NHL Draft: Drafting Older Players

Thomas Drance
June 15 2012 01:54PM

Mike Gillis shakes hands with goaltending prospect Joe Cannata, a 6th round pick in 2009.
Cannata is one of several "older players" selected by the Canucks over the past four seasons.

We've spent the past few days ruminating on the Canucks, and General Manager Mike Gillis' "draft strategy." In particular we've looked at which leagues the Canucks tend to draft a disproportionate number of their players from, and whether or not "player size" is a big factor governing who the team selects. 

Today we're going to briefly discuss player age - because the Canucks are a significant outlier among NHL teams when it comes to their willingness to select older players on draft day. This is a trend that preceded Mike Gillis, but, it's one that has continued in earnest during his tenure.

Read past the jump for more.

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NHL Draft: Mike Gillis and Player Size

Thomas Drance
June 14 2012 11:23AM

What is behind the curtain for the Canucks at the 2012 NHL Draft? And will Gillis continue to target hefty forwards?

The debate about whether or not there's an inherent advantage to drafting "big players" is a contentious one. While there is no correlation between size-advantage and teams that win championships and no apparent pattern either way, the heaviest 5% of drafted players do significantly outperform the rest of their cohort (that last link is to an ESPN Insider article, you have to pay up if you want to read it). Despite conflicting evidence, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli - clearly one of the smartest General Managers in the league, except for his total inability to sign Chris Kelly to a reasonable and legal contract - spoke openly about looking to draft bigger players at the MIT Sloan Conference earlier this year.

One of the important things to remember about the draft is that there are very few executives who are good at it. That isn't reflective of 30 General Managers drafting players incorrectly necessarily, it's just that drafting eighteen and nineteen year-olds (outside of the top-ten, essentially) is a total crap-shoot. In limited information situations, finding a workable approach that can yield even a slight edge - be it a "Fishing Hole" league that you're particularly good at evaluating talent in, or drafting exclusively younger players or heavier players - is potentially very valuable, especially in a salary-capped league where parity rules. 

Short of picking first overall, there aren't any "silver bullets" in terms of a guiding draft philosophy that will always pay dividends. But whether or not drafting players based on size is the "right" approach, let's take a look at Gillis' draft record through this lens. Read past the jump for more.

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Getting the most out of Marc-Andre Gragnani

Jeff Angus
June 14 2012 09:21AM

In February, the Canucks made a deadline deal and acquired defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani from the Buffalo Sabres. He was technically traded for Alexander Sulzer in a one-for-one deal, but the trade was tied closely to the Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian swap that was made official only minutes earlier on deadline day.

The Sabres were more than happy to move the young puck moving defenseman, as erratic play had landed him in Lindy Ruff’s doghouse. After leading the team in scoring during their 2011 first round match up against the Flyers (seven points in seven games), Gragnani struggled to hold down a regular roster spot for much of 2011-12.

His offensive dominance at the AHL has been impressive. In four seasons with Rochester and Portland, Gragnani has broken the 50-point mark three times, including a 12-goal, 60-point performance in 2010-11. Gragnani was equally as effective in the QMJHL with Alain Vigneault's former club the PEI Rocket, recording 22 goals and 68 points in his best campaign there (2006-07).

However, the transition to the NHL has been difficult (outside of his impressive playoff series last year). In 73 career regular season games, Gragnani has scored only three goals. He has decent size (although he isn’t physical), and he is very mobile and great at moving the puck.

Why has he struggled?

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The Canucks Elect to Take Mason Raymond to Arbitration

Thomas Drance
June 13 2012 04:29PM

We've been wondering what would happen with Mason Raymond's qualifying offer for months now, and thanks to Darren Dreger's afternoon scoop, now we know.

Mason Raymond's status was particularly interesting heading into this offseason. He's a quasi-core piece and one the Canucks have been very high on (despite his relative lack of production the past two seasons) because he "drives play" and has consistently posted spectacular underlying numbers. Of course that changed this season, as Raymond's performance fell off significantly - probably because it can take a long time to physically and mentally recover from breaking vertebrae in your back. 

Read past the jump for more.

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NHL Draft: Mike Gillis' Fishing Holes

Thomas Drance
June 13 2012 02:34PM

In nine short days the NHL draft will begin in Pittsburgh, and it promises to be a very interesting day or two for the Canucks and their General Manager Mike Gillis. As usual, the Canucks don't have any high picks (they select 26th and 57th) and the 2011-12 draft class is not seen as particularly deep, but that hardly matters to Canucks fans, who are more interested to see what Gillis does on the trade market anyway!

Over the next week we'll take some looks at the Canucks' drafting record since Gillis took over the reigns (June 22nd will mark his fifth time at the draft table) and see if we can ferret out any trends in his approach to selecting players. Today's topic concerns Gillis' favorite draft prospect "Fishing Holes." This is a concept that was introduced to me by Scott Reynolds, but was originally coined by our pal Kent Wilson, who explained it as such

Clubs [may] develop what I call "fishing holes", by which I mean they concentrate their scouting in certain amateur/developmental leagues (for the Flames, it's the WHL/CHL) - they can become familiar with the relative degree and value of the competition and therefore can more capably gauge a prospects level of performance.

Read past the jump for more.

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