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On the NHL draft…and the 2012-13 season

By Tom

It's NHL Draft time - Are you ready?

As I think I mentioned, I grew up a big football fan.  I’ve been a pro football fan for as long as I can remember and, as I grew to appreciate college football more and more, found the National Football League’s entry draft to be downright fascinating.  The whole concept of the cream of the collegiate crop being pulled from their school and sent to the far reaches of the NFL was something else.  Even better, the top picks were likely to be impact players for their teams.

As time moved on, players taken deeper in the draft were looked at to provide immediate assistance.  (I noticed this much more with the ascendance of Jimmy Johnson in Dallas.)  Second rounders were penciled in as starters on many teams, sometimes even third or fourth rounders.  And if the third or fourth round picks weren’t up high on the depth chart, they were expected to help their employer on special teams.

This makes sense when you sit back and look at the nature of the NFL draft.  We’re talking about 20, 21, 22 year old players (or, if you’re Florida State’s Chris Weinke, you’re talking about 28-year-olds).  These are young adults who have played three or four seasons in the NFL’s de facto minor league system that is big time college football.

Then you have the other sports…where it’s a tad harder to make an immediate impact.  In Major League Baseball’s draft, it goes forever (well, 40 rounds) and drafts kids who largely won’t be seen for years in the big leagues – if at all.  The National Basketball Association draft is all of two rounds, with a very realistic chance that some later picks won’t even make the team at all.  Remember, this is a two-round draft to help fill twelve-man rosters…it’s very competitive.

As for the NHL, it’s somewhere in between the NFL and MLB.  It’s a seven-round draft, like the NFL.  It sees kids from all over the globe get drafted that don’t even sign with their teams for years (sometimes not at all, with the team dropping their claim to the players and sending them back into the draft).

So…what’s the chance that a draft pick will actually affect the fortunes of the Columbus Blue Jackets in this upcoming season?

When in doubt, retreat to the stats.  In this case, I figure that the Blue Jackets will draft either second overall – their current position – or will trade up to first overall. Barring some eye-popping trade, I just can’t see them dropping past second overall.  But then there’s the question that faces a team that was 30th in the league last year: How much immediate help can we fans expect?

Let’s allow history to be our guide.  Here’s a year-by-year rundown of the top two picks from each season following the lockout.  Keep in mind that, for recent history, the first post-lockout year represents a high water mark for league scoring.  Scoring has dropped pretty much every year since.

The three players whose stats are blacked out did not play for their NHL team in the season following getting drafted.  While I note that this hasn’t happened in more recent years, it’s always a possibility…which makes the possibility of immediate impact coming from the draft a bit of a gamble.  The Blue Jackets, for example, selected Ryan Johansen fourth overall in 2010 and shipped him back down to juniors for another season of seasoning.

Also, remember when looking at the stats that Drew Doughty and Victor Hedman are defensemen, which detracts from their scoring numbers.

The Tyler Seguin numbers look like an outlier, but it’s worth remembering that the Boston Bruins intentionally brought him along slowly instead of throwing him to the wolves.  That approach is always possible – the Blue Jackets used the Seguin developmental model with Ryan Johansen last season.

But with what I see left (drafting a forward, NHL-ready, no Seguin treatment), I think it’s fair to expect a 40-50 point season from our young buck-to-be if they make it onto the roster out of training camp.  I’m hearing nothing to suggest that any of this year’s draft-eligible players is a once-in-a-generation talent like Sidney Crosby (when not concussed) has turned out to be, and the rest of the group of forwards from Stamkos-onward has been right in that 40-50 point range.

40-50 points is nothing to sneeze at.  In fact, a 40-50 point player would be one of what appears to be three 20-ish goal scorers that will be needed to replace the scoring punch left by Rick Nash and other possible departures from Nationwide Boulevard.

Surprising, isn’t it?  Guess that top slot in the draft really does mean something.  Which means I should have been paying better attention in class, eh @cbjprospects?

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