What’s a Top-5 Pick Worth?


So, as a follow-up article to my precious article’s attempt to place a value on a top-pairing right-side defensemen, I was asked “What’s the value of a Top-5 pick”.  Now, if you believe Auston Matthews is a generational player, I previously wrote an article trying to come up with a modern version of the Lindros trade, which was the last time a “generational” forward was dealt.  However, if you don’t think Matthews fits into that mold, this will cover a more traditional view of what a Top-5 pick is worth.

For an idea on the value of a draft pick, I used the information from http://www.tsn.ca/statistically-speaking-expected-value-of-nhl-draft-picks-1.317819, an excellent article by Scott Cullen.

Since the 2000 season, the following trades for Top-5 picks have occurred.  Notice from 2000-2004 it was extremely common to see movement in the draft, but since then it has been less likely to occur.  We have:

  • 2000:
    • #5 Raffi Torres, NYI from Tampa
      • Kevin Weekes, Kristian Kudroc and a 2001 2nd round pick for the #5 pick, 2000 4th round pick and a 2000 7th round pick;
      • What did they get:
        • Kevin Weekes had a few seasons under his belt by that point, but had never played more than 36 games in a season until this trade. He had ok numbers going forward, so we can classify him as an average NHL starter.
        • Kristian Kudroc was a 6’7, 225lb right-shot defenseman, who was a very physical player, but he never panned out at the NHL level with only 26 total NHL games in his career, but teams have always been willing to place a premium on giants like this;
        • A 2nd round pick, giving you a 33.8% chance of landing an NHL player;
      • What did they give up:
        • The #5 pick, which has a chance of being 73.8% chance of being a Top-6 caliber or better player.
        • A 4th round pick, which is an 18.9% chance of giving you an NHL player;
        • A 7th round pick, which is a 9.3% chance of giving you an NHL player;
  • 2001:
    • #2 Jason Spezza, Ottawa from NYI
      • Alexei Yashin for Bill Muckalt, Zdeno Chara and the #2 pick;
      • What did they get:
        • Oh, the trades you wish you could take back if you were the Islanders.. Having said that, at the time of the deal, Yashin had put up 88 points in 82 NHL games the previous season, and his time with the Islanders wasn’t that bad, putting up 75 in 78 the next season. As well, he was a legitimate top-line NHL center at the time. If it wasn’t for his absurd deal, he likely would have had a much longer career with the Islanders, as he had 50 points in 58 games the season he was bought out. He played 5 seasons with the Islanders, scoring 290 points in 346 games.
      • What did they give up:
        • Bill Muckalt was your average NHL depth winger, not much to consider there.
        • The #2 pick, which is that 73.8% chance of getting a top-6 player or better;
        • Zdeno Chara, the 6’9 250lb giant, who was in his 4th season with the Islanders when this trade went down. Now, it should be noted that with the Islanders, he didn’t seem nearly as skilled as he turned out to be, putting up 29 points in 231 games. It was pretty clear he had a mean streak. However, his first season with the Senators he put up 23 points in 75 games, and never looked back. Call this a quality prospect defenseman deal.
  • 2002:
    • #1 Rick Nash, Columbus from Florida
      • #3, some draft swap options that were not exercised for next year (ability to swap first round picks) #3 Jay Bouwmeester, Florida from Columbus
      • What did they get: This was a classic example of two teams preferring different players (forwards or defensemen), and swapping their picks that year with the option for the other team to swap them next season… Essentially, this was just an attempt to pick up a better draft spot next year when an organization clearly preferred a player.
    • #4 Joni Pitkanen, Philly from Tampa
      • Ruslan Fedotenko, 2 2002 2nd round picks for the #4
      • What did they give up:
        • At the time, Ruslan Fedotenko had seasons of 36 points in 74 games and 26 points in 78 games. During his time with the Lightning, he was around a 45-point winger, so a solid second-line player.
        • The pair of 2nd round picks gives the team 33.8% chance for each pick of landing an NHL player
      • What did they get:
        • A defenseman in the first 5 picks has a 64.7% chance of being a Top-4 defenseman;
  • 2003:
    • #1 Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh from Florida
      • The #3 pick, 2003 2nd round pick for the #1 and a 2003 3rd round pick;
      • Once again, this was a case of organizations preferring a given player in the Top-5, where the team trading down to pick their player gained a 2nd round pick for a 3rd round pick for doing it.
  • 2004:
    • #4 Andrew Ladd, Carolina from Columbus
      • A 2004 1st round pick and a 2004 2nd round pick for the #4 pick.
      • And the same idea here, where a team picked up an additional 2nd round pick for moving down a few spots.
  • 2008:
    • #3 Zach Bogosian
      • Rights to Keith Tkachuk, conditional 4th round pick;
      • This was a deal sweetener trade for Keith Tkachuk if they were able to resign him, so essentially a #3 pick was used to balance a trade for a Top-3 power forward. A parallel could be used here if the Oilers were to make a trade for Kevin Shattenkirk and part of the deal was a 1st round pick going to the Blues if they were able to re-sign him.
    • #5 Luke Schenn, Toronto from NYI
      • The #5 pick for the #7 pick, 2008 3rd round pick and a 2009 2nd round pick
      • Once again, we have a trading down deal, where an organization dropped down 2 spots in the draft to pick up some extra 2nd and 3rd round picks.
  • 2010:
    • #2 Tyler Seguin, Boston from Toronto
      • Phil Kessel for #2, 2010 2nd round, 2011 1st round #9
      • Now this is one of the rare deals, where an elite NHL winger was dealt;
      • What did they get:
        • Phil Kessel was just coming into his own then, and he went on to put up some very high numbers with a very bad Toronto organization. He would be considered an elite Top-3 winger;
      • What did they give up:
        • The #2 pick would be a 73.8% chance of a Top-6 or better forward;
        • The #9 in 2011 was a 64.7% chance of getting a Top-4 defenseman;
        • And the 2nd round pick was a 33.8% chance of getting an NHL player;

