Are Prospects and Draft Picks Overvalued?


The bloated love affair with organizational prospects and potential draft picks has led to a supernova of internet outrage that needs to be reeled in.

One of the more common misconceptions of, not just hockey, but sports organizations in general, is that “our team’s prospects are more valuable than the other organization’s prospects, thus we cannot trade them away.”  As a result, just the contemplation of trading “player x” for “player z” spins the casual masses into a mouth foaming frenzy.  This fallacy has lulled fans into an inflated sense of loyalty and value.

This exaggerated sense of “hypervaluation” is not just limited to current players. The irrationality extends to players not even drafted into the respective organizations yet. Draft picks.

Not all is doom and gloom, though. Even just ten years ago, the casual fan knew little about prospects in the system of their favorite team. There was very little video to see, and it was hard to find any credible information on a player not immediately in the team’s zeitgeist. Today, there are several websites you could pull stats from, and YouTube has made it very easy to pull highlights of just about any player you want to learn about. All wonderful things.

The problem is that the casual fan (and even sometimes the serious fan) often times fails to weigh all the evidence properly. This leads to an inflated sense of value.

This leads me to Blackhawks fans. I give them credit, they are trying to become more familiar with the depths of the prospect pool. That should be commended and applauded. The desire to learn is not bad.

The unintended consequence is that fans (and even the team) become far too attached to players that are, quite frankly, more likely to flop than succeed. For every Alex Debrincat, there is a Bill Sweatt or Ludvig Rensfeldt. For every Brandon Saad, there is a Kyle Beach or Mark McNeill (or three). Simple reasoning will tell you that, more often than not, players will fail register as significant pro players and, even more likely, not even reach the NHL.

There are very few prospects that will actually pan out or make you look back on a trade and regret dealing a player away. Look around the league. How many former Blackhawks prospects can you realistically regret dealing? Not established NHL players like Artemi Panarin, Teuvo Teravainen or even Dustin Byfuglien.

Philip Danault?
Stephen Johns?
Tyler Motte?

All nice players, but more supporting cast than the next wave of dominating NHL players. Granted, they would be nice to still have, but they do not automatically put the Stanley Cup back on United Center ice.

My point being, if the Blackhawks had given up on Dylan Olsen (1st round, 28th overall) in 2010 or traded the second round pick (36th overall) in 2011 that became Adam Clendening, to bring in a depth player that could have filled an immediate need, would the complexion of the franchise have been forever tarnished?

Absolutely not!

You might have a case if the players are drafted in the top 15 slots. Generational game breaking players are most often drafted in those positions. Otherwise, you can acquire depth players through trades or free agency.

One might might say, “Jeff, the Blackhawks could have had ‘x,y,x’ player if they didn’t trade this pick away.” Certainly a valid point. What picks have the Blackhawks traded away that turned out to be accomplished NHL players? Have any?

These are just the first, second or third round picks that the team has traded away since 2010.

Brock Nelson? (2010, 1st round, 30th overall)
Xavier Ouellet? (2011, 2nd round, 48th overall)
Zach Sanford? (2013, 2nd round, 61st overall)
JC Lipon? (2013, 3rd round, 91st overall)
Nikolay Goldobin? (2014, 1st round, 27th overall, turned into Nick Schmaltz)
Justin Kirkland (2014, 3rd round, 62nd overall)
Nick Merkley? (2015, 1st round, 30th overall)
Jeremy Bracco? (2015, 2nd round, 61st overall)
German Rubtsov? (2016, 1st round, 22nd overall)
Wade Allison? (2016, 2nd round, 52nd overall)
Jake Oettinger? (2017, 1st round, 26th overall, turned into Henri Jokiharju)
Keith Petruzzelli? (2017, 3rd round, 88th overall)

Brock Nelson is a nice depth center (playing top minutes on a depleted Islanders team) and the two picks they acquired in that deal were busts (Rensfeldt and Kent Simpson), but is this a deal that set back the Blackhawks?

I would argue, not a chance.

The moral of this story is that the next time you read or hear about a potential trade, or a trade actually happens involving some third round prospect (or second round draft pick, for that matter), take a breath, open your mind and break it down logically.

The Blackhawks are more likely to improve by trading for a known NHL quantity than the “hopes and dreams” of some kid who might just only be the next Akim Aliu.

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