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Canadiens Should Trade High Quantity Of Prospects For Quality



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It’s considered a matter of opinion, but a pair of common topics surface when describing the overall health of the Montreal Canadiens prospect pool.

The first is that the Habs have an excellent group of prospects in their pipeline and rank among one of the best prospect pools in the NHL, which should serve them well as they navigate the choppy waters of a rebuild.

The second is that despite the high quantity of talented players, the team could stand to add a few players with elite potential to the mix.

Of course, it’s much easier said than done, and there is no established developmental strategy for guaranteeing a player will unlock their untapped potential, but by taking a closer look at some of the odds players chosen in certain rounds will make an impact in the NHL, it’s clear that prospects have an arduous task ahead of them the moment they hear their name called out by a team during the Entry Draft.

NHL Draft Odds – Probability Of An NHL Career

Several research papers have looked into the odds associated with certain rounds at the NHL Draft, and while the answers have varied slightly, they all seem to come to the same conclusion: the odds crater shortly after the first round is complete, even when discussing which prospects end up playing a single game in the NHL.

The breakdown is as follows:

Round 1: 92%

Round 2: 65%

Round 3: 57%

Round 4: 38%

Round 5: 32%

Round 6: 27%

Round 7: 21%

As you can see, the odds of playing just one game in the NHL aren’t great from the get-go, falling below 50 percent by the time we reach the fourth round.


But if we up the ante a little by filtering players who played over 100 games, the odds really start to sink in.

Round 1: 74%

Round 2: 34%

Round 3: 27%

Round 4: 22%

Round 5: 15%

Round 6: 16%

Round 7: 11%

However, if we really want to get a better idea of just how difficult it is to survive in the NHL we turn to Michael Schuckers, one of the most innovative data analysts in the sports landscape.

He established the percentage of players who appeared in more than 200 NHL games from each round of the Entry Draft.

Michael Shuckers Montreal Canadiens per round

As you can see, there’s a steep linear decline from the first round, which levels out slightly midway through the second round (45th overall pick), The decline continues beyond the second round, albeit with slighter drops in value compared to the discrepancy between the first and second rounds.

Montreal Canadiens Point Of View

Again, we’re using these percentages to give us a better idea of what the Montreal Canadiens have in their prospect pool, but we also have to account for various factors when debating individual prospects and their potential.

For example, it would be intellectually dishonest to suggest that Lane Hutson only has a 20 percent chance of playing more than 200 games. He’s clearly more talented than most players chosen in that range (62nd overall) and possesses the type of potential you’re more likely to see in the first round.

And then some players buck the trend completely, like Arber Xhekaj.

He’s not just a statistical outlier, he’s a one-of-a-kind player who managed to make the jump straight from the OHL to the NHL as an undrafted defenceman, the only player to do so in the history of the league.

But if we broaden our scope to include all players drafted, it’s evident that most of the players chosen by the Canadiens, or any team in the NHL for that matter, will not become impact assets for the organization.

Now that the team is experiencing an influx of youthful talent at both the NHL and AHL levels, certain players will inevitably fall through the cracks.

There are simply too few jobs available and too many prospects vying for the same positions.

And yet, NHL teams have a clear pattern when drafting players outside of the second round. They will hold onto the players until their perceived value around the league has dropped significantly, essentially selling their assets at the worst possible time in terms of expected returns.

The moment a player is drafted, his stock will drop among the teams that do not expect him to flourish into an impact player. In that sense, the pick position itself was more valuable than the actual player chosen.

Think of it like driving a brand-new car off the lot.

By the time a player is three seasons removed from their draft year, most general managers around the league have a much better understanding of their growth or lack thereof.

With that in mind, since many more players will, unfortunately, lose value a year or two after the draft, it only stands to reason that teams can do a much better job when it comes to quickly evaluating the available talent and moving on if there are signs the player may not reach his potential.

And to do that, teams like the Montreal Canadiens will have to follow Xhekaj’s lead, and buck the trend.

By not including a certain level of bias when evaluating their own prospects, the Habs can attempt to maximize the value of certain assets by moving them before their value crashes like in the Brazilian stock market in 1971, a strategy that very few, if any, NHL teams use.

There’s a risk involved in quickly moving on quickly. Teams are deathly afraid of trading a young player who still has any semblance of potential, but statistically speaking, it’s a risk worth taking.

