If the Edmonton Oilers are still split on whom to pick No. 1, a good suggestion would be to settle on center Tyler Seguin.
This isn't an argument based on scouting, which is how Gare Joyce concluded that the Oilers should go for winger Taylor Hall. Instead, this is based on history, as well as these players' respective positions.
For months now, analysts have been saying that Seguin and Hall are neck-and-neck. The general consensus is that Hall is the most NHL-ready, while Seguin could potentially develop into the better player. But one additional advantage for Seguin is that he plays center. History shows us that centers picked high in the draft have better NHL careers than their winger counterparts.
We looked at every top-10 pick since 1979, and found that centers have outperformed wingers -- not only in points per game, but also in terms of length of careers. This disparity increases as we look higher in the draft, all the way up to the No. 1 pick, where centers have been far and away better than wingers.
Now, we already know teams have put a premium on centers, especially near the top of the draft. Since 1979, about the same number of wingers, centers and defensemen were selected in the top 10: 97 centers, 100 wingers and 98 defensemen. But remember: There are two wingers and two defensemen on the ice, while there is only one center. So early in the draft, teams have focused doubly on filling the crucial center role -- and that has paid off.
Centers generally have more responsibilities on the ice, so that may account for the greater offensive numbers. However, the centers' advantage only increases as they are picked higher in the draft.
For players picked in the top two, centers have scored 12 more points per 82 games than wingers. In addition, they've played, on average, 100 more games than their flanking counterparts.
If we focus on just the No. 1 pick, this disparity grows even more.
The sample size is small -- 22 players -- but it still shows that centers have been greatly more productive than wingers. In addition, No. 1-selected centers have played, on average, two more seasons than No. 1-selected wingers.
Now, we aren't looking at Seguin and Hall individually, so it's more of a broad generalization than anything. However, if you're the Oilers, it's hard to argue against history, which shows that centers taken No. 1 have a very good shot at being great players.
In the past 31 years, 13 centers have gone No. 1 overall. The worst of them are Patrik Stefan and Doug Wickenheiser. But after that, the list goes to John Tavares, Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Mike Modano -- and this is the bottom of the group.
If Tavares and Stamkos boost themselves higher on the center list in coming years, we might see the worst No. 1 centers be comparable to the best No. 1 wingers.
Not every team that picked a winger No. 1 had a similarly talented center to pick at the spot. But if the Oilers are split between Seguin and Hall -- and they are fairly confident that Seguin can developmentally catch up to Hall -- it might be hard for them to argue against the history of No. 1-selected centers.