Evgeny Kuznetsov poses with George McPhee and Ross Mahoney (Photo: Bruce Bennett)
Each off-season I catch up on my reading. I alternate between a Bill James’ Abstract (I have 1984-1989 to get through); something music related (currently Straight Edge: Clean-Living Youth, Hardcore Punk, And Social Change and Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces); and one or two hockey books– including the new one called The Art of Scouting, which “delves into the secretive world of hockey prospecting.”
After only eleven pages, I got struck by what the authors claim is the consensus of a successful draft, summarized by Mike Futa, co-director of amateur scouting for the Los Angeles Kings:
“It’s the only job where you can be right 15 percent of the time and be ruled a Hall of Famer for success, You are going to be wrong 85 or 80 percent of the time, and if you hit on 2.5 home runs every Draft, you are par with some of the best scouts ever.”
Two NHLers out of seven players drafted, assuming no trades are made, seems like a low bar, so I decided to see how the George McPhee era has done in regards to scouting.
McPhee joined the Capitals in 1997, so the first draft we can attribute to him is in 1998. Since it takes about five years for a prospect to develop, we will look at his draft record from 1998-2006. Let’s consider a prospect a success if he has played in at least 200 games at the NHL level. That gives him five years of 40 games played to qualify.
Spoiler: The results are not great.
By the parameters we set above, only three of the nine drafts could be considered success:
2000: Brian Sutherby and Matt Pettinger
2002: Alexander Semin, Boyd Gordon and Steve Eminger.
2004: Alexander Ovechkin, Jeff Schultz and Mike Green
If we lower our standards to only 100 NHL games played, we could add in the draft class from 2001, which saw the Capitals select Nathan Paetsch (2nd round) and Johnny Oduya (7th round).
What makes the results even more concerning is that if we use our original parameter of 200 NHL games, most of the successes come in the first round:
I am sure Caps fans will not be happy seeing Pittsburgh at the top of that list, but it’s probably not surprising.
Looking ahead, there are sure to be some other bright spots for the Capitals’ scouts, like Carlzner, Neuvirth, Kuznetsov and perhaps Holtby, Eakin and Orlov. But if Washington wants to keep their “Cup window” open, they are going to have to do a much better job drafting after the first round.