So, if we remove all the trades that would just be the Oilers trading down slightly to get a couple more 2nd or 3rd round picks, we have these left:

  • A #5 pick (as well as a 4th round pick and a 7th round pick) went for an average starting goaltender, a quality prospect defenseman, and a 2nd round pick;
  • A #2 pick as well as a depth forward and a quality prospect defenseman for a Top-3 NHL center;
  • A #4 pick for a 2nd line Winger and a pair of 2nd round picks;
  • A #3 pick as a deal sweetener if a team re-signs an elite forward (or player) they get in a deal;
  • A #2 pick, a #9 pick and a 2nd round pick for an Elite Top-3 scoring winger;
        • The #9 in 2011 was a 64.7% chance of getting a Top-4 defenseman;
        • And the 2nd round pick was a 33.8% chance of getting an NHL player;

So, what can we conclude from this?  Depending on where the Oilers pick, we can see that you can get an elite NHL forward for a #2 pick if you include either another pick or a quality prospect defenseman.  If you go down to #3, you can use this to seal the deal on a soon-to-be UFA elite player in a deal.  At #4, you can get yourself a Top-6 forward and a few extra picks, and at #5 you can get a quality prospect, a starting goaltender and an extra depth pick.

I would say there’s little point in trading the #4 or #5 here, as teams rarely got anything worth the effort.  For the #3, this would be an example, as mentioned, of how the Oilers may do a deal for Brent Burns or Kevin Shattenkirk, who both have one year until free agency, however that wouldn’t work for this year’s draft anyhow, it would be more likely to involve their pick next year.  And lastly, we can see that you can land an elite NHL forward in a deal for that #2 pick.  Having said that, if you look at the Yashin deal and the Seguin deal, both teams trading for that elite player and giving up the draft pick did not fare well.  Essentially, teams dealing their Top-5 picks don’t tend to come out of it all that well unless they’re doing a swap with another team for a high first round pick to get the player they prefer.


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Micah Kowalchuk Written by:

  • Kepler62

    Thanks! Appreciate you writing the article.

    Sheds some light on what we can expect as fans should Chiarelli choose to trade the pick. I think a conclusion could be that the only way he lands a top D (with term) by trading the pick would be if they get #1 or #2 – and even then, only top end forwards were acquired for 1’s and 2’s — no top Dmen.

    • MikeK

      Pretty much. I would imagine (as a hypothetical) the types of deals we’d see for a defensemen would be something along these lines: Eberle + Oesterle for Hamonic + a prospect like Collberg (2nd or 3rd line RW projection). The Islanders get their replacement RW as well as a young D-man who can play left or right side that can probably handle 2nd pairing minutes, the Oilers get their top-pairing RHD along with a RW prospect. Another one might be a Yakupov + Davidson for Vatanen + Kerdiles (2nd or 3rd line C). Yakupov and Davidson combine for about $3.75mil in salary next year, and for a team like Anaheim who operates under a self-imposed cap, that’s some very good value. The Oilers get their 2nd pairing defenseman who can run a powerplay, and a solid center prospect who won’t crack Anaheim’s lineup. You end up with something like Sekera-Hamonic, Klefbom-Vatanen on the back end. And at forward, we might see something like RNH-McDavid-Versteeg (solid veteran 2-way winger), Hall-Draisaitl-Laine (power forward who is NHL ready RW to add size and physical play), Maroon-Santorelli-Kassian (He’s the kind of stock 3C that smart teams pick up cheap, can fit in well with this line). That’s a basic idea on the type of Top-9 and Top-4 we can expect and what the deals might look like.