliest he could be picked in the mock results was our 114th overall pick.

Not sure you can really blow a 7th round pick considering 99% of them never make the NHL.

This whole thing ignores the fact that there are other things that take place other than simply looking at stats. Like testing the prospects strength and fitness at the combine, and interviewing them and their coaches to see what kind of people they are.

This process can sway teams away or towards certain players big time. If a guy has poor character and isn't committed to working hard, then lots of teams will avoid them.

Claude Giroux is a poor example IMO because 8 other teams passed on him. Does that mean they all have terrible scouts too? Or is it more likely that there were other factors at the time that made teams pass on him?

I wouldn't be so specific as to say all those 8 teams that passed on Giroux also had terrible scouts, but it does pose a pretty good question as to why a player doing as well in the NHL as Giroux is was passed over for the likes of Mark Mitera, David Fischer and Bob Sanguinetti.

Maybe more teams should simplify their scouting since such a simple criteria could make better picks than a number of NHL's paid scouts.

...

This is the primary error in their methodology. By taking only players that were actually chosen in this window, you ARE making use of scouting - in fact you are making use of the consensus scouting of all NHL teams. This is why CHL players with higher points totals are still available in later rounds of "Sham's" picks. Eliminate this factor and I'm sure Sham's performance drops off considerably.

There is also bias if the best players in the league over this period of time within Vancouver's draft range happened to play in the CHL.

There are lies, damned lies, and then statistics.

Oh sure, that relies on the information on who other teams pick and who falls, but that's not really the point. If we could get a time machine and go back to do it all over again, we wouldn't need the robot, just a stats book.

You're right that it would change the results if we'd done so real-time (like the Wellwood example above, who would have been picked over Pominville), but then we don't have the information on how it'd skew the rest of the draft order and if we'd still have a player available. It's not exact, but it certainly give us something to think about.

It's a little hard to find a 2001 draft rankings to know where Wellwood was projected to go, but if we had that information it could be used in place of the "where they were drafted" number.

I took a more recent example with the 2009 draft where Linden Vey had more points in his 17 year old season than Caron or Beck, taken ahead of him. In the NHL final rankings for NA skaters, Caron was ranked 21st, Beck 48th and Vey 65th. Our picks were at 23rd, 53rd and 83rd, so at first glance it looks like that fits (once you factor in how they would have fallen in the complete rankings considering European skaters and all goalies).

In the 2010 draft, Gallagher fell to 147th overall despite 81 points in his draft year. The re-done draft takes him at 145th, and he was ranked 174th in the final NHL rankings for NA skaters. Factoring in European skaters and goalies, he would have been ranked much lower overall but still went higher so I think in that case we wouldn't have gotten him. I guess it depends on where he was in other rankings.

So if the CSS/NHL/Button/etc. already are producing their rankings, and maybe you then take those numbers and find a solid average and factor that in?

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Perhaps somebody should look into it if he's being considered. I've seen him shy away from after-whistle scrums in the playoffs, so i'm not sure if he's as rough and tumble as advertised.

Well I'm not gonna look into every penalty he took, but here are the types of penalties he took in his last 15 games:

Unsportsmanlike Conduct - 2 min

Roughing - 2 min

Slashing - 2 min

Cross checking - 2 min

Slashing - 2 min

Slashing - 2 min

Cross Checking - 2 min

Cross Checking - 2 min

Check to the head - 2 min

Tripping - 2 min

Interference - 2 min

Cross Checking - 2 min

Roughing - 2 min

Penalties are grouped together by games.

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