issues and experts

Gaming the NHL drafts, expert available on upcoming expansion and entry drafts

July 21, 2021

The NHL drafts are a high-stakes game off the ice for management and players in professional hockey. With the 2021 NHL expansion and entry drafts coming up this week (Friday and Saturday, with the Seattle Kraken announcing its new team later today), SFU Beedie School of Business Professor Peter Tingling, who has extensively studied decision making in the NHL, is available for commentary and analysis. 

Players are protected based on a number of factors they can and can’t control, and in the current salary cap era, it’s one of the only times general managers and CEOs get to work on keeping their jobs and staying with their teams.

GMs overvalue players they already know
Tingling led a first of its kind study using a machine-learning algorithm to analyze whether previous relationships between players and GMs played a role in a team’s decision as to who they protected in the 2017 Vegas Knights expansion draft, which had the same rules as the 2021 expansion draft. The study, published in Sport Business and Management: An International Journal, found that NHL GMs were nearly two times more likely to protect players who GMs had either drafted or acquired through a trade. 

“In some cases, GMs went to extreme lengths to protect players they had a previous relationship with,” says Tingling. “There were about 10 teams that paid a premium with their high draft picks, talented young players or prospects to protect additional players outside of their protection list.”

Factors that come into play for prospects
Tingling's research found that no team in the NHL was able to consistently identify and select talent at any level better than randomly assigning players across the entire draft.

The following factors influenced whether players were more likely to be protected:
•    position
•    age
•    minutes played
•    minutes played relative to their position
•    the existence of a previous GM relationship.

Older players were least likely to get protected by teams with each additional year of age, reducing the probability of being protected by 0.75 times. 

Coaches are key to GM job security 
Tingling's most recent research analyzed the impact that firing a coach has on GM job security. The research found that general managers who terminate at least one coach have a nearly 50 per cent longer tenure than general managers who retain the current coaches. 

Also, general managers will terminate a coach who they inherit in half the time that they would terminate a coach they hired, and general managers who inherit a coach will, on average, have a shorter tenure (65 per cent) compared to GMs who appoint their own coaches.


PETER TINGLING, professor, Beedie School of Business  
778.782.3473 | 


MATT KIELTYKA,  SFU Communications & Marketing 
236.880.2187 |

Simon Fraser University
Communications & Marketing |  SFU Media Experts Directory


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