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2017 NHL Draft: Potential bad buys in the first round

With the NHL draft approaching in just over a month, many (including myself) are starting to dig into the information available and see what prospects they might want to see their teams draft.

This post will focus on “bad buys”, which is my simplistic way of saying: players who have a very high probability of being selected much higher than they deserve to.

The obvious way to look at this is finding really tall players that don’t have a lot of points, and saying that they’re the bad buys. There will be some of that here, but I am hoping to make this a little more comprehensive than that.

I’m going to primarily focus on a combination of Bob McKenzie’s prospect rankings: the draft lottery ranking for the top 15, and the mid-season ranking for everyone else. These lists are entirely built from information from NHL scouts, so they are likely a very close representation of what the first round will look like. Not necessarily what it should look like, but a perfect resource for this exercise.

Here is the list we are working with today:

Player Draft Lottery Rank Mid-season Rank
Nolan Patrick 1 1
Nico Hischier 2 2
Gabe Vilardi 3 4
Miro Heiskanen 4 13
Casey Mittelstadt 5 5
Owen Tippett 6 6
Cale Makar 7 12
Michael Rasmussen 8 7
Cody Glass 9 14
Martin Necas 10 8
Elias Petterson 11 11
Timothy Liljegren 12 3
Klim Kostin 13 10
Lias Andersson 14 15
Kristian Veselainen 15 19
Eeli Tolvanen 16 9
Jusso Valimaki 17 16
Ryan Poehling 18 17
Cal Foote 19 18
Shane Bowers 20 20
Nicolas Hague 21 21
Maxime Comtois 22 22
Kailer Yammamoto 23 23
Urho Vaakinainen 24 24
Jake Oettinger 25 25
Nikita Popugaev 26 26
Nick Suzuki 27 27
Isaac Ratcliffe 28 28
Matthew Strome 29 29
Robert Thomas 30 30
Conor Timmins 31 31
Henri Jokiharju 32 32
Kole Lind 33 33
U-P Luukonen 34 34
Morgan Frost 35 35

Italics means assumed no relative change from mid-season rankings.

Bold means confirmed draft lottery ranking.

We’ve all seen the Leafs make bad buys in the first round. These were Luke Schenn, Tyler Biggs, and Frederik Gauthier. You could make an argument for Stuart Percy’s inclusion in that list – I would disagree. I would call him a bust, but not a bad buy.

So who fits that bill this year?

Cale Makar

Anyone who knows me, knows how much it pains me to put Makar on this list.

Back in December of 2015, I got the opportunity to see Makar live for a few games at the World Junior A Challenge in my hometown of Cobourg, Ontario. He was, in my limited viewing, a close competitor with his teammate Dante Fabbro (drafted in 2016, 18th overall by the Nashville Predators) for best defenseman at the tournament. And it wasn’t even his draft year yet!

But as time went on, others caught onto the Makar hype train. This was not by my doing of course, but by Makar’s own excellent production and skating. But if he produces excellently and skates excellently, how could he be a bad buy?

There’s just too much hype, people.

I know I said I was limiting myself to Bob’s rankings, where Makar is 7th, but I’ve seen him ranked as high as 2nd overall. 2nd overall!!!

We’re talking about a 5’10” October-birthday defenseman who plays in a 2nd tier league we know almost nothing about, and he’s supposed to go in the top 10? The top 5?? No thank you.

He’s a good player and I think it’s reasonable to hope he fills a Ryan Ellis-like role for some lucky team, but there’s too much uncertainty for me to be willing to spend a top 10 pick on that chance. I’m labelling Makar my highest-ranked Bad Buy.

Martin Necas

The reasons for skepticism around Necas are very similar to Makar. He comes from a league we know very little about as a development league. Credit has to be given to Necas for being one of only 20 U-18 players in the Czech men’s league this season, and managing 15 points in 41 games.

The closest comparable for this is Michael Spacek, who was drafted in the 4th round in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Winnipeg Jets. Spacek produced at an okay rate after transitioning to the WHL, but nothing spectacular. Spacek had similar point totals as a 17-year-old in the Czech league: 12 points in 40 games. Not a promising comparable but obviously anecdotal.

Again, this just comes down to risk and expected value. I don’t think there can be any confidence level that we have a good measuring stick for what his play in the Czech league might translate to in the NHL. He’s a player I’d definitely shy away from in the top 1o picks. Bad buy.

Klim Kostin

I hate to keep beating the “uncertainty” drum, but I think Kostin is the most obvious candidate for “how the heck do we know how good he is?” questions.

Ranked 13th by Bob McKenzie, Kostin underwent shoulder surgery half way through the season, ending what was a strange draft year with limited success. Kostin played 18 regular season games in 2016-17 across the KHL, VHL (Russian AHL) and MHL (Russian CHL), scoring just 2 points. He had a good showing when I watched him at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, but that’s only a tournament with almost zero regular season success to back it up.

His size also raises some concern, in that his size might be one of the few reasons he appears on top draft rankings such as Bob’s. The “power forward who can barely score” is exactly what we’re looking for in bad buys, so Kostin definitely makes this list. He is our final official Bad Buy.

Honourable Mentions

There were a few players I considered here, for questionably stable leagues, low production with high size, and early birthdays. But none of them carried enough risk to really drop much further than where Bob has them. I’ve listed them here so you know I at least thought about it:

  • Miro Heiskanen
  • Michael Rasmussen
  • Elias Petterson
  • Shane Bowers

If you’re wondering about Good Buys, that’ll be coming up next. So stay tuned!

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