issues and experts

NHL Draft 2019: drafting is merely “educated guesswork”

June 18, 2019

Peter Tingling, Beedie School of Business, 778.782.3473, 
Justin Wong, Beedie School of Business, 778.782.9492,

The NHL entry draft this year takes place on June 21-22 at Vancouver's Rogers Arena, where ther Vancouver Canucks will pick 10th. As the draft approahes, SFU Beedie School of Business professor Peter Tingling, who has extensively studied decision-making in the NHL, is available to provide commentary and analysis.

Tingling’s research suggests that the draft tactics of NHL teams are often no better than randomly assigning players across the entire draft. He contributed a chapter, Educated Guesswork – Drafting in the National Hockey League to the 2017 CRC Handbook Statistical Methods for Design and Analysis in Sports, edited by Tim Swartz, an SFU statistics professor.

His chapter explores the reasons why NHL teams make drafting mistakes and the inconsistencies in teams’ recruitment approaches. For example, Tingling found that decision makers are unable to differentiate athletes in the later rounds of the draft, with no substantive benefit in making the 120th or 210th selection despite that fact that some scouts, such as Detroit Red Wings Håkan Andersson, have demonstrable superior identification skills or access to nascent talent. 

The chapter builds on Tingling’s 2011 paper, Does decision order matter? An empirical analysis of the NHL draft, which includes a comprehensive study of the history of NHL draft selections. He found that no team in the NHL has been able to consistently identify and select talent at a level any better than randomly assigning players across the entire draft.

The study also found no significant difference in future success between players chosen late in the second round of the NHL draft with those taken at any point in the third round.

Other related work includes Friends with Benefits: an analysis of NHL relationships, a presentation at the 2017 SFU Sports Analytic Conference which examined the role that prior connections have on the relationship between the movement of hockey executives and players; Is Detroit Really Different – What Does the Data Say? which examined the management and decision making of the Detroit Red Wings;  and Catch and Release which analyzed exposure and protection preferences in the Las Vegas expansion draft.

About Simon Fraser University: 

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