The Taylor Hall versus Tyler Seguin question -- namely, whom the Edmonton Oilers should take at No. 1 -- is still out there.
The NHL's Central Scouting Service (CSS) has weighed in with its opinion and found in favor of Seguin. I started wondering what predictive value CSS has in broad strokes and, in particular, with close calls on the highest-ranked players. To look at this, I'm going to use a sample from the 2005 through 2008 drafts; CSS changed management and personnel this past decade, so the lockout seemed like a fair place to start.
It's far too early to give an authoritative read on last year's draft, too: Do we know whether John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene or someone else is the best in the class after just one season? No, 2008 is the right place to end.
The bottom line: On calls of two players or a tight cluster at the top of the rankings, CSS isn't as good a predictor of success as the draft. It's something like the wisdom of the market. Those who have a financial stake have a better winning percentage than those who merely provide a service. To be fair, teams work with more resources than CSS, and those teams targeting top players can invest more manpower -- and get more viewings -- than Central. Still, it's worthwhile to keep the following in mind going into the 2010 draft regarding the top-pick debate.
For my purposes, I'm going to stick mostly to CSS' big list, the North American skaters, and to compare forwards with forwards and D-men with D-men.
Start here, with the 2008 NHL draft order as it played out.
The 2008 CSS rankings were:
1. Steven Stamkos, C, Sarnia (OHL); 2. Zach Bogosian, D, Peterborough (OHL); 3. Drew Doughty, D, Guelph (OHL); 4. Tyler Myers, D, Kelowna (WHL); 5. Luke Schenn, D, Kelowna (WHL); 6. Alex Pietrangelo, D, Niagara (OHL); 7. Kyle Beach, C, Everett (WHL); 8. Zach Boychuk, C, Lethbridge (WHL); 9. Cody Hodgson, C, Brampton (OHL); 10. Colin Wilson, C, Boston Univ. (NCAA); 11. Mikkel Boedker, LW, Kitchener (OHL); 12. Luca Sbisa, D, Lethbridge (WHL); 13. Colby Robak, D, Brandon (WHL); 14. Joshua Bailey, C, Windsor (OHL); 15. Michael Del Zotto, D, Oshawa (OHL); 16. Zac Dalpe, C/RW, Penticton (BCHL); 17. John Carlson, D, Indiana (USHL); 18. Colten Teubert, D, Regina (WHL); 19. Tyler Cuma, D, Ottawa (OHL); 20. Jamie Arniel, C, Sarnia (OHL); 21. Nicolas Deschamps, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL); 22. Greg Nemisz, C, Windsor (OHL); 23. Jake Gardiner, D, Minnetonka, Minn. (U.S. high school); 24. Matthew Calvert, LW, Brandon (WHL); 25. Jyri Niemi, D, Saskatoon (WHL); 26. Maxime Sauve, C, Val-d'Or (QMJHL); 27. Aaron Ness, D, Roseau, Minn. (U.S. high school); 28. Joe Colborne, C, Camrose (AJHL); 29. Yann Sauve, D, Saint John (QMJHL); 30. Kruise Reddick, C, Tri-City (WHL).
CSS' good moves in 2008:
1. Steven Stamkos, Sarnia (OHL)
A 50-goal season in his sophomore year.
4. Tyler Myers, Kelowna (WHL)
A Calder Trophy finalist this year and maybe a Norris Trophy finalist down the line.
17. John Carlson, Indiana (USHL)
Maybe Washington's best defenseman despite the Caps' disappointing playoffs.
CSS' bad moves in 2008:
(2) Zach Bogosian over (3) Drew Doughty
Top-two upside versus Norris Trophy upside.
31. Tyler Ennis, Medicine Hat (too low)
Absolutely tore up the AHL and will be in the Buffalo Sabres' lineup next season.
33. Jordan Eberle, Regina (too low)
A couple of incredible world junior tournaments landed him beside NHLers on the Canadian team at the world championships last month.
