NHL Draft: Armstrong plays the percentages

By Simon Richard

In a previous article, Hockey’s Future presented a statistical perspective on the trades made by Calgary Flames general manager Darryl Sutter at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. As this article aroused a lot of interest among the readers, we thought it would be of some interest to look at another general manager who was very active in Raleigh, N.C., Doug Armstrong of the Dallas Stars.

Armstrong made four deals involving picks in Raleigh, all of them done on June 26th. He traded his 2004 first-round pick (20th overall) to New Jersey for New Jersey’s 2004 first and third round picks (22nd and 88th overall).

He then traded the 22nd overall selection he just got from New Jersey and 2004 Dallas fifth round pick (153rd overall) to San Jose for San Jose’s first round selection ( 28th overall), second round compensatory pick (52nd overall) and third round compensatory pick (91st overall) in 2004.

The job was not yet completed for Armstrong. He later traded to Washington the New Jersey’s 88th overall pick he just obtained for Washington’s 2005 third round pick. Finally, he also got rid of the San Jose’s 91st pick overall he just acquired, trading it to Vancouver for Vancouver’s 2005 third round selection.

Obviously Armstrong believes that he will get higher picks in 2005. He can reasonably expect that the Washington Capitals will complete the 2004-05 season – if there is one – in the bottom of the league. It could mean a pick around 65th or so. We can also expect that Vancouver Canucks will complete the season around the 10th position overall which would eventually convert the 2004 91st pick in a 80th in 2005.

In brief, Dallas lost its 2004 20th and 153rd overall picks and gained 2004 28th and 52nd ones and say around the 65th and the 80th overall picks of 2005.

We already know that Dallas selected in the 28th slot Mark Fistric, a 6’2, 232-pound defenseman from the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. Dallas used the 52nd pick to draft Raymond Sawada, a 6’2, 195-pound right winger from the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers.

Likelihood of impact

Based on the data collected from NHL drafts from 1979 to 1995, we know, as referred in the previous article, the rates of success to get superstars and impacts players and the NHL player-caliber for each round and even for specific sections.

That said, according to the estimated rate of success obtained from the past data, the 20th and 153rd picks traded by Dallas could respectively give 21 percent and 5 percent of chances to bring a superstar/impact player and 59 percent and 17 percent a NHL player caliber. Combined, that means a statistical likelihood of 25 percent to have an excellent player. That also means 66 percent of chances to get an NHLer, that is to say a player who will play at least 200 games in the NHL.

On the other side, the combined four picks harvested by Armstrong had the following rate of success from 1979 to 1995.

Superstars or impact players: 15 percent (28th of 2004), 8 percent (52nd of 2004), 6 percent (65th of 2005) and 6 percent (80th of 2005). That means a combined statistical likelihood of 31 percent to get an excellent player.
NHL player caliber: 49 percent (28th of 2004), 35 percent (52nd of 2004), 31 percent (65th of 2005) and 28 percent (80th of 2005). That means a combined statistical likelihood of 84 percent to get an NHL player caliber.

In brief, in making those deals, we can estimate that from 25 percent, Doug Armstrong raised the chances of his team to get an excellent player to 31 percent. He also raised the chances to get at least a regular player from 66 percent to 84 percent, which is a very good step.

There were probably many reasons justifying those trades for the Dallas GM. But we can state that he made good moves on a statistical point of view. If his scouting team performs above the average, these fours picks could even have a greater value. Time will tell.

Sidenote

Doug Armstrong also traded to the Carolina Hurricanes on June 29th Dallas’ 2005 fourth pick for 24-year-old right winger Jaroslav Svoboda. Armstrong said he appreciates the fact Svoboda was involved in the Stanley Cup final round in 2002. Historically, 25 percent of the fourth round picks converted in regular players in the NHL and 7 percent became either superstars or impact players. Obviously, Armstrong felt more comfortable with Svoboda who has already played 91 games in the NHL.

Simon Richard is a freelance writer and the author of La Series de Siecle, September 1972, a book about the Summit Series published in 2002.

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