Don’t Draft A Defenceman With A Top Three Pick

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With all the Seth Jones vs Nathan Mackinnon vs Jonathan Drouin talk going on, I thought it would be interesting to look back and see how other top picks have panned out. I’ve excluded the last two drafts because of the limited sample size for evaluation.

Like many others, I believe in the philosophy of taking the best player available regardless of position. While that’s typically the case, the top three to five picks usually allow teams to be a little more positionally selective.

Passing on the elite offensive talent that a top five pick usually provides, is not a wise decision. I understand the critical importance of a defenceman, but their development is typically slower and their more difficult to project.

If it wasn’t clear already, I would not take Seth Jones first overall if I were the Colorado Avalanche, I would take Nathan Mackinnon without hesitation. In fact, I would’t even take Seth Jones 2nd overall, I would take Jonathan Drouin who might have the highest ceiling on the three. Third overall is were I would draft Jones and past draft history shows that might be the logical place to take him, maybe even a pick too high.

From 2001-2010, fourteen defenceman were drafted with a top five pick. (50 players)

  • 14 out of 50 or 28% of the top five picks were defenceman
  • Within that 28%, 4 out of 14 would be in the top three if each draft re-ranked their top five picks today. (IMO)
  • So, 4 out of 50 or 8% of players drafted top five over the last ten years are defenceman and a bonafide top 3 pick if re-ranked.

I understand these numbers have many holes, but I think it illustrates how rare and unlikely it is for a defenceman to become the best player among his fellow top five picks.

D-man Drafted Top Five (2001-2010)

**My rank today within their respective top five in ().

Erik Gubranson (3)- 2010

Victor Hedman (4)- 2009

Drew Doughty (2)- 2008

Alex Pietrangelo (3)- 2008

Zach Bogosian (4)- 2008

Luke Schenn (5)- 2008

Thomas Hickey (5)- 2007

Karl Alzner (4)- 2007

Erik Johnson (5)- 2006

Jack Johnson (4)- 2005

Cam Barker (5)- 2004

Jay Bouwmeester (3)- 2002

Joni Pitkanen (4)- 2002

Ryan Whitney (5)- 2002

Top Five Picks from 2001-2012

2012

# Player Nationality NHL Team College/Junior/Club Team
1 Nail Yakupov (LW)  Russia Edmonton Oilers Sarnia (OHL)
2 Ryan Murray (D)  Canada Columbus Blue Jackets Everett (WHL)
3 Alex Galchenyuk (C)  United States Montreal Canadiens Sarnia (OHL)
4 Griffin Reinhart (D)  Canada New York Islanders Edmonton (WHL)
5 Morgan Rielly (D)  Canada Toronto Maple Leafs Moose Jaw (WHL)

2011

# Player Nationality NHL Team College/Junior/Club Team
1 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C)  Canada Edmonton Oilers Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
2 Gabriel Landeskog (RW)  Sweden Colorado Avalanche Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
3 Jonathan Huberdeau (C)  Canada Florida Panthers Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
4 Adam Larsson (D)  Sweden New Jersey Devils Skellefteå AIK (Sweden-SEL)
5 Ryan Strome (C)  Canada New York Islanders Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

2010

Pick # Player Nationality Position NHL team Team from League from
1 Taylor Hall  Canada LW Edmonton Oilers Windsor Spitfires Ontario Hockey League
2 Tyler Seguin  Canada C Boston Bruins (from Toronto)1 Plymouth Whalers Ontario Hockey League
3 Erik Gudbranson  Canada D Florida Panthers Kingston Frontenacs Ontario Hockey League
4 Ryan Johansen  Canada C Columbus Blue Jackets Portland Winterhawks Western Hockey League
5 Nino Niederreiter  Switzerland LW New York Islanders Portland Winterhawks Western Hockey League

2009

ick # Player Nationality Position NHL team Team from League from
1 John Tavares  Canada C New York Islanders London Knights Ontario Hockey League
2 Victor Hedman  Sweden D Tampa Bay Lightning Modo Hockey Elitserien (Sweden)
3 Matt Duchene  Canada C Colorado Avalanche Brampton Battalion Ontario Hockey League
4 Evander Kane  Canada C Atlanta Thrashers Vancouver Giants Western Hockey League
5 Brayden Schenn  Canada C Los Angeles Kings Brandon Wheat Kings Western Hockey League