43. Jared Staal, Sudbury (too high)
Already traded away at a discount.
2008 is almost too recent to qualify as history; it's also too early to definitively declare whiffs. Example: Luke Schenn just completed his second full season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Alex Pietrangelo spent most of the past two seasons in the OHL, yet most hockey men would tell you the draft (Pietrangelo No. 4 to St. Louis, Schenn No. 5 to Toronto) had it right and CSS had it backward (Schenn No. 5, Pietrangelo No. 6). Pietrangelo will step into the Blues' lineup next year and was regarded as arguably the best prospect playing outside the NHL, indisputably the best blue-line prospect in the minors or junior. Schenn's second season in the NHL wasn't as good as his first, and his game seems limited next to Pietrangelo's: Schenn looks like top-four upside, Pietrangelo top-two. Likewise, some calls fall within the margin of error; defenseman Luca Sbisa, good at No. 12 on Central Scouting's list of North American skaters or No. 19 on the real-life draft? Not a big difference.
What we can say is that Central missed on the second-biggest call of the draft. Two defensemen were atop the chart in that draft. There's little doubt that Drew Doughty is the best defenseman to come out of the 2008 draft -- or many previous. He shouldn't be ranked behind Zach Bogosian. It's fair to have Bogosian at No. 3 like the draft did. I could see how it happened; Bogosian was a much more impressive athlete, and Doughty was an unlikely one, pudgy enough to be nicknamed "Doughy." You'd think it should be an easy call given that the two played in the same league, the OHL, and that Central views the OHL more than other leagues.
Right after that, though, Central had it dead right on Tyler Myers at No. 4 in North America. It's early, but it's clear that Buffalo got a big score in landing Myers at No. 12. In any sort of do-over, Myers would be a lot closer to Central's ranking than to No. 12. I also can see why teams were scared off from selecting Myers; he is no bodybuilder now but in his draft year he was a pencil. He looked fragile, and his skating did not look dynamic. But he took off, particularly in the second half of his post-draft turn with Kelowna.
Start here, with the 2007 NHL draft order as it played out.
The 2007 CSS rankings were:
1. Kyle Turris, C, Burnaby (BCHL); 2. Patrick Kane, RW, London (OHL); 3. James van Riemsdyk, LW, U.S. U-18; 4. Keaton Ellerby, D, Kamloops (WHL); 5. Karl Alzner, D, Calgary (WHL); 6. Sam Gagner, C/W, London (OHL); 7. Jakub Voracek, RW, Halifax (QMJHL); 8. Angelo Esposito, C, Quebec (QMJHL); 9. Zach Hamill, C, Everett (WHL); 10. David Perron, LW, Lewiston (QMJHL); 11. Ryan McDonagh, D, Cretin-Derham High School, Minnesota; 12. Tommy Cross, D, Westminster High School, Connecticut; 13. Stefan Legein, RW, Mississauga (OHL); 14. Brett MacLean, LW, Oshawa (OHL); 15. Dana Tyrell, C/RW, Prince George (WHL); 16. Max Pacioretty, LW, Sioux City (USHL); 17. Jonathon Blum, D, Vancouver (WHL); 18. Nick Ross, D, Regina (WHL); 19. Logan Couture, C, Ottawa (OHL); 20. Oscar Moller, C, Chilliwack (WHL); 21. Nicholas Petrecki, D, Omaha (USHL); 22. Mike Hoeffel, W, U.S. U-18; 23. Patrick White, C, Tri-City (USHL); 24. Nick Spaling, C, Kitchener (OHL); 25. Colby Cohen, D, Lincoln (USHL); 26. Thomas Hickey, D, Seattle (WHL); 27. William Sweatt, LW, Colorado College (WCHA); 28. Brandon Sutter, C/RW, Red Deer (WHL); 29. T.J. Brennan, D, St. John's (QMJHL); 30. Colton Gillies, C, Saskatoon (WHL).