Instead of worrying about the “one that got away”, teams should focus on how many of those players yield low returns on investments once they are finally included in a trade. Holding onto a player simply because you erroneously used a high draft pick to select them is only doubling down on the mistake.

Montreal Canadiens Historical Review

If we use the 2021 Draft as an example, we start to get a better idea of how much shine players selected outside the first round will lose following their draft seasons.

The mere fact that Joshua Roy has a good chance to earn a job is already a statistical outlier, and teams should hold onto players like Roy who showed significant offensive potential prior to their draft year, but overall, it’s safe to say that the majority of the players listed will not end up in the NHL and have lost value since their draft day.

The same phenomenon occurs when evaluating the majority of the Canadiens’ drafts. Development plays a big part, and general manager Kent Hughes has finally installed a legitimate development program, but even with the new program in place, the numbers still suggest that falling in love with your own prospects only leads to missed opportunities.

Once in a while, a player like Hutson, Jesse Ylonen or Artturi Lehkonen will emerge from the second round and beyond, but the vast majority of the time the results are closer to what we saw from players like Joni Ikonen, Josh Brook, Cam Hillis, Scott Walford, William Bitten, Jacob Olofsson, Jacob de la Rose, Zachary Fucale, Dalton Thrower, or Sebastian Collberg, among others.

It’s a lesson that Hughes and Co. would be wise to remember as they continue to accumulate a high quantity of prospects via the NHL Entry Draft.

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Larry Robinson and Patrick Roy were second round picks, so certainly do not trade anyone until they have had at least one NHL training camp as players develop at different rates.


High draft picks don’t necessarily translate to winning . 12 of 20 VGK players were taken from rounds 3-7 or not drafted , Marchessault and Whitecloud.

Captain Kirk


Captain Kirk

There’s still quality players in the second and later rounds. Just not as many as first rounders. You could probably build a very strong team if you could pick the best second rounders and lower from from every roster.

john harmsworth

I think the lazy way to draft is simply to look at development up to draft day and not delve into personality. I have no idea what the magic formula is for identifying guys who will excel over time, but there are clearly young players who will continue to improve significantly after the draft. I suspect that motivation and personality are the biggest factor there rather than born talent. Unselfish and determined players like Patrice Bergeron are the massive bonus you get from identifying these players and developing them properly. Easier said than done.

Pierre B.

The title is misleading here. There’s no trade proposal. I understand why one would want to trade quantity for quality given that the Canadiens need at least another top-line forward. While there’s a possibility that one of the current Habs’ prospects will become that missing all-star player, one would like to improve that probability with a trade. But for a trade to occur, one needs a trading partner. I wonder which GM would be willing to give up quality for quantity? I want to hear the name of that young player or prospect who would either be a fit on the top-line or someone who would push Dach to top-line RW. I want to be convinced that this GM is really helping his team. Somehow, I doubt that offering a package such as Kidney, Mysak, Norlinder, Struble and Tuch would give us such an asset. So, which prospects or young players would you sacrifice?
While quite often, any given prospect is worth less than the coming draft’s equivalent pick, sometime it is not. Hutson, Roy, Farrell and Harvey-Pinard are obvious counter-examples of the author’s general statement. A prospect gain more value when they succeed at the next level like Guhle, Barron, Harris, Xhekaj and Harvey-Pinard did in the NHL, but also like Hutson and Farrell did in the NCAA. Trading Romanov, ultimately to get an unproven Dach, a player who’s potential justified a #3 overall draft pick, required patience for Romanov to gain significant value, and luck, that a GM gave up on such a young player.

John Stone


Hard Habits

I would suggest that this article is guilty of wishful thinking. Trading quantity for quality to bolster the prospect pool is not likely. Likelier is to get lucky in later rounds or develop players drafted or traded for that are already in the system, so that any given player can reach their full potential. That would mean stick with the plan.

The best way, in my opinion, to get elite talent is to wait for a team that is on a downward trend that wants to shed salary or look for a disgruntled player that is looking for a new environment (such as PL Dubois, Eichel, M Tkachuk). Or wait for a team that does not recognize the value of a pending UFA and make a better offer (like LA did with Danault)

When the Habs are ready to contend the quantity (and quality) in the prospect pool can be used to snag an already established player or just about to break out talent.