The NHL Draft acts as the proverbial reset of the NHL calendar. Teams re-evaluate the direction of their organizations, make roster decisions, and welcome a new crop of drafted prospect into the fold. Irrespective of pick position, each team’s goal is to select players most likely to play in the NHL and to sustain success. Most players arrive to the NHL in their early 20s, which leaves teams having to interpolate what a player will be 4-5 years out. This project attempts to address this difficult task of non-linear player projections. The goal is to build a model for NHL success/value using a player’s development — specifically using all current/historical scoring data to estimate the performance of a player in subsequent seasons and the possible leagues the player is expected to be in.
On Monday, Kyle Alexander and CAustin (aka the Puckologist) wrote a post on Raw Charge titled “It’s still okay for an NHL team to draft goaltenders.” This is a topic that isn’t exactly new in the hockey analytics community – on this site alone Garret and myself have written a few posts about how unpredictable goalies are and the general consensus in the hockey analytics community being that goalies are simply not worth drafting in the early rounds of the draft, due to the variability on their results compared to other skaters (particularly forwards).
The Raw Charge guys in their post don’t totally disagree, but do think the talk of avoiding goalies is a bit exaggerated by some, concluding:
However, the gap between goalie drafting and forward drafting isn’t nearly as stark as it’s been made out to be. It’s much more worthwhile to make drafting and development at all positions better than to attempt to specialize in elite forwards to the exclusion of other positions.
Essentially, the Raw Charge guys argue:
1. The Gap between skaters and goalies’ success and failure rates isn’t as big as people think – most evaluative measures used in such studies disfavor goalies by using metrics such as GP by a certain age, where goalies rarely get opportunities to meet such thresholds.
2. The response to whatever gap there actually is should be to try and improve goalie evaluation – similar to how Swedish and Finnish goalie federations’ improved early goalie training to improve their goalie crop – rather than to eschew goalies altogether.
3. The failure of goalies may also have to do with poor development processes rather than bad evaluation.
While all three points do have merit, I think they’re both quite a bit overstated.