The Entry Draft is done for another year. Here are some miscellaneous thoughts, about both the Draft and the Projectinator.
Oilers Go With Hall
The Oilers made the right choice. Rather than go with the new shiny Seguin, they used their precious first overall pick on the old trusty Hall. Taylor Hall's second Memorial Cup win and MVP award probably helped to cement his opinion in the eyes of Edmonton management, though apparently they were undecided up until the day of the draft. Normally I'd say woe betide any organization that drafts based on a player's performance in a short playoff series of tourney, but I suppose it would be alright to use it as something of a tiebreaking factor. Of course, that would require thinking that Hall vs. Seguin needed a tiebreaker, which it didn't.
Some suggested that Seguin should be preferred by the Oilers because he plays center (Hall's a left winger), that center is a more important position than wing, that the Oilers are thinnest at that position and that great teams are strong down the middle. I don't find this line of reasoning convincing in the slightest. Although a player with the talent of Seguin or Hall might be able to contribute to an NHL club immediately, they are not enough by themselves to turn a team as bad as the Oilers into a contender immediately. The Penguins were terrible in their first year with Mario Lemieux, and weren't really a contender until his seventh NHL season. By the time Hall and Seguin mature into their primes, the makeup of their teams will be substantially different than they are now, so focusing on a team's current weaknesses is of limited value. With very few exceptions, drafting the best player available is the proper strategy.
As for a center being inherently preferable to a winger, why on earth would you draft based on that idea? You need players at all positions. With Hall on the wing, you can pick up a top-flight center to play with him. That sounds like a win-win to me. The Penguins are very strong down the middle with both Crosby and Malkin at center ice, and their annual problem is finding good wingers to play with both of their star centermen.
I believe that the scouts may be overrating many of the USNTDP players from the USHL (Montreal trading up to draft a hulking defenseman doesn't instill confidence); when you rely on personal observation for evaluation, you'll often overrate the players you see most often. And with so many draft-eligible players playing on the same team in the USHL, they all got seen a lot by many scouts.
That being said, I do think that the Projectinator is off on these players. The explanation for this error is, I believe, due to the fact that these players are playing in a normal junior hockey environment, which is what the system is calibrated for. By a “normal” environment, I mean playing with players of a variety of age levels; a few 16-year-olds, some 17s, and a lot of 18s and 19s, and even 20s. The fact that the USNTDP players in the USHL were all 16s and 17s (plus one 15 in Jake McCabe), has caused their numbers and therefore the Projectinator's ratings of them to be affected. They don't have the support of a normal number of older players, but they have to play against a normal number of older players. Interpreting numbers at this level is as much art as science, and there can always be factors that you didn't consider.
To go back to the other hand, though, it's easy to overestimate how important this difference might be. When the USNDTP played in the NAHL the same situation presented itself, in the sense that they didn't have any players over 17 in the lineup. There were some players that were still able to put up impressive numbers for their age, such as Jeremy Morin, James Van Riemsdyk, and both Erik and Jack Johnson. Although the NAHL is of lower quality than the USHL, it doesn't seem to be that much lower so as to make up this difference. When the Projectinator is calibrated for the NAHL, some light should be shed on this issue.
Last week I noted that the Projectinator decided that Calvin Pickard was the best player available in the 2010 Entry Draft (among CHL and USHL players, at least), a conclusion which I think you'll agree is suspect. It's a result that calls for some adjustment to the system for goaltenders, I believe, which illustrates the work-in-progress nature of the Projectinator. Pickard is a highly-rated prospect, but surprisingly he was selected after both Jack Campbell (who the Projectinator didn't like, but he's a USNTDP player) and Mark Visentin (who was ranked second among goalies behind Pickard).
First, as noted last time, the average error for goaltender projections is substantially higher than for forwards or defensemen. This clearly calls for an adjustment, since the intent of the system is to determine who should be drafted at any draft position. Fortunately, this will be a simple adjustment to make, and it should be made. The cost of a “false positive” error can be extreme, especially if you wind up with a goaltender as the #1 overall selection since goalies are so difficult to project, even for the professional scouts.
Second, we need to look at some of the factors the Projectinator uses to rank goaltenders. Specifically, the Projectinator gives credit to goalies just for playing games in their age-17 season. Since a team only carries two goalie spots, the mere fact that a young goalie can crack a junior roster and earn playing time says something about his ability, an idea that will be expanded greatly upon when adapting the system to rate European players. It's an open-ended adjustment, though, and Pickard having played 62 games weighs very favorably in his rating, since there is no cap on the games-played credit. There probably should be, though. Pickard played for a bad team, which generally means that the team had less options in goal. This, coupled with the fact that the system gives more credit to a goalie's performance on a bad team than a good one (since bad teams tend to give up high-quality shots), creates something of a perfect storm in Pickard's rating. Tweaking the games-played factor should help to prevent similar extreme rankings from occurring in future ratings.
Winners and Losers
The Projectinator isn't complete enough to really grade NHL teams on their drafting performance yet. It doesn't cover players from enough sources yet, and as mentioned above there are some tweaks that need to be made. That being said, we can still look at some results to see if some teams did better than others.
Colorado had another fine draft, and should be considered a winner. They nabbed Calvin Pickard, who was rated as the top goaltender available, with the 49th pick overall. He was the third goaltender selected. They selected Joey Hishon, who Central Scouting rated 40th but the Projectinator ranked 12th out of CHL and USHL skaters, 14th out of the same players. They nabbed Troy Ruskowski 72nd among those skaters, when he was rated 20th by the Projectinator, and their picks of Stephen Silas and Michael Bournival also meet with the system's approval.
Most of Buffalo's picks were decent or even good, but they also selected the two lowest-rated CHL/USHL skaters named in this year's draft. The Projectinator sees nothing positive in the drafting of Cedrick Henley (.13 10YE) and Gregg Sutch (.09 10YE).
Every team deserves a demerit for passing over both Justin Feser (.50 10YE, ranked 27th by the Projectinator) and Brandon Hynes (.43 10YE, ranked 44th). They're both high-skill players, and were among the younger players available at the draft. But they're both under 5'10”. It's very, very sad that NHL teams still refuse to look past that. How could these guys not be worth even a 7th-round gamble pick? When Martin St. Louis retires he should go into scouting, and recruit Theo Fleury and Ray Whitney to help. And Mark Recchi. Ziggy Palffy can cover Europe. They can call themselves the “Too Small for the NHL Scouting Service.”
Overall, it was a good draft, though there could have been more blockbuster deals. However, as the Projectinator shows, teams are still a long way from perfecting the art of picking players in the draft.