20 Years Sample: First Pick Often Not The Best

Some people speak with so much conviction and are so sure of their opinion (that’s all it is) that they make it sound like it’s the ultimate truth. Right now, anyone who dares suggest that Shane Wright may not be the best player available is being dragged through the coals for it. The saddest part is those doing it haven’t watched very few (if any) live games from any of the top-5 prospects, let alone several games from each prospect. And no, watching Youtube or on TV doesn’t give a clear and complete picture.

Mark my words: if the Canadiens dare selecting someone other than Wright with their first pick, they will be chastised by some who want you to believe that they know better than professional scouts who have seen those players live, who have interviewed them one on one in a few occasions in person, who have talked to people around those prospects… it’s a social issue. People think they know more than police, pandemic experts, doctors, nurses, firefighters, or any other professionals. The internet has created monsters who genuinely think they know it all.

Shane Wright

The sound thing to do is to use what we have to help determine what we know. And what we know for sure, in hindsight of course, is that the first overall pick is not always the best pick in that said Draft. Yet, most year, teams select the consensus favourite at number one. Let’s look at 20 years of Draft, from 1998 to 2017 (too soon to determine 2018 to now).

2017: Nico Hishier was selected first overall. Some would argue today that the best player in that Draft is actually Miro Heiskanen (3)

2016: There was a debate with Patrik Laine before the Draft, but Auston Matthews (1) is the best player in that Draft.

2015: General Talent Year! Connor McDavid

2014: Aaron Ekblad was selected first, but few would argue that Leon Draisaitl (3) is by far the best player in that Draft.

2013: Nathan MacKinnon was picked first and he’s likely the best player in that Draft. But Alexander Barkov (2) and Seth Jones (4) are not far behind.

2012: Nail Yakupov was the uncontested consensus at number one. Most players picked after him would have been a better choice.

2011: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was picked first, but he’s not the best player in that Draft. Nikita Kucherov (58), Jonathan Huberdeau (3), Johnny Gaudreau (104), Mark Scheifele (7), Gabriel Landeskog (2) and Dougie Hamilton (9) are all arguably better picks.

2010: Remember the Taylor vs Tyler? Taylor Hall was picked first, but the jury is still out if Tyler Seguin (2) isn’t as good or better.

2009: John Tavares was picked first overall, a good choice. But many would argue today that Victor Hedman (2) was the best player drafted that year.

2008: Steven Stamkos was selected first but the LA Kings certainly aren’t complaining about having Drew Doughty (2) on their team.

2007: Patrick Kane was first and if it had to be redone today, he’d still be first.

2006: The Blues selected Erik Johnson first but he turned out to be far from the best player in that Draft. In fact, the second player selected, Jordan Staal, wasn’t the second best either. Nicklas Backstrom (4), Phil Kessel (5), Claude Giroux (22), Jonathan Toews (3), and Brad Marchand (71) were all superior.

2005: General Talent Year! Sidney Crosby. But Anze Kopitar (11) is better than many selected ahead of him, not named Crosby.

2004: Alexander Ovechkin (1) and Evgeni Malkin (2) are where they should be.

2003: Marc-Andre Fleury (1) had a great career but Eric Staal (2), Ryan Getzlaf (19) and Patrice Bergeron (45) should likely all have been drafted before him.

2002: Rick Nash went first and he wasn’t a bad choice. But Duncan Keith (54) is arguably the best player in that Draft.

2001: Ilya Kovalchuk was a good pick at number one but Jason Spezza (2) outlasted him.

2000: The Islanders selected Rick DiPietro first overall. No need to look at who was better, is there?

1999: Patrik Stefan was the number one pick that year but many ended up having a better career, including the Sedin twins (2-3) and Henrik Zetterberg (210), amongst others.

1998: Vincent Lecavalier was a good first pick but Brad Richards (64), Pavel Datsyuk (171) and Andrei Markov (162) had excellent careers.

From that count, nine times out of 20 has the number one pick ended up not being the best player when it was all said and done. You can bet that every year (or just about), that player was the consensus number one favourite. In a few more occasions, there are players selected later that had as good of a career as the number one pick. So over 50% of the time, selecting someone else than the one everyone wanted to be picked number one would have been preferable or just as effective. That’s a huge percentage folks.

So while I’m not telling you to stop listening to scouts wannabes, but history clearly shows that you should take those lists with a grain of salt… perhaps even with a slice of lime and some tequila. And trust that no one has the ultimate truth, in spite of them trying to convinced you otherwise. Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes, as well as their staff, are professionals. They are hired to make the right decision and the ONLY sound thing to do is to trust that if they pick someone else but your favourite, they have reasons to do so.

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5 thoughts on “20 Years Sample: First Pick Often Not The Best

  1. Great article. It comes down to an educated guess after going over all the information you have on any given player. We as fans can hope for a certain player, but we have to trust the people who are getting paid to make these decisions. They have information on players that we don’t. As you said, the jury is still out on the Taylor vs Tyler pick,and that was 12 years ago.

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