Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks’ Trade Analysis: Draft Pick From Hartman Deal

By Thomas Keeney
WINNIPEG, MB - FEBRUARY 27: Ryan Hartman
WINNIPEG, MB - FEBRUARY 27: Ryan Hartman /
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As part of the Ryan Hartman trade, the Chicago Blackhawks received a first-round pick from Nashville. What are the odds this pick will be as productive as Ryan Hartman in terms of games played and points per game?

First-round draft picks are desirable for every team in every sport. Talent evaluation is critical to any organization, as drafting and developing young players drive a team’s success. The Chicago Blackhawks had the third overall pick in the 2006 draft and the first pick in the 2007 draft and won the Stanley Cup three years later with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

For every story like Chicago’s, there are others where teams with high draft picks did not select the best talent available. Edmonton immediately comes to mind.

The Oilers chose some talented players with the first pick in the draft (aside from Nail Yakupov in 2012 – ouch), but finally selected a true impact player with Connor McDavid in 2015. It seems for every example of a top-five pick turning into a franchise player, there are dozens more who never make an impact in the league.

With this in mind, based on the historical data of prior NHL drafts, what are the odds the Chicago Blackhawks will draft, and subsequently develop, a better player than Ryan Hartman with a likely bottom-five pick in the first round of the 2018 draft?

Benchmark criteria

Before we look at the data, a quick caveat. This post is not meant to evaluate the trade — there have been dozens of those articles written.  Personally, as I wrote last week, I would have held on to Hartman as he was just beginning to grow into his role as an impactful NHL player. Would have loved to have seen him paired with an aggressive, “rat type” third-line center. But he’s gone now, so we move on.

So how do you compare Hartman with historical first-round picks? Per the Quanthockey.com site, as of Feb. 28, Hartman played in 142 games in the NHL with a .408 points per game average. This was used as the benchmark.

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The two areas of interest were how many players who are drafted even play as many games in the NHL as Hartman, and of those who do, how many averaged more points per game?

For the statisticians out there, I understand this analysis is not completely statistically valid. Kevin Hayes, for example, signed with another club, and although the Chicago Blackhawks drafted him, they could not do a thing about it.

There are injuries and a myriad of other factors that affect a draft pick. This is only meant to provide a more global look at the past 49 NHL drafts to see how many made it to be a competent third-year NHL player like Hartman.

Comparison to the league

Top five first-round picks (an average of Picks 1 through 5)

  • 93 percent of draft picks played in more games than Hartman
  • Of those, 71 percent averaged more PPG

This makes sense. There is a severe drop-off in talent from the top five players selected in a draft to those who come in later picks. Later rounds can produce top talent, but statistically it’s a much lower probability. Bottom line, if the first-round pick the ‘Hawks received was from Arizona or Buffalo rather than Nashville, we would have a much higher probability of gaining an immediate impact player.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Bottom five first-round picks (an average of Picks 26 through 30)

  • Only 44 percent of the players drafted in the past 49 years played more games than Hartman (142)
  • Of these players, only 42 percent averaged more PPG than Ryan Hartman

So what does this tell us? First, based on league averages, the Chicago Blackhawks have slightly less than a 50/50 chance to select a player late in the first round who will even pan out to be an everyday NHL player.

That was a surprise to me. I assumed the first round, including the lower picks, would produce more NHL players. The data also indicates that in scoring, Hartman was in the upper 50 percent of those who did play 142 games or more.

Comparison to the Chicago Blackhawks’ draft picks

OK, let’s assume the Edmontons of the world distort the league averages by consistently selecting poor talent. If that’s our assumption, let’s compare Hartman’s statistics against players drafted during the Stan Bowman regime.

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We’ll look at first-round picks along with a comparison against all the draft picks from every round. Maybe we’ll find Chicago is amazing at selecting talent, so a swap of a late first-rounder for Hartman is a great call.

On July 14, 2009, Bowman took the helm as GM for the Chicago Blackhawks. As there are no Chicago draft picks who have played an NHL game from the 2017 draft, we’ll review all Chicago draft picks for seven years (2010-16).  We’ll drop the criteria to 100 games played to allow a few more players to be included (like Nick Schmaltz). Let’s start with first-round picks only.

