In the 2017 draft, Carolina Hurricanes’ GM Ron Francis has amassed more picks than any other team
With the Carolina Hurricanes season all but over, it’s no surprise that the franchise’s focus was on the upcoming draft this trade deadline. With the moves made by Francis at the trade deadline, Carolina now sits with more overall draft picks than any other NHL team in the 2017 draft. Not only that, the location of those picks is key as well:
No other team comes close to matching that quantity and quality in this year’s draft. My esteemed colleague the other day wrote that maybe the Hurricanes need to use some of those extra picks to trade up for a higher overall pick. And while Carolina could definitely use some top end forward talent, trading up in the draft is the least efficient way to get it. Especially this year where the talent at the top of the draft isn’t near a sure thing as the last two years. Even if one disregards the actual quality of this year’s draft, unless you can get a top three pick trading up makes little sense.
Here Comes the Math
It seems unlikely that the teams with the top three picks in this year’s draft are likely to trade them. Right now Arizona, Colorado, and Vegas are all in the running for a top pick and all three teams could use the immediate help in their lineup. Suffice it to say those picks aren’t going
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anywhere. Mid to late first round picks are a different story. Those picks could easily be gotten by trading up by the Carolina Hurricanes, but is it worth it?
No, the answer is no. Many people ran studies on the draft and almost all come to the same conclusion: trading up for picks isn’t good for teams. Shawn Reis wrote about it here, Eric Tulsky here, and Shawn Burtch as well. All three came to the same conclusion that trading up is at best inefficient and at worst a disastrous way to acquire talent.
Reis states in his article:
"…you have to be fully aware that what you’re making is an inefficient decision if you make that trade. That’s problematic, because it seems to me like the more efficient decisions you make as a management team the greater position you put yourselves in to succeed. Conversely, the more inefficient decisions you make, the greater position you’re putting yourself in to fail."
Trusting the Scouts
Reis also had something interesting to say when it came to an excuse in support of trading up for picks, “I guess this comes down to having really good scouts and trusting those scouts. If you’re going to trade up to nab a player, you better be damn sure in what you’re getting.” Which leads to another reason quantity is better than quality; most scouts get it wrong more than they get it right.
One common misconception about drafting are teams build successful drafts on careful scouting of players by professionals with years and years of hockey expertise. Yeah, about that. Studies have shown that these scouts really aren’t all that good at their job. In the article linked the writer created the crudest of models to draft players and ended up beating 13 NHL teams scouting departments. Here’s what the article’s writer Rhys Jessop has to say about it:
"If that sounds insane, that’s because it should sound insane. These are multi-million dollar businesses whose success depends on being able to find hockey talent and ice a competitive team. They should, in theory, kick a layman’s ass when it comes to this stuff. Josh and myself shouldn’t be able to build a system this easily that rivals any NHL team. Sham really shouldn’t be close to anyone. But yet, he is."
This isn’t to say that teams should stop scouting altogether. Scouting is and will remain, a vital part of NHL teams success. But trading away assets because the scouting department thinks they have a sure thing is a mighty big gamble. Especially in the late first round where the talent separation between players is so thin. The ability to discern an NHL player from an AHL player is non-existent even in people with decades of hockey experience.
So Francis Should Keep All the Picks?
Not necessarily. Francis could use some of those in a trade that would bring in NHL ready talent for the team. A trade would definitely be more efficient than making a bunch of picks and hoping one of them works out. The idea though of trading up in the draft isn’t though. Even more so given the Hurricanes aptitude at finding those late round gems. A quick look at the Carolina Hurricanes roster shows that: Sebastian Aho (2nd), Victor Rask, (2nd), Justin Faulk (2nd), Jaccob Slavin (4th), Brett Pesce (3rd), Phil DiGiuseppe (2nd), and Brock McGinn (2nd).
Having so many draft picks gives Ron Francis a lot of paths to take the Carolina Hurricanes down. Whether he uses them to trade for a player or actually makes every single pick remains to be seen. The one thing he shouldn’t do, though, is to use them to trade up for a higher draft pick. Don’t take my word for it, just ask one of most successful franchises in all of professional sports.