Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Which team can build the best six-man lineup of players drafted in different rounds?

Today’s post is based on an idea that several of you have sent in, in some form or other. The most recent, and the one who inspired me to go ahead and do this, was from long-time reader Bill B., who I think is more of a football guy but apparently dabbles in hockey. Thanks Bill.

We’re going to take a run at a straightforward question: Which NHL team can make the best six-man starting lineup from players they’ve drafted, without using anyone who was picked in the same round?

That’s it. Nice and simple. We’re going to look for three forwards, two defensemen and a goalie that were all drafted by the same team, and all in different rounds. You get credit for everything that player did in their career (not just what they did for your team). Active players are eligible, but only based on what they’ve already done, not what they might do down the line. And no undrafted players – sorry, Wayne, you’re sitting this one out.

It should be easy enough to build out some teams. Will they be any good? That’s where it will get tricky, but of course your already knew that. As always, I’ll try to cover about half the league and then turn it over to you in the comments to fill in any teams you think can beat mine.

We’ll start where we usually do for these sort of things, by tapping into the rich history of the Original Six. They don’t have as much of an advantage as they usually do, since the NHL draft only started in 1963, and was pretty barren until well into the 70s, but the Original Six teams are the only ones with access to every draft ever held. They should be pretty good. Let’s see if they are.

Montreal Canadiens

The Habs are a great team to start with, because they illustrate the highs and lows of how this will play out. They start us off with easy picks, including Guy Lafleur as our first-round pick – he’s not only the all-time leading scorer among Habs draft picks, but he’s over 500 points ahead of the next most productive first-rounder (Saku Koivu). We have another easy call in the third round, with Patrick Roy filling our goalie slot.

The second round is a tougher choice, but in a good way, as we have to pick between Larry Robinson or Chris Chelios as our top defenseman. You can’t really go wrong with either, so three rounds in and we’ve got a slam-dunk Hall-of-Famer at each position.

And then… uh oh.

With apologies to Brent Gilchrist and Gilbert Dionne, the Canadiens have never really had a great fourth-round pick. The fifth round offers up Brendan Gallagher and Mikhail Grabovski but not much else. The sixth is actually much more fertile ground, with two 1,000-game forwards in Keith Acton and Craig Conroy, plus a strong blueline option in Andrei Markov. And then we go bargain hunting in the late rounds, looking through names like Tom Kurvers and Lyle Odelein (seventh), Michael Ryder and Brian Savage (eighth), and maybe Mark Streit (ninth). There’s also Viacheslav Fetisov in the 12th back in 1978, but he never showed interest in coming to Montreal and was re-drafted by the Devils five years later, so he doesn’t seem to fit the spirit of the thing.

In the end, I think you fill out your top six with Markov, Gallagher, and then I guess Ryder. It’s not a bad lineup, by any stretch, but it’s nowhere near as good as what we seemed to be headed for after those first three choices. This isn’t going to be easy.

Forwards: Guy Lafleur (1), Brendan Gallagher (5), Michael Ryder (8)

Defensemen: Larry Robinson (2), Andrei Markov (6)

Goalie: Patrick Roy (3)

Let’s see if one of Montreal’s oldest rivals can beat that group…

Boston Bruins

Like Montreal, the Bruins get off to any easy start. The first-rounder here is relatively obvious, as we briefly consider Joe Thornton before going ahead and penciling in Ray Bourque. And while it may be a somewhat surprising name, we also have an easy choice in goal with third-rounder Ken Dryden, a Bruin’s pick who was traded to Montreal before he debuted. That costs us fellow third-round pick Brad Marchand, but unless we want Dan Bouchard or Andrew Raycroft in net, we don’t really have a choice.

From there, I think we have to go with Patrice Bergeron in round two, and then the hunt for value starts. We can find some in eighth-round pick Don Sweeney (edging out Hal Gill), and ninth-round pick Craig MacTavish. That leaves us with one more forward slot to fill, and we can have our choice of fourth-round picks like Joey Juneau or Steve Kasper, fifth-rounders Ted Donato and Mariusz Czerkawski, or sixth-rounder Mike Krushelnyski. Those guys are all pretty similar, and the end result is a decent team that’s probably a little more balanced that Montreal’s even if it’s not necessarily better.

Forwards: Patrice Bergeron (2), Craig MacTavish (9), Mariusz Czerkawski (5)

Defensemen: Ray Bourque (1), Don Sweeney (8)

Goalie: Ken Dryden (3)

One more Original Six entry…

Toronto Maple Leafs


Yeah, here’s the thing about the Leafs draft history – they’re actually pretty good in round one. They’ve drafted two Hall-of-Famers in Darryl Sittler and Lanny MacDonald, a 1,200-point player in Vincent Damphousse, plus Tuukka Rask, Wendel Clark, and the current trio of first-round stars. For a team with a reputation for whiffing on draft picks, we’ve got plenty of options there.

But then… yikes. Apparently Maple Leaf scouts go home after round one, because there just isn’t much in the way of value anywhere. The all-time leading scorer among players drafted by the Maple Leafs after round one is second-rounder Rick Kehoe, with 767 points; that’s not great, but the next two forwards on the list are Yanic Perreault and Tiger Williams.

We can find a couple of late-round values on the blueline in Tomas Kaberle and Anton Stralman, which is enough to bump Randy Carlyle from the round two slot. There’s also personal favorite Sergei Berezin, a tenth-round pick. But yeah, overall the Leafs entry just isn’t all that good.

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