The debate that dominated leading up to the 2010 NHL Entry Draft was who should go first overall, Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin. For my final rankings, Taylor Hall ended up being my top choice. This is how I saw it in 2010:
Now it is five years later and who is the better player is still up for debate, but I am not interested in arguing who is and will be the better player. Rather, since that time, I have improved upon my methods of analyzing the draft and have added a point prediction model called NHLP to the equation. Using this method of analysis allows one to account for a CHL forward’s points-per-game, percentage contribution to team scoring and for age. While this analysis method is a main focus of my work today, I did not have it in my toolbox back in 2010 and points-per-game was my main weapon of choice. Looking at points-per-game for the entire 2009-10 season (regular season + playoffs) the results for each player are:
Taylor Hall Tyler Seguin
PP: 0.76 0.67
NON-PP: 1.09 0.94
TOTAL: 1.86 1.61
Using points-per-game, Taylor Hall looks like he is clearly the better offensive player as his numbers are greater than 15% better at both even strength and on the power play.
As for age, Taylor is the older player being born on Nov 14, 1991 compared to Tyler Seguin on Jan 31, 1992, meaning that Seguin was born 78 days after Hall. Even if you assumed that age plays a large factor, such as a ratio of 1.25 for every year younger, that is not enough to account for the 15% separation in points-per-game:
Potential Age Factor: 0.25*78/365=0.053 or 5.3%
Seguin still ends up behind Hall even if you assume there is a large age factor. My research has shown that assuming age plays a big factor is false and that age matters with power play scoring.
Thus, using a statistical analysis similar to what I used in 2010, Taylor Hall appears to have the higher offensive ceiling over Tyler Seguin. Combine that fact with Hall being the MVP of the Memorial Cup Champions and the best player on the best team in junior hockey; it appeared to me that Hall had the edge at being the best choice for first overall.
However, I did not account for the fact that Tyler Seguin played on a weaker team and had to carry a higher percentage of the team scoring. Up until this summer, I was unsure on how big a factor this played. A logical assumption is that good players on a weak team will have greater ice time and receive more opportunities to score, but have inferior teammates to finish plays. Meanwhile a player on a strong team may receive less ice time, but has better teammates to finish plays, a better power play unit and better matchups where they are not the sole focus of a team’s defense. Therefore, of these two cases, which has the bigger effect on future scoring? Ultimately, my research suggests that players on strong teams have inflated point totals while players that carry the load on weak teams are understated. The percentage contribution to team scoring of each player is:
Taylor Hall Tyler Seguin
PP: 55.8% 61.5%
NON-PP: 31.3% 38.2%
While Hall had the larger point totals, Seguin carried a bigger percentage of his teams load and this is a key factor that I was missing in my evaluation of the 2010 draft class. If I did have the NHLP formula in 2010 it would have shown me these results:
While Taylor Hall had the better points-per-game, the fact that Tyler Seguin carried a larger portion of his team’s scoring more than made up for that. In the end, the separation between them in terms of potential offensive upside is marginal. (I did find it interesting that Tyler Seguin projects to be a better goal scorer while Taylor Hall a better playmaker as this is the opposite of my projection in 2010.)
Therefore, if the offensive potential is about the same, what separates the two players when making your choice? Areas such as skating, hockey sense, shot and playmaking were all seen as strengths for both players, with each player having a slight edge over the other depending on which scout’s opinion. One area that was a major focus was the fact that the centre position is the more valuable and desired position for forwards, which was a big selling point for those siding with Seguin being drafted #1. Therefore, with the new knowledge that both players projected to have similar offensive upside, it seems in hindsight that the roles should have been reversed and Seguin should have had the slight edge heading into the draft.
However, Taylor Hall is no ordinary left-winger and while usually the centre is the focus on a line, with Hall’s ability to lead the rush through the neutral zone with his speed and strength, he is generally the one driving the play. In that sense, position was not as important in being a determining factor because the centre position on a Taylor Hall is generally a complementary player. In the end, it would be an extremely tight call for any scouting department to make a decision and it is of no surprise it was a big debate among the Oilers management.
Therefore, with Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin being so tight in terms of potential, the final factor that is crucial in determining which forward to choose is the style of play you prefer. Tyler Seguin is the stealthier, cerebral player while Hall has that bull in a china shop mentality. After much debate, the Oilers chose the abrasive Hall and his ability to take the game on his shoulders and like many Oilers fans, I still do not regret the choice. In essence, there was no wrong choice at #1 overall in 2010, but rather a choice upon which player’s style of game was the right choice for the Edmonton Oilers. Ultimately, whether you were on Team Taylor or Team Tyler back in 2010, you made the correct decision, as this is about as close to a coin flip as any draft in recent memory. It really was a tossup.