2008

# Player Nationality NHL team College/junior/club team
1 Steven Stamkos (centre)  Canada Tampa Bay Lightning Sarnia Sting (OHL)
2 Drew Doughty (defence)  Canada Los Angeles Kings Guelph Storm (OHL)
3 Zach Bogosian (defense)  United States Atlanta Thrashers Peterborough Petes (OHL)
4 Alex Pietrangelo (defence)  Canada St. Louis Blues Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
5 Luke Schenn (defence)  Canada Toronto Maple Leafs (from New York Islanders) Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

2007

# Player Nationality NHL Team College/Junior Club/European Team
1 Patrick Kane (Right Wing)  United States Chicago Blackhawks London Knights (OHL)
2 James van Riemsdyk (Left Wing)  United States Philadelphia Flyers US National Team Development Program (NAHL)
3 Kyle Turris (Centre)  Canada Phoenix Coyotes Burnaby Express (BCHL)
4 Thomas Hickey (Defence)  Canada Los Angeles Kings Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
5 Karl Alzner (Defence)  Canada Washington Capitals Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

2006

# Player Nationality NHL team College/junior/club team
1 Erik Johnson (Defense)  United States St. Louis Blues US National Team Development Program (NAHL)
2 Jordan Staal (Center)  Canada Pittsburgh Penguins Peterborough Petes (OHL)
3 Jonathan Toews (Center)  Canada Chicago Blackhawks University of North Dakota (WCHA)
4 Nicklas Backstrom (Center)  Sweden Washington Capitals Brynäs IF (Sweden)
5 Phil Kessel (C/RW)  United States Boston Bruins University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA)

2005

# Player Nationality NHL team College/junior/club team
1 Sidney Crosby (Centre)  Canada Pittsburgh Penguins Rimouski Océanic (QMJHL)
2 Bobby Ryan (Right Wing)  United States Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
3 Jack Johnson (Defence)  United States Carolina Hurricanes U.S. National Team Development Program (NAHL)
4 Benoit Pouliot (Left Wing)  Canada Minnesota Wild Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
5 Carey Price (Goaltender)  Canada Montreal Canadiens Tri-City Americans (WHL)

2004

# Player Nationality NHL team College/junior/club team
1 Alexander Ovechkin (Left Wing) *  Russia Washington Capitals Dynamo Moscow (Russia)
2 Evgeni Malkin (Center) *  Russia Pittsburgh Penguins Metallurg Magnitogorsk (Russia)
3. Cam Barker (Defense)  Canada Chicago Blackhawks Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
4. Andrew Ladd (Left Wing)  Canada Carolina Hurricanes (from Columbus)1 Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
5. Blake Wheeler (Right Wing)  United States Phoenix Coyotes University Of Minnesota (NCAA)

2003

# Player Nationality NHL team College/junior/club team
1 Marc-Andre Fleury (Goaltender)  Canada Pittsburgh Penguins
(from Florida)
Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
2 Eric Staal (Centre)  Canada Carolina Hurricanes Peterborough Petes (OHL)
3 Nathan Horton (Right Wing)  Canada Florida Panthers
(from Pittsburgh)
Oshawa Generals (OHL)
4 Nikolai Zherdev (Right Wing)  Russia Columbus Blue Jackets CSKA Moscow (Russia)
5 Thomas Vanek (Left Wing)  Austria Buffalo Sabres University of Minnesota (NCAA)

2002

# Player Nationality NHL team College/junior/club team
1 Rick Nash (forward)  Canada Columbus Blue Jackets (from Florida) London Knights (OHL)
2 Kari Lehtonen (goaltender)  Finland Atlanta Thrashers Jokerit (Finland)
3 Jay Bouwmeester (defence)  Canada Florida Panthers (from Columbus) Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
4 Joni Pitkanen (defence)  Finland Philadelphia Flyers (from Tampa Bay) Kärpät (Finland)
5 Ryan Whitney (defence)  United States Pittsburgh Penguins Boston University (NCAA)

2001

Pick Player Nationality NHL Team College/Junior/Club Team
1. Ilya Kovalchuk (Left Wing)  Russia Atlanta Thrashers Spartak Moscow (Russia)
2. Jason Spezza (Centre)  Canada Ottawa Senators (from New York Islanders) Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
3. Alexander Svitov (Centre)  Russia Tampa Bay Lightning Avangard Omsk (Russia)
4. Stephen Weiss (Centre)  Canada Florida Panthers Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
5. Stanislav Chistov (Left Wing)  Russia Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Avangard Omsk (Russia)
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