In part two of updating my NHL Entry Draft model, the focus changes from looking at the results for defensemen and turning that attention to the forwards. The method of evaluating the forwards is similar to how the defenseman are evaluated, which is using historical rates of return based on draft position and statistical measurements. As always, the intent of the model is to find where scouts and stats collide to get the best of both worlds. However, the difference between evaluating forwards and defensemen is that points per game is the basis of the statistical measurement instead of time-on-ice. Therefore, this post will be looking at the results of my work in regards to first year draft eligible forwards.
DRAFT VALUE FOR FORWARDS BY DRAFT POSITION
To determine the draft value for forwards by draft position, I utilize games played and career average points per game (P/G) as my measurement. The sample used is for forwards drafted between 1998 and 2011 and the data used is prior to the start of the 2018-19 season.
As with defensemen, the first step is to group the forwards by finding where there are similar rates of return. If you look at draft position against career average P/G, for the first 14 selections, there is a R² of 0.3953. This means that for this sample, 40% of a forward’s career average P/G is explained by their draft position. However, if you look at the trend-line, it decreases fairly steadily between picks 1-7 before levelling off between picks 8-14.
If you only look at those forwards selected 8-14 overall, they have a fairly similar rate of return. If you take a look at the scatter plot of the data it has a flat trend line and a R² of 0.0033, meaning that for this sample, draft position explains only 0.3% of that forward’s P/G production in the NHL. In terms of P/G, there is basically no difference between a forward selected 8th overall and 14th overall.
Using this method, the 217 draft positions were divided into 10 groupings. These are the results for games played for these groups when entering the 2018-19 season:
At the top end of the draft, you are much more likely to get a long-term NHL player that plays multiple seasons in the NHL. For example, the percentage of players to play 300 plus games in the NHL decreases from 100% for forwards selected first or second overall to under 10% for those forwards selected 107th or later.
Meanwhile, the percentage of forwards that will play less than 100 games increases from 0%, for forwards selected in the top three, to 86% for those selected 107th or later.
For career average P/G for the same groupings, these are the results:
If a team wants to find an offensively talented forward, in the first round of the draft, their best chance is with a top 7 selection. From the eighth pick and onward, there is a 1 in 6 chance of selecting a forward that goes on to have a career average P/G of 0.60 or greater. That drops to a 1 in 17 chance for forwards selected in the second round. It is a reminder that the value in the draft is heavily weighted at the top.
DRAFT VALUE FOR FORWARDS USING NHLP
In determining the draft value for forwards by a statistical measurement, my point per game prediction formula called NHLP is utilized. A forward’s NHLP is their estimated career best point per game season in the NHL. The formula is derived from looking at the correlation of a CHL forward’s production (including playoffs) in their first draft eligible season and their career season in the NHL. For this, I looked at CHL forwards, drafted between 1998 and 2011, that went on to play 250 or more games in the NHL. The three factors utilized from a CHL forward’s draft season are:
- Points per game, separated between non-power play points (even strength and short handed) and power play points. This is the most important factor in determining a forward’s future NHL production.
- % contribution to team scoring, separated between non-power play and power play points.
- Age, which is a factor for predicting future power play scoring. There is no evidence that age is a factor in predicting future even strength production. In terms of a forward’s NHLP, for every two months younger in age, there is an increase of only 0.01 P/G. All evidence points to age being an overrated factor when evaluating a forward’s future upside.
For CHL forwards that play 250 or more NHL games, about 40% of their even strength and short handed production can be explained by their production in their first eligible draft season. For power play scoring it is 36%.
Even Strength and Short Handed P/G: 0.199532 + (0.374418 X Non-PP P/G) + (0.224560 X Non-PP Contribution %)
Power Play P/G: 1.17882 + (0.33072 X PP P/G) + (0.03976 X PP Contribution %) – (0.06185 X Age on Sep 15 of Draft Year)
For example, Dylan Cozens had 67 even strength and short handed points in 75 games (including playoffs) and was involved in 30% of his team’s non-PP scoring. This equates to an NHLP of 0.60 for his non-PP scoring. He also had 25 power play points, was involved in 36% of his team’s PP scoring and will be 18.60 years of age on Sep 15 of this year. That equates to a NHLP for his PP scoring of 0.15 P/G. Therefore, that gives him a combined NHLP of 0.75 P/G. Based on his production in this draft season, Dylan Cozens is projected to have a career best season of 62 points.
Once again, forwards are grouped together where they have similar rates of return in terms of P/G. Therefore, if one looks at NHLP against career average P/G for all CHL forwards, there is a R² of 0.3574. This means that for this sample, 36% of a forward’s career average P/G is explained by their NHLP.
Meanwhile, if one looks at only a slice of the data, such as forwards with a NHLP between 0.55 and 0.64, they have a fairly similar rate of return. Looking at the scatter plot of the data, it has a flat trend line and a R² of 0.0025, meaning that for this sample, NHLP explains only 0.25% of that forward’s P/G production in the NHL. In terms of career average P/G, there is basically no difference between a forward with a NHLP of 0.55 and a NHLP of 0.64.
Using this method, the NHLP of these CHL forwards can be divided into 9 groupings. Here are the results for games played for these groups when entering the 2018-19 season:
The higher the NHLP, the much more likely a team will get a long-term NHL player that plays multiple seasons in the NHL. For example, the percentage of forwards who play 300 plus games in the NHL decreases from 86% for forwards with a NHLP of 0.90 or greater to 0% for those forwards with a NHLP less than 0.35.
For career average P/G for the same groupings, these are the results:
The better the offensive production a forward has at the junior level in his draft year, the better the chance of him producing at the NHL level. If a team wants to have a better than 50/50 chance of finding a forward that will have a career average P/G of 0.60 or more, they should be trying to draft a forward with a NHLP of 0.82 or greater. The likelihood of finding a player drops significantly after that. There is only a 1 in 4 chance if the forward has a NHLP of 0.75-0.81 and only a 1 in 8 chance if their NHLP is between 0.69-0.74. By the time you get to forwards with a NHLP of less than 0.64, your odds are slim to none. While the eye test matters, so does relying on what the numbers are telling you.
NHLP FOR CHL FORWARDS DRAFTED TOP 33 SINCE 1998