Is the perfect Draft ever attainable? It’s not likely. There are too many variables to contend with, too many questions of how one player will develop over another, too many factors to consider.
Why does a player taken in the seventh round find more success than a player taken in the second round? How soon will a player find his way onto the NHL roster? Or will he?
David Poile has been asking these questions for over 30 years as the general manager of an NHL franchise, and he’ll do so for the 19th time with the Nashville Predators in two weeks from Buffalo, the site of the 2016 NHL Draft.
Sure, Poile and his scouts want all seven of their selections – starting with No. 17 in the first round – to go on and help the Preds in due time, but he knows the likelihood of that happening is slim. However, a first-round star and a late-round steal would still signify a successful weekend, even if it’s not perfect.
“This is very close to being like baseball; what do they say, if you can hit .300, you’re in the hall of fame,” Poile said. “If you can get three players, I say most teams are striving for two, so if you can get two-and-a-half players from every Draft to play in the NHL, you’re probably one of the top five or six teams drafting in all the National Hockey League. We’re trying to get seven, we’re trying to get that perfect Draft.”
Although perfection may be a ways off, Poile believes this year’s Draft is relatively deep, which leads to optimism toward not only the first-round selection, but also subsequent picks.
“I’d be very disappointed if I were drafting 25th or 30th and not get a really good player; I’ll be very disappointed if our second pick doesn’t play [in the NHL],” Poile said. “Sometimes you make mistakes and sometimes you get lucky… There is going to be a player in this Draft, as there always is, that’s going to play in the NHL in every round. It’s our challenge to be that team that gets that.”
While Nashville’s first-round pick may one day make an impact for the Preds, there’s no expectation for that to happen right away. Aside from the first few picks in any Draft, it’s rare for a player to find his way onto an NHL roster as a teenager. But never say never.
“It’s always been a futures Draft,” Poile said. “The 17th player that we take this year will be going back to junior or college or Europe or wherever he’s from; it is so unlikely he would make [the 2016-17 roster]… The other part is these younger players now are coming in and they’re playing, so when they’re ready they’re ready.”
The Predators will find out soon enough who will be joining their organization when they call the names of seven players at the First Niagara Center, and while Poile and 29 other teams strive for a flawless weekend, finding the next Shea Weber, Roman Josi or Pekka Rinne would be just as nice.
“We’ve never had the perfect Draft; nobody’s ever had the perfect Draft, but I guarantee you there will be a player in every round that will play in the National Hockey League, and we’ve got to get that,” Poile said. “That’s the challenge.”