Exploiting Variance in the NHL Draft

Recently, one of my VanHAC slides was used to justify the Bruins’ decision to take Trent Frederic over Alex DeBrincat (and many others) in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft. Needless to say, I haven’t slept soundly since then.

Unfortunately, crafting a solid rebuttal isn’t as easy as saying “DeBrincat has a higher ceiling.” To that end, I present a framework for evaluating these types of draft decisions. There are two basic questions to consider:

  1. What are the outcomes for each player?
  2. How can we appropriately value these outcomes?

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Eye on the Entry Draft: Which teams are set for future success?


In the salary cap era in the NHL, the entry draft has become a top priority for general managers. Acquiring players like Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Johnny Gaudreau, or Aaron Ekblad is most easily done at the draft table. More and more, GMs are recognizing that players peak at a young age, making long-term deals for early-20-somethings a wise investment, even if valuations are fueled by projection.

Here’s a sample of contracts for under-25-year-olds:

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