CSS' good moves in 2007:
10. David Perron, left wing, Lewiston (QMJHL)
Second only to Patrick Kane in games played from this draft class, 20-goal scorer last season, 10th-ranked in North America. He looks better than No. 26 to St Louis.
31. T.J. Galiardi, left wing, Dartmouth (ECAC)
Numbers for first 81 NHL games (18 goals, 25 assists) look much better in this slot, suggesting Colorado did well to get him at No. 55 overall.
CSS' bad moves from 2007:
1. Kyle Turris, center, Burnaby (BCHL) (way too high)
Was presumed to be able to pack on some needed weight, but three years later, it's not clear that he'll ever be a top-six forward.
4. Keaton Ellerby, defense, Kamloops (WHL) (too high)
Made it into the Panthers' lineup for a handful of games this year, but hard to see him ahead of Gagner, Voracek and Sutter, among others.
Clearly, emphatically, Central Scouting got the first overall pick all wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
That's not to say that it was absolutely alone on this. Others had Turris ranked No. 1. He had a couple of great Junior A all-star games that winter, and that was the big push. In the two under-18 tournaments, the summer Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and the worlds in the spring, he didn't jump out.
What we have here is a terminal case of projection -- and it resembles the Hall versus Seguin debate in some ways. Kane had done much more at a much higher level in London and with the U.S. at world juniors, but Turris was a center and in theory a more important piece of the puzzle than a winger. Turris had taken off in his draft year; like Seguin, he was known, but he wasn't in conversation for the top pick the previous fall.
As with teams being able to sort out Doughty versus Bogosian, teams were able to sort out Kane and van Riemsdyk versus Turris; van Riemsdyk bounced over Turris by being a dominant player at the world under-18s, where Turris struggled to get anything right.
Like in 2008, the market made the right call on the top two slots ,and CSS didn't. CSS had a bad read at the top of the 2007 draft, and from 11 down it doesn't look too good either.
Start here, with the 2006 NHL draft order as it played out.
The 2006 CSS rankings were:
1. Erik Johnson, D, U.S. national under-18; 2. Jordan Staal, C, Peterborough (OHL); 3. Jonathan Toews, C/W, North Dakota (WCHA); 4. Derick Brassard, C, Drummondville (QMJHL); 5. Phil Kessel, C, Minnesota (WCHA); 6. Peter Mueller, C, Everett (WHL); 7. Bryan Little, C, Barrie (OHL); 8. Chris Stewart, RW, Kingston (OHL); 9. James Sheppard, C, Cape Breton (QMJHL); 10. Cory Emmerton, C/LW, Kingston (OHL); 11. Kyle Okposo, RW, Des Moines (USHL); 12. Bobby Sanguinetti, D, Owen Sound (OHL); 13. Nigel Williams, D, U.S. national under-18; 14. Ondrej Fiala, C, Everett (WHL); 15. Michael Grabner, RW, Spokane (WHL); 16. Ben Shutron, D, Kingston (OHL); 17. Bryce Swan, RW, Halifax (QMJHL); 18. Codey Burki, C, Brandon (WHL); 19. Nick Foligno, LW, Sudbury (OHL); 20. Mark Mitera, D, Michigan (CCHA); 21. Ty Wishart, D, Prince George (WHL); 22. Brian Strait, D, U.S. national under-18; 23. Ryan Hillier, LW, Halifax (QMJHL); 24. Cal Clutterbuck, RW, Oshawa (OHL); 25. Bobby Hughes, C, Kingston (OHL); 26. Carl Sneep, D, Brainerd High School, Minn. (U.S. high school); 27. Ryan White, C, Calgary (WHL); 28. Brady Calla, RW, Everett (WHL); 29. David Fischer, D, Apple Valley High School, Minn. (U.S. high school); 30. Trevor Lewis, C, Des Moines (USHL).
CSS' good moves from 2006:
Bryan Little over James Sheppard
Two centers. Central's No. 7 is an emerging player (31 goals in 2008-09), and the CSS No. 10 is a role player (three seasons, 224 games, 11 goals). Minnesota took Sheppard at No. 9 in the draft, but the Wild's former management took some big swings, while Atlanta did well at 12 to get Little.
