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Grading the Hurricanes’ Drafts: Final Wrap-Up

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What lessons can we take from our project ranking the Canes’ post-lockout drafts?

2013 NHL Draft

Now that we’ve taken a look back at the Carolina Hurricanes’ 13 drafts from 2005 to 2017, let’s try to draw some conclusions. There is plenty of data to go through, but some trends definitely emerged - some expected, and some very unexpected.

If you missed the series, here are the four parts to our countdown:

Missing on a draft class has consequences

The Hurricanes were not good in the early years of the 2010s. Sure, their drafts during that time were pretty good, but the seeds for that lack of success were planted years before. From 2005 to 2011, there were seven drafts, five of which landed in the bottom half of our rankings. Dishonorable mentions especially go to the 2005 and 2009 drafts, which produced a grand total of three NHL players, two of whom - Brian Dumoulin and Jack Johnson - never played for the Hurricanes.

You don’t have to hit on every pick, but you need to have at least a modicum of competence. If not, and if that becomes a regular problem, you’d better have the money to spend on free agents to cover up your drafting misadventures. The Hurricanes never did, and it’s no surprise that they were near the league basement for years as a result.

...but some players can take advantage of draft incompetence

The hardest part of this exercise was remembering that grading drafts is evaluating the scouting, not the management. Drayson Bowman is a perfect case in point. He played almost 200 games which, for a third-round pick, isn’t too shabby at all. Where he played and how productive he was is almost beside the point; the fact is that he was a longtime contributor to an NHL roster is what earned him a B.

But then, if the Hurricanes were any good, would Bowman - or Brett Bellemore, or Jamie McBain, or Michal Jordan, or whoever - have ever come close to how many games they played for the team? I don’t think it’s beyond the pale to suggest that, say, Bellemore would have no prayer of cracking the Hurricanes’ roster today. Sometimes, timing matters more than actual skill. Ask Jake Bean.

Both general managers had clunkers, but Ron Francis had far fewer

Jim Rutherford was in charge through 2013; Francis took over in 2014. Three of Francis’ four drafts were in the top five, while Rutherford oversaw every draft in the bottom half save one. Both men had hits - and, in fact, Rutherford had more A-pluses - but from top to bottom, Francis’ drafts were better.

A C is a good grade, despite what your parents told you in middle school

I did my best to keep the grades as consistent as possible. I graded a bit on a curve - a seventh-rounder who didn’t sign an ELC got a C, because the team had simply taken a flyer on that player in the first place - but the most important things were first, if the player made the NHL (and, if so, how long of a career he had), and second, did the player contribute at a level commensurate with his draft slot.

Not every first-rounder is going to turn into Sidney Crosby, and that’s fine. But the grades, again, are a reflection of scouting. No one is going to argue that Brandon Sutter and Drayson Bowman, both of whom received B-pluses, are comparable players. Sutter is the far better player, but he was also taken in the first round, so he should be better.

The draft averages tended to coalesce towards Cs. A bad draft might be a C-minus; a good one might be a B-minus. If the GPA was north of 2.0, it was generally a pretty good draft overall.

Draft class size also skews the numbers

I made this point in the article, but I’ll make it again here: from top to bottom, 2014 might have been the best draft the Hurricanes have had, despite the fact it finished behind the 2013 draft in the rankings. What’s the difference? The Hurricanes had four picks in the 2013 draft, and seven in the 2014 draft. That means that the individual players picked in 2013 mattered more in the GPA calculation than the ones picked in 2014, and the Hurricanes did well with those players.

A small draft class reduces the margin for error, but if a team can hit on multiple picks in a small class, it makes the entire class look a lot better. And the inverse can also happen: the 2010 draft had three As, the most of any single class, but since it was a big class (eight players) with players who were either feast or famine, it was dragged down as a class by those misses.

Overall, the Hurricanes have been doing much better in the draft in recent years. Starting in 2014, they’ve had multiple NHL players come out of every draft, which is not for nothing. But the misses of the late 2000s are a stark reminder that multiple consecutive years of whiffs will lead to problems down the road. It’s a fate the Hurricanes have largely avoided recently, but they can’t let their guard down. A miss every so often is normal, even expected. It can’t, though, turn into a trend - not in a salary-cap league where contributions from players on their ELCs are of paramount importance.

By the way: the only other player I can think of that might have an argument of being a better pick than Jaccob Slavin in the third round or later was Erik Cole, and to me it’s not really all that close even taking Cole’s injury into account. For those of you who went Niclas Wallin - look, I love the Secret Weapon as much as anyone, but I’ve seen them both, and Nic Wallin is no Jaccob Slavin.

Thanks for trudging through this with us; we’ll do it again in a few years once we have the first few Don Waddell drafts to add to the pile.