Picking in middle of first round guarantees little for Bruins (and everyone else)

DJ Bean
June 04, 2015 - 2:00 am
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When the draft rolls around later this month, the Bruins will pick higher than they have in recent years. That does not guarantee success or even suggest it, for draft picks are scratch tickets. Even the early ones. Boston picks 14th overall in this year'€™s draft, putting them in the middle of the first round. The last time the B's had a pick in the teens, they moved it to Florida in the Nathan Horton deal. That trade turned out to be a slam dunk not only because it netted the Bruins a pair of players who helped them win the Stanley Cup, but because Derek Forbort, the player selected with that pick after Florida flipped it to Los Angeles, has yet to play an NHL game. In the NFL, Forbort would be considered a massive bust. In the NHL, the two-year pro's career to this point given his draft status is not surprising. While Forbort could eventually make it, it'€™s common for first-round picks to not play a single game in the NHL. Such has been the case with 21 of the 210 players drafted in the first round from 2005-2011 (10 percent). Top-10 picks have a high success rate. Picks after that do not, so as the Bruins prepare to draft inside the first 20 picks for the first time since 2011 (Dougie Hamilton), they do so with the odds still stacked against them. The Bruins, who usually picked in the mid-to-late first round under Peter Chiarelli, had a very poor track record, even missing on a top-10 pick in Zach Hamill. While that was undoubtedly an organizational issue, it's worth keeping in mind that missing on the later first-round picks is par for the course. It'€™s commonly known that the late first-round can be a swampland, which is why multiple second-round picks can often be worth more than one late first-rounder. We tried to quantify this by breaking the first round into three ranges (Picks No. 1-20, 11-20 and 21-30) and seeing how many were hits and how many were misses. Here are the findings, with an explanation below. As the chart shows, the numbers are pretty overwhelming regarding the dropoff from the first 10 picks to anything after that. The middle of the first round is a bit better than the late-first, but such picks are still usually unsuccessful. Of course, teams should take no comfort in failing in the first round of the draft just because so many others do. First-round picks are major currency in the NHL, and though picks outside the top 10 usually don'€™t pay off as immediately as David Pastrnak did (25th overall in 2014), hitting on the 14th pick is essential for a Bruins team that needs good young players on first and second contracts supplementing its roster'€™s veteran money-makers. What the chart should stress is that teams should almost always select the best player available rather than choosing based on an organizational need. These findings suggest only 42 percent of picks from 11-30 end up working out, so it'€™s not exactly a place to get cute. The best player available route would be smart for the Bruins in this draft anyway. They could use good young talent at pretty much every position but goaltender, as they are well-stocked in net with Tuukka Rask, Malcolm Subban and the likely to sign Zane McIntyre. The NHL roster needs a backup goaltender, but that'€™s not something to be addressed in the draft. If Boston is to go with the best skater available, it'€™s likely it would be a forward. TSN's Craig Button only has three defensemen in the top 18 of his final list (Ivan Provorov at No. 3, Zach Werenski at No. 7 and Noah Hanifin at No. 12). The best thing the Bruins can hope for is that a Don Sweeney-led group will fare better than Chiarelli did. That could have a higher impact on the team's drafting than slightly improved draft position. Then again, the Bruins could also move up into the top 10. If they want a player who will stick, there'€™s no safer route. Judy Cohen contributed to this post.

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