NHL Draft: A Look Back at the Last 20 Drafts

We used Qlik Sense to analyze the NHL draft -- here's what we found!

On Friday June 23, the National Hockey League will hold its annual Entry Draft at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Players from leagues around the world will be on display hoping to fulfill their childhood dream of wearing a sweater of their favorite NHL team. As they walk to the stage, the prognosticators will start breaking the player down: his pros, his cons, and asking questions like, will he crack the roster of the big club? Is he a franchise player? The list goes on and on.

Looking back at previous drafts can shed some light into how the current draft could unfold. I went to hockey-reference, my go-to website for hockey information to gather the names of the players drafted in the first round from 1997 through last season to start my analysis. After loading it into Qlik Sense, I started to analyze the data. Here is some of what I discovered:

Which countries produced the most first round picks?

SPOILER ALERT! Canada leads the way (by a long shot)! 273 Canadians were drafted in the first round. Of the 20 drafts, 12 Canadians (60%) were drafted as the first pick. The United States produced 132 first round picks of which 4 (20%) were the first pick.

Check out the stats behind the #NHLDraft with Qlik Sense:

Which leagues produce the most first round draft picks?

The top 3 leagues are the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the Western Hockey League (WHL), and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Surprise! These are all Canadian leagues. Beauty, eh?

Of the 155 players drafted in the first round from the OHL, 145 (94%) cracked an NHL lineup. And of the 121 WHL players drafted in the first round, 103 (85%) did the same.

Which position is drafted most frequently in the first round?

Centers have been drafted 188 times in the first round, followed by defensemen with 181. Centers have been drafted as the first pick in 10 of the 20 drafts (50%). Two defensemen have been selected as the overall #1 pick; Erik Johnson was selected by the St Louis Blues in 2006 and Aaron Ekblad was drafted by the Florida Panthers in 2014. There have been 35 goalies drafted in the first round. Two of those goalies were the first pick in the draft. Rick DiPietro was selected by the New York Islanders in 1997 and Marc-Andre Fleury was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2002.

Which first round drafted players have had the most per game scoring impact in the league?

Sidney Crosby drafted #1 by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2005 draft has averaged 1.31 PPG over his career and his Penguins have hoisted the cup three times in his career. UGH! Crosby’s teammate Evgeni Malkin, drafted 2nd by the Penguins, in the 2004 draft has averaged 1.18 PPG. Newcomer Connor McDavid, drafted #1 by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015, has averaged 1.17 PPG. All three players play the center position.

Looking ahead to this year’s draft

According to some mock drafts that I have seen, it looks like some things just never change. The WHL (~7) and the OHL (~7) are projected to account for ~45% of the first-round players drafted. Centers (~16) and defensemen (~8) are projected to account for ~78% of the players taken by position.

Here’s to hoping that your team drafts this year’s Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid!

Let’s go Flyers!!


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