The further you get away from the first selection of a draft in any professional sport the less likely you are to get a player who makes a contribution to your professional club. While stories of stars being unearthed in the later rounds are certainly feel good moments — the Senators drafting Daniel Alfredsson at 133 in 1994, for instance — the fact of the matter is it's less likely to happen. Those stories are that much more remarkable because of the heavy odds against finding a true impact player at such a late juncture in the draft.
With the Senators currently slated to make four selections at the 2014 NHL Draft — 40th, 70th, 100th and 190th respectively — I thought it would be a fun project to take a look at some of the historical selections in those slots going back to the 1992 NHL Draft, which was the first featuring the then-reborn Senators.
Generally speaking, the selections reflected the difficulty in finding NHL players as the draft progresses. Of the 88 players selected in these four draft slots since 1992, 47 per cent of them have played NHL games. (For the sake of simplicity, any player who has dressed in at least one NHL game qualified as having played NHL games.) It should be noted that no players selected in the 2012 or 2013 drafts in these slots have played games and only two players — both taken in the 40th overall slot — have played since 2010.
As you may have suspected, the 40th overall selection yielded the highest number of NHLers with 73 per cent of the players taken at that spot since 1992 playing in the NHL. The 70th overall pick was the second most prosperous for teams drafting there, as 55 per cent of players selected there have appeared in NHL games. The 100th and 190th pick have been very close to one another in finding NHLers over the past two decades. The latter has actually had one more player suit up in the NHL in this span to push their total to 32 per cent, or seven players. 27 per cent of players selected 100th have played in the NHL.
To this point it has been clear that the higher the pick, the higher the likelihood they'll play in the professional ranks. Of the players taken 40th, only six of the last 22 have failed to play in the NHL and a pair of those players were drafted in the last two years. By contrast, only three players selected 100th overall in the last 15 drafts have played games.
When asked about the team's outlook at 40th overall, Sens assistant GM Pierre Dorion told the media, "Whatever position it will be, we think it's going to be someone who will be an NHL player." History is certainly on the team's side for that projection. Not only have the majority of players taken at that slot made the leap, but several recent Senators have been taken in a similar range. Current Sens Robin Lehner (46) and Patrick Wiercioch (42) both fall within that bracket of the draft while former Sens like Jakob Silfverberg (39) and even Mike Fisher (44) were taken in that range. Typically speaking, there is still plenty of NHL talent on the board at that stage of the draft.
With this look back essentially confirming what was largely expected — a higher pick means they're more likely to play in the NHL — let's take a look at the best players to come from each of these draft slots in the past 22 years to give you a better idea of what types of players have been available.
Criteria for being considered a "top" pick at this draft slot included total games played, points per game and single-season highs. Additional notable picks from the last 22 drafts were also included.
40th overall - Mike Peca (1992, Vancouver)
In a career that spanned 14 seasons, Peca was a two-time Selke Trophy winner, Olympic gold medalist, two-time Stanley Cup finalist and captained both the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders. In 864 NHL games he recorded 176 goals and 465 points as a member of five teams (Vancouver Canucks, Sabres, Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets). In addition to winning a gold medal at the 2002 Olympics with Canada, Peca won gold at the 1994 World Juniors and captained Team Canada at the 2001 World Championships.
Other notable 40th picks: Bryan McCabe, Fedor Tyutin
70th overall - Niklas Hagman (1999, Florida)
Currently playing out his career in his native Finland, Hagman established himself as a solid second line NHLer at the peak of his 11 NHL seasons, recording three consecutive 20 goal campaigns between Dallas and Toronto before a series of head injuries slowed his career. He sits at 147 goals and 301 points over his 770 NHL games. He has consistently represented Finland on the international stage between the World Juniors, World Championships, World Cup of Hockey and Olympics, taking home a gold medal from the 1998 World Juniors and silver and bronze medals from the 2006 and 2010 Olympics respectively.
Other notable 70th picks: Brandon Prust, Jon Sim
100th overall - Trent Whitfield (1996, Boston)
Whitfield recently retired from Italy's Bolzano HC after playing just under 200 NHL games as a member of four different NHL clubs (Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Boston Bruins), recording 11 goals and 29 points. He also recorded 596 points in the AHL in 801 games between NHL recalls.
Other notable 100th picks: J.T. Wyman
190th overall - Matt D'Agostini (2005, Montreal)
D'Agostini, currently with the Buffalo Sabres, was taken by the Canadiens in the sixth round of the 2006 Entry Draft after his first season with the OHL's Guelph Storm. Since then, he has played 324 games with five different NHL teams (Montreal, St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo), recording 52 goals and 107 points. His career best season came in 2010-11 with the Blues when he recorded 21 goals and 46 points.
Other notable 190th picks: Matt Bartkowski, Shawn Thornton
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