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Study measures NHL scouting success

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Peter Tingling, 778.782.3473; peter_tingling@sfu.ca
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.4323

June 19, 2009

Thought hockey was over? NHL coaches make their draft picks in Montreal next week (June 26) and according to SFU business professor Peter Tingling, 15 minutes of fame may be about all most draftees will get.

Nearly 60 per cent of draft picks never play an NHL game, and of the 40 per cent who do play, one in five play less than 10 games.

Tingling, an assistant professor who specializes in decision-making strategy, tracked 30 years of NHL drafts for a study on scouting success. The results are already attracting the attention of some NHL general managers.

His bottom line: “Scouting may not win you the cup if you do it well, but it will lose you a lot of games if you do it poorly. That said, good scouting is necessary, but not sufficient.”

The San Jose Sharks and Buffalo Sabres came up tops in the study’s ranking of teams’ scouting success, which measured the extent to which draftees actually played in the NHL. They are cited as being 2.5 times more effective than the worst two teams, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Vancouver Canucks placed 14th – earning a “B” ranking” – ahead of the Stanley Cup finalist Detroit Red Wings but behind the Florida Panthers.

Other findings:

  • There is no substantive difference between the performance of 3rd – 7th round picks for players that play more than two years, but there is for rounds 1 and 2.

    “What this means is that GM’s should not trade 1st and 2nd round picks but that all of the other rounds have about the same value,” Tingling notes. “Unless managers have particular insight, they should value these rounds at the same level.”
  • Second-round picks on average have about half the quality of 1st round picks and 3rd – 7th about 20 per cent (over two years).
  • Player performance seems to be most stable at about 100 games—if a player makes it to 100 games they are more likely to continue playing.

    “It is obvious and true that the best players are drafted in the first two rounds,” adds Tingling. “What is also true but less obvious is that there is virtually no difference between players chosen in rounds three through seven. This basically means that teams are not really doing a good job of decision making.”

 *Tingling is also founder/CEO of Octothorpe Software Corp, a decision sciences company.



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