With the Draft just around the corner, CBJ.com sat down with the Columbus Blue Jackets Director of Player Personnel Don Boyd and talked about what the NHL Entry Draft means to a franchise?
CBJ.com: How important is the Draft to a Franchise?
Don Boyd: "The Draft itself has been the lifeline of any franchise. It's where we try to get the high-end talent and the mix of competitiveness into the franchise. It's where we re-generate our franchise every year.
"In today's market, with the CBA and free-agency, etc. as it is today, we have to be able to replace people whom we can no longer keep. Not just for Columbus, but for everybody at some point in time, the market dictates that we have to move people or the players decide that they have to move on. Because of that, we have to have a way of replenishing our supply of talent for the franchise and we do that through the Draft. There are also free agent signings and an ability to get players from other avenues, but our players need to be replenished through the draft."
CBJ.com: How many players from each draft do you expect to play at the NHL level?
Don Boyd: "If every franchise were lucky to get two players on the average, out of each draft, that play on your hockey club for a significant length of time (100 games or more). Two players would be a success.
"There are different years, in respect to levels of talent, bu having said that, there is a certain percentage out of the draft each year that play in the National Hockey League in general and overall. Some have more one year, some have more in general, some don't use their draft choices the same way, because they are more prone to move them to other team – but two out of each draft would be doing pretty well."
"It's all about assets and about asset management. It's about recognizing the market, evaluating the talent available, and use your assets properly. That's what the draft choice is, we're not talking about the player, the actual pick itself is an asset. They have to be used wisely - the value of the asset and the draft choice to the franchise."
CBJ.com: What are some of the trends in regards to drafting goalies in the draft?
Don Boyd: "Traditionally, in years past you would never have heard of a goaltender getting drafted in the first round. If you did, it was such a rare occurrence; you would be wondering why the team did that. Also understanding, if you don't have a goaltender you can't win because it's such an important position. Some people have traded draft choice, after draft choice to get an experienced goalie, which has been in the league.
"As of late, teams have used a first round pick on goaltender and tried to develop their own. It's such an important position and it takes so long become an NHL goaltender, that was always the scary thing in past. You have to wait until the player is 25 or 26 to become a bonafide NHL goaltender, teams were apprehensive to use a first round pick on goaltending.
"You see it more and more today and it makes the draft exciting because each team has a different theory of what they are going to do or what they need each year. Teams are taking more goaltenders in the first round than ever before - they are willing to take the risk and be patient. Other teams still won’t do that and 10 years ago it was almost unheard of."
CBJ.com: What are some of the trends in regards to drafting defenseman in the draft?
Don Boyd: "Defensemen take a less amount of time than goalies and a little longer than forwards. It's a tough position to play. Defensemen have to back up and watch the play come at them – the forwards don't have the job the defensemen do.
"They take longer to develop and there are always going to be more forwards available in the draft. There use to be theory at one time, if you were drafting late in the first round – obviously, you had been winning – you would always take a defenseman if you had a choice because they are not as plentiful. Teams use to take defensemen late in the first round and hope they developed.
"Now, you see defensemen sprinkled throughout the draft. Forwards are picked higher because there are just more of them really. If there is a top 5 or 10 defenseman in the draft, most teams would salivate and even if they didn't take that player, he'd be an item of discussion."
CBJ.com: How do European players impact the draft?
Don Boyd: "Hockey was maybe the first sport to embrace the global player and accept the fact that we wanted to find the best players in the world and the geographical boundaries weren't really important.
"There has been a great influx of European talent into the NHL and it makes the game great. It's a global game, everybody plays it in the Northern countries in Europe and Russia. There is such an added number of available talent when you go global, you are able to supply the lifeline of the league (the draft). Without going out and getting the global players, the ability to pick high-end talent (in the draft) lessens.
"Where someone comes from bears no significant weight when we are selecting a player. We want to be able to pick the best at that position and they will come play for us."
CBJ.com: What can a "poor" draft do to a franchise?
Don Boyd: "It's happened to every team in the league, where there has been a year when you aren't picking in the right spot or you're picking and it's a down year. The age group of kids coming through may not have been a tremendously talented group. It happens from time to time and it's a lot better if it happens to everybody at the same time. I also know the need to succeed and perform – the nature of the sporting world – means we have to produce and bring talent in every year.
"As I said before, for the most part a certain percentage of that draft class will play at the NHL level and it's almost the same percentage every year. To say you missed in one year might not be that bad for the franchise and hopefully everybody else missed in that year too. What you've failed to do at that point is you've failed to replenish your supply of available talent.
"You can't get away with it for two years, because eventually people move on and you've got a void of that age group of players – whether it be defenseman or forwards. You'll really start to feel the pinch quick. In this business, a generation of players is three years, so if you are missing two of those three years, then you'll feel the pinch."