First-round pick comparison

Chicago Blackhawks’ first-round draft picks (2010-16)

  • Six first-round picks
    • Nick Schmaltz (2014), Ryan Hartman (2013), Teuvo Teravainen (2012), Mark McNeill (2011), Phillip Denault (2011) and Kevin Hayes (2010)
  • Three of these players have more PPG than Hartman (Schmaltz, Teravainen, Hayes)
  • One never materialized into a NHL player (McNeill)

The good news is five of the six are still playing regular minutes in the NHL, although only one player remains with the Blackhawks. This is mainly due to cap issues and trading for veteran players late to try and win the Cup, but interesting the club does not make a habit of holding on to its top picks.

The other note is the percentage of first-round picks who have a higher PPG than Hartman is basically the same as the league average for bottom five first-round picks — basically a 50/50 chance.

All draft picks comparison

All Chicago Blackhawks draft picks (2010-16)

  • 62 total draft picks (including Hartman)
  • Only 16 percent (10) players have played more than 100 games in the NHL
    • From the 2012 draft through 2016 (five draft years), only one player drafted by Chicago has played as many games than Hartman (Teravainen).  Not good.
  • Since 2011, only three draft picks played more than 100 games in the NHL.  Again, not good.
  • 50 percent of players who played more than 100 games have a higher PPG than Ryan Hartman
    • Brandon Saad (431 games @ .601)
    • Nick Schmaltz (120 games @ .583)
    • Kevin Hayes (292 games @ .551)
    • Teuvo Teravainan (258 games @ .516)
    • Andrew Shaw (434 games @ .426)

In all of the draft picks in the Bowman era, only 16 percent have played more than 100 NHL games. Half of those players average more PPG than Hartman (there’s the 50 percent again). The data indicates the Chicago Blackhawks are not far from the league average in overall drafting.

Another thing to consider when evaluating rookie NHL games played is where the team was in terms of standings.  Most of these years, the Chicago Blackhawks were in a championship run, and thus played mainly veterans. This impacted how many drafted players played over 100 NHL games. With the current youth movement, we should see this statistic increase.

What’s the answer?

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  • Any historical analysis on drafting is impacted by the fact that every year a different group of young players are in the mix and a huge part of the selection is subjective. No matter how many analytics are crunched to identify top talent, the heart and passion of a player cannot be measured.  Some years, a high percentage of draft picks turn into NHL players, and some years fewer make the cut.

    As to Bowman’s selections, history shows, overall, the Blackhawks organization selects players with a similar percentage of success to the league average. Having five of the six first-round picks still playing in the league is better than average, but only retaining one doesn’t bode well for keeping your club young and fast on a consistent basis.

    The other takeaway is that first-round picks are definitely not the same. A low first-round pick is statistically more closely aligned to a second- or early-third-round pick, than a top-five pick in the first round. Alex DeBrincat, Saad and Artem Anisimov were all second-round draft picks. There is certainly talent there, just not Auston Mathews, Connor McDavid or Kane-type firepower.

    So, will a late first-round pick be better than Hartman?  League averages indicate it’s less than a 50 percent chance just to find a player who even makes it in the NHL as long as Hartman.  Of these players who do, how many would have a higher PPG than Hartman?  That really drops the odds — somewhere in the 20-30 percent range.  Rounding, let’s say there’s a one in three chance.

    Summary

    The positive is the Chicago Blackhawks have been better than league average in their selections in first-round picks.  Trading a proven commodity is still a gamble, but with Dylan Sikura hopefully signing, John Hayden coming back up and knowing they need to sign Vinnie Hinostroza, maybe Bowman and company thought there was no room for Hartman.

    The Chicago Blackhawks have two picks in the first round this year (a top-seven or eight pick due to their poor performance this year, along with the late Nashville pick).  With an anticipated strong draft class expected in 2018, the ‘Hawks may be able to get some great impact talent.

    Next: Trade Results Prove Misuse Of Players

    Personally, I would move up if needed (or tank like last night) to get Brady Tkachuk.  He’s a 6-foot-2, hard-playing center with a pedigree of excellence — a Hall of Fame father and an older brother playing for Calgary who is a heart-and-soul type player. He would really add strength down the middle, which is much-needed against the huge centers in the Central Division.

    After watching last night’s disaster, let’s hope the Blackhawks can upgrade soon.

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