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The NHL Draft: An Inexact Science

With the NHL draft coming up Sunday at 3pm, we took a look at our recent draft history; here are a few facts I found interesting. From 2000-09 the Washington Capitals have had 16 first-round picks, and 13 of those selections have played significant NHL minutes. (We felt it was too early to include 2010, 2011 and 2012 draftees.) We also have experienced three first-round misses in that time span. The Capitals rank first in terms of the most first-round picks who have played substantial NHL minutes during that span; L.A. was a close second with 12 of its 15 selections having earned significant NHL playing time. The Caps’ average first-round draft position in the 30-team NHL was No. 18, while the Kings’ first-round draft position during the same span was No. 15.

In the February 2013 “Future Watch” edition of The Hockey News, the Caps were ranked second among the 30 NHL teams in terms of developing prospects. The THN ranking uses a handicapping system that grades each team’s top drafted prospects and development system while also taking into account the club’s average draft rank (ADR), the average position of the team’s first pick in each draft since 2009.

Washington’s ADR is 28th among the 30 teams. With that being the case, the Caps could expect to also have the 28th best grade in terms of its top drafted prospects and development systems. Yet the Caps were given a “B” in terms of their top prospects and system, the 11th best grade among the 30 teams. Since their actual grade is 17 slots higher than their “expected” grade, the Caps are rated at plus-17 in THN’s draft handicapping system. Only the Ottawa Senators (plus-18) had a better ranking. The letter grades in THN’s rankings were made on the basis of a 15-member panel of prospect evaluators (one scout from each NHL team was invited to be part of the process).

Put in the simplest of terms, the Caps have drafted much better than would be expected given their position in the draft since 2009.

In THN’s April 2013 “Draft Preview” issue, the Caps are tied for fourth in the NHL in terms of homegrown talent. During the 2012-13 season Washington employed 13 players who were homegrown (drafted and developed), the same number as the Carolina Hurricanes. Only the Detroit Red Wings (18), the Senators (17) and the Edmonton Oilers (15) had more.

The Caps also have made 109 total draft selections since 2000, which ranks tied for ninth; Chicago’s 136 total picks is the most since 2000.

From 2000-13 the Capitals have made eight playoff appearances, which is tied for eighth most with Montreal and Pittsburgh. Teams with more playoff appearances in that span are Detroit, San Jose, New Jersey, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Vancouver and Boston.