Ranking the Top 10 Draft Picks of the Past 15 Years

The 10 best draft picks since 2002.

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Yesterday we wrote about rating draft picks, and through that determining how a player outperforms relative to his draft position. Today, we’ll show you that calculation in action and the results it brings. Remember – players are scored based on how many points they contribute to their draft class’s total. This is a ranking of that score compared to other players in their draft position. Because player performance decreases as you move down the draft board, players who became all-stars from late rounds are rewarded more than early-pick phenoms in this ranking.

Some fun facts about the following 10 players:

  • Their average draft position is 56
  • The earliest pick was 1st overall and the latest was 208th
  • They have 9 Stanley Cups between them
  • 9/10 have played in a Stanley Cup final
  • They have collectively played in 14 Stanley Cups

How the scores work

  • Higher is better
  • Calculate % of games played, goals, and assists a player contributed to his draft class total
  • Weight the percentage to account for position
  • Average his games played, goals, and assists %s
  • Multiply by 100000 to get the numerical score
  • Subtract the average score of someone picked at the same draft position as him

10 – Claude Giroux, C, Philadelphia

Round 1, Pick 22, 2006. Score: 308

Giroux was a late first rounder who bloomed in the Flyer’s franchise center. Claude has played 656 games in his career, scored 180 goals, and has 295 assists for a total of 575 points. This is enough to make him a .88 point per game player, a rarity for someone drafted in his position. His pick-weighted outperformance score is 308, good enough to make him the 10th best draft-pick of the past 15 years.

9 – Duncan Keith, D, Chicago Blackhawks

Round 2, pick 54, 2002. Score: 322

Drafted late in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft, Keith has outperformed his draft slot to become lynchpin of the 3-time Stanley Cup winning Blackhawk’s core. The 4-time all-star has been recognized as the league’s best defenseman twice, a fact that makes sense when considering his outperformance score – 322.

8 – Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

Round 1, pick, 1, 2005. Score: 324

At first you may be shocked to see Sid in 8th place on any list. However, once you consider how these scores are calculated, you may be more shocked he made it at all. He’s ranked above Duncan Keith, which means Sidney Crosby has outperformed other 1st overall draft picks to a greater extent than Keith has outperformed other 54th over draft picks. That’s right – the gap between Sid and the average 1st overall player from the past 15 years is wider than the gap between two-time Norris winner Keith and the average 54th overall player. And the average 54th overall player only even makes the league 64% of the time.

7 – Ondrej Palat, LW, Tampa bay Lightning.

Round 7, pick, 208, 2011. Score: 327

By far the latest pick on this list, Ondrej Palat has outperformed his GM’s wildest expectations. Of the 11 players drafted 208th overall between 2002 and 2012, Palat is one of two to ever play game in the NHL. The near-last-overall draft slot has accounted for 74 goals scored in the NHL, with Palat scoring all of them. His undrafted teammate Tyler Johnson probably has a case to be even higher on the list, but only drafted players were considered.

6 – James Neal, LW, Dallas Stars.

Round 2, pick 33, 2005. Score: 345

James Neal may have just lost a heartbreaking Stanley Cup final to 2005 draft classmate Sidney Crosby, but he has him beat in one regard. With a score of 345, Neal has outperformed his draft status to a higher degree than did Crosby, who came 32 picks higher.

5 – Paul Stastny, C, Colorado Avalanche.

Round 2, pick 44, 2005. Score: 353

Stastny is one of 4 picks from 2005 on this list, all of whom only have one number in their draft position. Although drafted 10 picks after James Neal, Paul Stastny finds himself ahead on this list. His stellar career has seen him produce 593 points in 742 games, is better than Neal’s 451 in 632 on an absolute basis, but the gap tightens on a point per game basis. When considering how each outperformed their draft position, Neal has Stastny beat on two metrics – games played and goals scored. However, Stastny’s later draft position is enough to push him above Neal in the rankings.

4 – Milan Lucic, LW, Boston Bruins.

Round 2, pick 50, 2006. Score: 355

The 3rd second rounder in a row and the latest of the three to be drafted, Lucic has overcome the curse of low expectations to become one of the better left wings in the league. Lucic has the lowest points per game average of any forward on this list, but he receives a huge boost from his dependability. He accounts for 3.12% of games played by players in his draft class, the highest percentage of any player on this list.

3 – Anze Kopitar, C, Los Angeles Kings.

Round 1, pick 11, 2005. 366o-ANZE-KOPITAR-facebook

The 4th pick on this list from 2005, Anze would likely be drafted 2nd after 8th-ranked Sidney Crosby in a redraft. The skilled center has won both a Selke and Lady Byng, two trophies that emphasis the understated way in which he makes an impact on the ice, but more importantly has two cups under his belt. Not only best forward in LA since Gretzky, Kopitar has also put Slovenian hockey on the map. Some call him underrated, just don’t call him Slovakian.

2 – Filip Forsberg, C, Washington Capitals.

Round 1, pick 11, 2012. Score: 399slack-imgs-1.com_

Oh, how Caps fans want this one back. Traded before he could play a game with the team that drafted him, Forsberg has exploded to be one of the most promising young players in the NHL. The Predators arguably have the trade that brought him there to thank for their recent post-season success – they were able to unload an aging player in Erat and get back a player who would likely go first overall in a redraft in Forsberg. Although pick number 11 is relatively high for a player on this list, the mediocrity of his draft class benefits Forsberg, helping him to stand out. Players drafted above him in 2012 include Nail Yakupov, who would be liable to fall out of the first round in a redraft, and Griffin Reinhart, who will likely make an appearance on a list of the bottom 10 draft picks.

1 – Jamie Benn, C, Dallas Stars.

Round 5, pick 129, 2007. Score: 423JamieBenn

Frankly, Jamie Benn’s outperformance score of 423 blows every other member of this list out of the water. Drafted in the 5th round as a center, Benn has emerged as one of the best forwards in the league, winning the Art Ross trophy for highest point count one year after list-mate Sidney Crosby. The Stars picked up a true diamond in the rough with their 159th overall selection. Some late round players become good NHL players, but rarely do they become great ones. Benn is a lock for best draft pick of the past 15 years.








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