Dissecting The NHL Draft Through TAB, How does this affect the 2022 Class?

The NHL draft is one of the most exciting events on the hockey calendar, as it is a monumental occasion for all parties involved. The fruition of a lifetime of work for the prospects, years’ worth of scouting and evaluation for all thirty-two organizations, and the continued active engagement of hockey fans around the world will be on full display in Montreal, just about two weeks from today. Due to the fact the 2022 draft is the first live, in-person draft since before the COVID-19 pandemic, we are expecting the annual gathering of the hockey world to be even more special this year. We are proud to announce that the hockeyfreeforall.com contingent will be attending the event in person this July through the outstanding people at Sports Management Worldwide (SMWW), and we are counting down the days in anticipation. One of our goals this summer here at HFFA was to conduct a study detailing the ins and outs of the NHL draft through the lens of our recently created Tentative Advanced Bracton Score (TAB),  in order to potentially identify prospects that can make an impact in the NHL. Over the course of our time in the industry, we have listened to various industry leaders and professionals mention that the NHL draft is essentially a “crapshoot” and there’s a significant amount of luck involved. What we aim to demonstrate with the following study is to display that through TAB, we believe we have been successful in increasing the odds of finding NHL talent in the later rounds.

For anyone unfamiliar with our work, we are treating tentative AB as its own separate entity in our database family, as it will not be grouped together with the official AB numbers from 2007-present. The reason for this is because tentative AB is an estimated AB score based on the statistics available at the time. These numbers reached at the end of the tentative AB process would not be the same number we would get if we underwent the process to reach actual AB. However, we found that using the statistics used to calculate tentative AB with regular AB data, there was an 85% correlation between projected and actual. Therefore we believe tentative AB will allow us to examine more questions beyond our fifteen-year sample size. Tentative AB is the first step in essentially the reconstruction of our AB projects, as we intend to repeat similar processes conducted in the actual AB creation. Tentative AB is available across all levels of professional hockey, unlike the statistics we use to calculate the actual AB since its inception in 2007. This accessibility allowed us to create tentative AB numbers for players in junior and overseas hockey leagues such as the OHL, QMJHL, WHL, KHL, SHL, NCAA, and more. While it may not be as accurate or official as the actual AB numbers (which we plan to one day calculate for the same sample size in a professional setting), we believe tentative AB opens up a variety of projects for us to explore, in addition to the following study.  

Let us begin by explaining the process we took to compile our information. To start, we’d like to give a special shoutout to the people at hockeydb.com for their outstanding display of data regarding the selections of players over our target sample. This project couldn’t have been completed without them, and we again profusely thank them for their efforts. Like everything else here at HFFA, we began with examining the 2007-08 NHL draft and ended with the most recent 2021-22 NHL draft. In total 2,873 players were viewed during that time span, and a pre-NHL TAB score was calculated for each player, regardless of whether said player actually played a game in the NHL at any point in the future or not. We then split these 2,873 players into their respective draft classes to collect the following statistics by year (all of which exclude goalies selected), and then found the averages of each across the fifteen-year set.

  • Total Drafted Players in the NHL
  • Total Drafted Players to play NHL games
  • Percent of Players to Play NHL games
  • Average TAB Score of Respective Draft
  • Average TAB Score of Players who have played NHL games per draft
  • Percent of Players with Positive TAB to play NHL games per draft
  • Percent of Players with Negative TAB to play NHL games per draft
  • Percent of Positive TAB Players in total draft to play NHL games
  • Percent of Negative TAB Players in total draft to play NHL games
  • The Difference between bullet point eight and bullet point nine

The table above displays the information previously referenced in the bullet points. This portion of our study generated some key pieces of data that are significant to the remainder of the work, such as the fact that on average, 73% of the roughly 43% of a draft class that plays NHL games registered positive pre-NHL TAB scores. We also discovered that on average, 45% of all draft picks who register positive TAB scores play NHL games and that only 38% of all draft picks who register negative TAB scores play NHL games, a difference of 6% on average.

Next, we split the data previously discussed by round to collect the following statistics by year (all of which still exclude goalies selected) and then found averages of each across the fifteen-year set.

