Prospect Ramblings: Are we actually getting better at scouting?

Hayden Soboleski



One of the most fun (but often depressing) things to do is to look back at draft days from years past, and see the inevitable big misses. NHL teams' scouting departments aren't perfect and never will be, but with the amount of travel and video accessible to scouts these days, I would assume that, on average, fewer players are slipping through the cracks. There will always be late bloomers, or players that needed to be passed-over to find their inspiration to improve, but the stars, the first-line forwards and the top-pair defensemen probably shouldn't be slipping too far in this day and age. As per good scientific behavior – I want to check this assumption that we're actually getting better at this. 


To evaluate scouting improvement over the years, I'm going to look at a five factors:

1. How many NHL roster players are coming out of the top 4 rounds?

2. How many superstars fell past the top-10,

3. How many stars (first-line/top-pairing players) fell into the second round,

4. How many stars fell past the 2nd round.

5. How many top-10 picks have been busts?


There are far more mathematical ways to do this evaluation. Lots of late-first-round duds wont be seen in this analysis. The true value 2nd and 3rd line players stolen in later rounds isn't really seen in this study. The primary players captured here are the cream of the crop, to see if these top names are slipping less than they used to.


PLEASE REMEMBER this is an opinion piece. Obviously putting players into categories like this is subjective, especially the "superstar" label. I'll be using my own opinion for that category. A "star" player is someone who has spent significant (and deserved) time on a first line or top pairing, not just time as the best player bad team. A bust isn't just a "not living up to expectations" situation, it means the player had either a very short pro career or never amounted to more than a 4th/fringe 3rd line regular. An NHL roster player is someone who provided above-replacement-eve value for at least one full season. For later years included here, there is always potential for late bloomers to change these numbers. Feel free to argue with me on twitter regardless.


Let's get to it! I'm going to look at every draft year from 2004 – 2014 (its still too soon to evaluate the 2015, 2016, and 2017 drafts in my opinion). Here's the raw number results (separated into separate plots so its easier to read):

Let's break this one down before moving on to the others. Its slight, and choppy in recent years (