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How Successful Have the Dallas Stars Been in the NHL Draft Since Moving to Texas?

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A quantitative analysis of how often the Stars have been able to find NHL players through their draft picks, whether for their own team or elsewhere in the NHL.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It's a question that comes up time and again when Dallas Stars fans wonder about how best to deal with some of the personnel questions surrounding the team - no matter what era we're talking about - how much value should one place in draft picks?

Value is a really subjective measure, but one way to look at it is simple success rate - how often does a draft pick turn into a usable NHL player, for the Stars or otherwise?

It's hard to get a handle on what the NHL average is for that question. Most sources I found broke it down by round, which is a reasonable approach but not the one I chose to take for this look. Robert took a look at the Stars first-round success just last week, after all. Estimates also depend on what criteria you use for "success" and seem to range from 19 percent to 23 percent to another 23 percent.

Much like the trading partner post I wrote recently, this analysis is all about quantity, not quality. If someone hit a category, no matter if they did that via a high-end career like Jamie Langenbrunner or low-end career like Todd Harvey, they count just the same.

I had four possible "positive" results for each player - the player is currently on the Stars, the player is currently in the NHL, the player has 100 games played for the Stars and/or the player has 100 games played in the NHL. Goalies needed 25 games played in any way, shape or form.

The exception for the final two categories in 2010 was the games played category, where I lowered the number to 50. This includes John Klingberg as a yes in all categories but excludes Patrik Nemeth.

I chose 2010 as my cut off year as those players should have had five full years of development to this point and be ready or beyond to start contributing at the NHL level. That cut off, though, excludes a quartet of young players who have seen relatively significant playing time with the Stars early in their careers - Jamie Oleksiak, Brett Ritchie, Jyrki Jokipakka and Valeri Nichushkin. The full picture of those draft years won't be written until later.

Given all that, here's an overall look at the successes of the Stars 150 picks between 1993 and 2010 based on the draft history and statistics are recorded over at hockeydb.

Currently on Stars Currently in NHL Meets GP criteria (Stars) Meets GP criteria (NHL)
Raw number 6 22 22 39
Percent 4% 14.7% 14.7% 26%

Those seem like very nice numbers, especially that 26 percent overall conversion rate compared to the slightly smaller numbers from other sources.

On the other hand, 100 games isn't that large of a benchmark (smaller than any used in the above analyses), and one could argue that a very fringe NHL player could stick around for 100 games in the right circumstance, which may or may not make him a draft "success." Philip Larsen is a more recent example that comes to mind with his 125 games, while Patrick Cote and Petr Buzek (105 and 157 games, respectively) are more vintage illustrations.

If the criteria for NHL games played bumps to 200 games (or about 3-4 seasons when you consider scratches and injuries), the Stars have drafted 26 players who meet that criteria since moving to Dallas, with the caveat that six from the draft years of 2007-2010 (Colton Sceviour, Curtis McKenzie, Reilly Smith, Alex Chiasson, Klingberg and  emeth) all have decent shots of passing that mark. That's a more average 17.3 percent.

That group includes people like Joel Kwiatkowski, Mark Fistric and Tom Wandell - all decent players in lower line roles, but not exactly a player who build a franchise around.

NHL players used to be eligible for a full pension at 400 games (that number has since dropped significantly, but I'm using it here because it's a reasonable definition of a career NHL player). Using that number, the list is narrowed down to 15 players, or 10 percent.

The most recent player in this group is Jamie Benn who made it in a very impressive time frame, especially when you consider he lost half a season to the lockout. And even in this group, you have journeyman lifers like Antti Miettinen and Jon Sim. If we say that 2007 is the most recent draft year a player could have reasonably reached 400 games, the conversion rate slips up to 11.1 percent.

It's also likely a little unfair to use the full set of 150 picks to analyze players currently in the league, as we're 22 years out from the first draft (or a career only Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney might have). When you adjust the numbers based on the last draft from which the Stars still have one active player (1995 - Jarome Iginla), the pool lowers to 132 total picks, of which 4.5 percent are on the Stars currently and 16.7 percent are active in the NHL.

Using Brenden Morrow's 1997 draft year as the most recent year we can consider and therefore disregarding Iginla, the percent of Stars draft picks currently in the NHL is 18.4 percent.

When you break down the draft success by year, a very interesting picture emerges. Here's the set by the numbers.

Year Currently on Stars Currently in NHL GP criteria met (Stars) GP criteria met (NHL)
2010 40% 40% 20% 20%
2009 20% 60% 0% 40%
2008 0% 0% 0% 20%
2007 25% 37.5% 12.5% 12.5%
2006 0% 0 20% 20%
2005 0% 42.9% 42.9% 57.1%
2004 0% 10% 20% 20%
2003 0% 18.2% 9.1% 18.2%
2002 8.3% 8.3# 8.3% 8.3%
2001 0% 20% 20% 20%
2000 0% 20% 30% 40%
1999 0% 0% 9% 9.1%
1998 0% 16.7% 33.3% 33.3%
1997 0% 11.1% 22.2% 33.3%
1996 0% 0% 0% 37.5%
1995 0% 10% 0% 30%
1994 0% 0% 12.5% 25%
1993 0% 0% 20% 30%

There's a significant four-draft stretch in here - from 2003 to 2006 - where the Stars have produced no players currently on the active roster, and there is only one active roster player who was drafted by the Stars before that - Trevor Daley.

One of those years was just an awful draft class for Dallas - 2006's best hit was Richard Bachman and his 35 NHL games. Ivan Vishnevskiy, Aaron Snow, David Mcintyre and Max Warn combined for 12 games and 4 NHL points. The rest produced serviceable or better NHL players, several of whom had significant career contributions for the Stars in Loui Eriksson, James Neal and Matt Niskanen. Those players have simply been flipped for other assets like Alex Goligoski and Tyler Seguin.

The other thing that interests me is the Stars hit at a much higher rate than most give them credit for, at least in terms of producing players who stuck around for a while in the NHL. The real tail off starts in 2001, with spikes in 2005 (which looks like a very productive draft from a very small class) and 2009.

It should also be noted that the draft class sizes varies significantly between 5 and 12 depending on the year, and as you go further back in history, there are drafts with more rounds (1993 and 1994 featured 11-round drafts). If you can get one or two hits out of a small class, the percentages obviously looks better than one-two hits out of an 11-person class. That actually makes the early-year Stars numbers that much more impressive, as the classes were generally larger in the mid-90s and smaller in the late-00s.

Still, the Stars have been generally successful in the draft classes since the 2004-05 lockout. They have at least one NHL player out of every class since moving to Dallas (though it should be noted they were dangerously close to being skunked in that 06 class), and the strong 2005 class drives their recent success percentage way up. The 2009 class also looks extremely strong - depending on the long-term prospects of McKenzie (and if Tomas Vincour ever makes it back for a cup of coffee), they could easily have an 80 percent success rate even if Scott Glennie never makes it.

So what's the takeaway from these numbers? No matter the general manager or direction of the scouting department, the Stars are a pretty consistent - and pretty average - team in terms of finding NHL talent through the draft. Other than a few outlier years, the success rate seems to be dictated as much by the size of the draft class than any thing else and hovers in the 25 percent range.