  • Total First Round Picks
  • Total First Round Picks to Play NHL Games (%)
  • Total First Round Picks with Positive TAB Scores to play NHL games (%)
  • Total Second Round Picks
  • Total Second Round Picks to Play NHL Games (%)
  • Total Second Round Picks with Positive TAB Scores to play NHL games (%)
  • Total Third Round Picks
  • Total Third Round Picks to Play NHL Games (%)
  • Total Third Round Picks with Positive TAB Scores to play NHL games (%)
  • Total Fourth Round Picks
  • Total Fourth Round Picks to Play NHL Games (%)
  • Total Fourth Round Picks with Positive TAB Scores to play NHL games (%)
  • Total Fifth Round Picks
  • Total Fifth Round Picks to Play NHL Games (%)
  • Total Fourth Round Picks with Positive TAB Scores to play NHL games (%)
  • Total Sixth Round Picks
  • Total Sixth Round Picks to Play NHL Games (%)
  • Total Sixth Round Picks with Positive TAB Scores to play NHL games (%)
  • Total Seventh Round Picks
  • Total Seventh Round Picks to Play NHL Games (%)
  • Total Seventh Round Picks with Positive TAB Scores to play NHL games (%)

The table below illustrates the results of these statistics when we divided the 2,873 players into their respective draft rounds (all of which still exclude goalies).

When examining the above results, we were incredibly pleased to see several high percentages in the later rounds of the draft when using TAB as an indicator of NHL games played. Positive TAB players made up an average of 69% of players who played NHL games in all seven rounds (75%, 69%, 67%, 66%, 69%, 76%, and 62% respectively). We were most astonished about its success in the sixth and seventh rounds, as 76% of the 23% of sixth-round picks to make the NHL were positive TAB players, as well as 62% of the 17% of all seventh-round picks.

Following this, we split the data previously discussed into the selected prospects’ respective teams to collect the following statistics by organization (all of which still exclude goalies selected) and then found averages of each across the fifteen-year set.

  • Total Number of draft picks per team
  • Picks who made NHL team (%)
  • Average TAB Score of all draft picks by team
  • Picks Who made the NHL with positive TAB scores (%)
  • Total Score (sums of the ranks (1-32) of bullets 2,3,4)

When looking at the data above, we see that Washington has the best total score, which doesn’t really surprise us. Since 2007-08, the Washington Capitals have had 46% of their draft picks reach the NHL (5% above average), 82% of which registered positive TAB scores. In this time span, the Capitals have drafted multiple NHL stars, such as John Carlson, Tom Wilson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Filip Forsberg, and Dmitri Orlov, all of which had very high pre-NHL TAB scores.

Lastly, we repeated the same process for the prospects of the 2022 NHL Draft class and generated a list using Corey Pronman’s Top 127 Prospects ranking on The Athletic. We won’t include his list in order, as subscribing to the Athletic is something we highly recommend people do, and we do not wish to give away his content for free. The only statistic we generated for this portion of the study was just the individual TAB scores for the 121 prospects listed (excluding the six goalies). While we won’t post our entire 2022 ranking as part of this study, we will display a list of consensus top-ten picks in accordance with TAB below.

Shane Wright +4.25 TAB

Juraj Slafkovsky +0.50 TAB

Logan Cooley +4.50 TAB

Simon Nemec +0.83 TAB

David Jiricek +2.83 TAB

Cutter Gauthier -3.50 TAB

Matthew Savoie +9.83 TAB

Frank Nazar +8.25 TAB

Kevin Korchinski +4.33 TAB

Joakim Kemell -3.00 TAB

Although we have found throughout this study that TAB is a reasonably good indicator of potential NHL success, we realize that the impact of scouting when making these draft decisions can’t be understated. The goal of TAB is to increase the odds of selecting players who can play NHL games for their respective clubs which we believe we have successfully accomplished in this study. As it pertains to this draft class, it will be interesting to see where Montreal decides to go at 1st overall. While the consensus is between Shane Wright and Juraj Slafkovsky, perhaps Logan Cooley should be in the discussion as well. A “follow-up” article will be written following the first round of the NHL draft discussing the TAB impact if any. Until then, we hope everyone enjoys the rest of the Stanley Cup Finals. Much more to come.

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