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I am hijacking Matt’s blog to put up an analysis of the success of goaltenders in the draft. This is my first stab at this blogging thing, so please excuse any formatting oddities. I plan to continue posting in the future, and hopefully the formatting/writing will improve with some practice!

-Malcolm Subban

With the draft upcoming tonight, teams are looking to address their organization weaknesses.  Several teams (some team in Ohio comes to mind….) have massive holes at the goaltender position.  Seems like the draft would be a great chance to address a lack of goalie depth!  The question is does this really make sense?  The history of goaltenders in the draft suggests not.

There are two reasons why goalies should be left alone early in the draft:

Most Top Goalies Are Not Early Draft Picks

The chart below shows a breakdown of both the 2012 and active leaders in save percentage, and where in the draft they were taken.  For comparison’s sake the 2012 points leaders and active point per game leaders are included as well.

The main thing that stands out here is that fewer than 50% of the 2012 and active leaders in save percentage were drafted in the top 100 picks.  The top goalies come mostly from late draft picks and international signings.  By comparison, the top scoring players come overwhelmingly from the top 100 picks.  Every player in the top 10 of point scoring this past season was a top100 pick, and 9 of the top 10 active PPG leaders were picked in the top 100.  In short, it is much easier to find impact goalies than impact scorers late in the draft.

 Goalies Succeed at a Lower Rate Than Skaters

 For the sake of this analysis I define a successful pick as any goaltender who has played at least 35 games in a single season.   This means that even bad goalies on bad teams (Sebastian Caron anyone?) who only started for a single season are counted as successful picks.  Additionally, the bar being at 35 GP doesn’t require the goalie to be a true starter (more than half the teams GP).  Everything considered this is a fairly favorable way to look at the goaltender’s success rates.

Additionally I found the success rates for drafted players as a whole, in order to provide a point of comparison.  There is a great article HERE which examines the success rate of drafted players over the ten year period from 1996-2005 (the same sample I used).  The article discusses four classifications of player, but for the sake of comparison here I will group it into two:  NHL regulars who played more than 300 GP and “busts” which encompass anyone who played fewer than 300 games in the NHL.  The article discusses some of the issues with this method (it doesn’t differentiate between stars and 4th line grinders) but a 300 GP threshold is more than fair to the goalies.  Additionally, while I looked at the top 100 picks, this analysis broke the draft down in terms of rounds, so the numbers don’t line up exactly.  To account for this looked at success through both the first 3 rounds (919 picks over 10 years) and the first 4 rounds (1234 picks over 10 years).

Over the 10 year period from 1996-2005 there were a total of 90 goalies taken in the top 100 picks of the draft.  Out of the 90 selected, only 19 met the criteria defined above.  So over a 10 year period only about 21% of goalies selected in the top 100 picks of the draft turned out to be “starters” for even a single season.  By comparison, 32% of drafted players in the top 3 rounds went on to play at least 300 games.  Even if you include the 4th round, 26% of players went on to play 300 or more games.  Based on these numbers, picking a goaltender clearly reduces the chances of ending up with an NHL player.


Based on the numbers above, drafting a goalie in the top 100 picks is both less likely to be successful than picking a skater and doesn’t increase the chances of landing an elite goaltender relative to using later picks.  This would suggest that spending a pick in the top 3 rounds on a goalie is a poor choice.  A better strategy, particularly for a team like the Blue Jackets (who need to build depth), might be to draft multiple goaltenders in rounds 4-7.  This frees up the earlier picks to be used on skill players which are more difficult to find in the later rounds.  While this approach may be hard to stomach for a fan that sees goaltending as an immediate and pressing need, over the long run it is likely to yield better results for the organization.