CSS' bad moves from 2006:
10. Cory Emmerton, left wing, Kingston (OHL) (too high)
You can make a case that Detroit took him too high with the 41st overall pick: He's scored 22 goals in 152 AHL games.
Kessel versus Brassard
One's a 30-plus goal scorer, but Central liked the other, who scored nine goals in 79 games last year.
16. Ben Shutron, defense, Kingston (OHL) (too high)
A very good junior defenseman -- but seemingly nothing more than that. Chicago took him 95th overall, and he isn't in anybody's plans.
The toughest call in this draft was Jordan Staal versus Jonathan Toews versus Nicklas Backstrom. With Backstrom on the Euro list, Central's call was down to Staal versus Toews. You can debate the merits of the two. Both have Stanley Cups. Staal stepped right from junior into Pittsburgh's lineup. Toews has an Olympic gold medal and a Conn Smythe. Nothing to debate from CSS versus the draft here -- both opted for Staal over Toews. Let's call it a wash. In retrospect, it's looking as though there was a massive drop after No. 10 or 12 in this one.
Start here, with the 2005 NHL draft order as it played out.
The 2005 CSS rankings were:
1. Sidney Crosby, C, Rimouski (QMJHL); 2. Benoit Pouliot, LW, Sudbury (OHL); 3. Bobby Ryan, RW, Owen Sound (OHL); 4. Luc Bourdon, D, Val-d'Or (QMJHL); 5. Jack Johnson, D, U.S. under-18; 6. Gilbert Brule, C, Vancouver (WHL); 7. Ryan Parent, D, Guelph (OHL); 8. Kenndal McArdle, LW, Moose Jaw (WHL); 9. Jack Skille, RW, U.S. under-18; 10. Matt Lashoff, D, Kitchener (OHL); 11. Ryan Stoa, C, U.S. under-18; 12. Devin Setoguchi, RW, Saskatoon (WHL); 13. Brendan Mikkelson, D, Portland (WHL); 14. Marc Staal, D, Sudbury (OHL); 15. Chris Durand, C, Seattle (WHL); 16. Brian Lee, D, Moorhead (U.S. high school); 17. Ryan O'Marra, C, Erie (OHL); 18. Jakub Kindl, D, Kitchener (OHL); 19. Alex Bourret, RW, Lewiston (QMJHL); 20. James Neal, LW, Plymouth (OHL); 21. Michael Blunden, RW, Erie (OHL); 22. Scott Jackson, D, Seattle (WHL); 23. Dan Collins, RW, Plymouth (OHL); 24. Patrick Davis, LW, Kitchener (OHL); 25. Michael Sauer, D, Portland (WHL); 26. Chris Lawrence, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL); 27. Marek Zagrapan, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL); 28. Jean-Philippe Paquet, D, Shawinigan (QMJHL); 29. Justin Abdelkader, LW, Cedar Rapids (USHL); 30. Sasha Pokulok, D, Cornell Univ. (NCAA)
CSS' good moves from 2005:
No. 20 James Neal
Dallas landed Neal at No. 33, and probably all but five teams drafting that year would trade their pick for Neal.
CSS' bad moves from 2005:
Matt Lashoff over Marc Staal
A bad call that's even more remarkable because it involved players in the OHL. Staal might actually have been a case of CSS looking at what is rather than what might be -- Staal's skating was suspect in his draft year, but he took off thereafter.
The biggest call wasn't Crosby at No. 1. That was easy (even though there were WHL boosters who'd tell you with a straight face that Gilbert Brule was as good as Crosby). No, the biggest call was the No. 2 slot, and again, it came down to two players in the OHL. And again, teams saw it differently than CSS. Pouliot's skating impressed, but not many NHL team scouts I talked to at the time had him as the second-best player in the draft. Ryan's skating was suspect -- but not his hands, his hockey sense or his desire to play.