Ron Delorme and the Canucks v. the 29 other scouting departments


Nathan Smith played just 4 career games with Vancouver after being drafted 23rd overall in 2000.

By now, you’ve all read my last article wherein Sham Sharron outdrafts the actual Vancouver Canucks in a neat little thought exercise meant to illustrate just how poor the Canucks’ amateur scouting has been since 2000. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can read it here. You can also read real-life Cam Charron’s follow-up that addresses why an exercise like this may yield the surprising results it does here.

The point of that article wasn’t to say “this is how Vancouver SHOULD have drafted”, which some apparently took it as. It was instead meant to point out that if such a(n admittedly) faulty method – which ignored half of the world’s hockey talent – can produce better results than what Vancouver was actually doing, there is a massive problem in the Canucks’ amateur scouting that must be addressed immediately.

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What the last article didn’t do though was put into perspective how woeful Vancouver and their scouting department has been at finding any NHL talent through the draft relative to the rest of the NHL. That is what we’ll do here. Read past the jump to be filled with even more sadness and regret.

The following table includes each team’s performance on draft day each year through the Ron Delorme era (2000-2012). It includes the number of draft choices each team had that year, and how many career NHL games those picks combined to eventually play. Also included is a category called Average NHL Games Played per Draft Pick (GP/Pick), meant to act as a sort of “drafting efficiency” measure. Teams with a higher GP/Pick were better at turning their draft picks into NHL players. Here’s the table:

Draft History Delorme Era

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The dark green highlights are the teams that found the most NHL talent in terms of games played each year, while the orange highlight is the (extremely impressive) Jim Benning era in Buffalo.

Games played is a fairly good measure for determining how successful a given team is at drafting because it tends to capture a lot of things. Better players will tend to play more games than worse ones in the long run, and also play more games sooner in their respective career’s. 

It’s also worth noting, however, that this measure probably tends to overstate how teams that drafted well did earlier in the decade than teams later in the decade. Certain teams (I’m looking at you, Edmonton) had a tendency to draft career minor-leaguers in the early 2000’s that stumbled their way into 100-200 NHL games before flaming out. Similar players drafted recently probably have yet to find the way to the NHL. Still, all 30 teams are operating under the same conditions so it’s probably reasonable to say that what’s laid out here paints a fairly accurate picture of which teams were the most successful drafters between 2000 and 2012.

With all of this said, the draft is hardly the only avenue through which players can be acquired. This is the bit of criticism to the Sham post that amused me the most; that drafting only forwards would mean that you have no defensemen or goalies. Well, trades and free agent signings are things that happen from time-to-time, and it’s pretty common for teams to get players through those aforementioned methods. 

Just look at the 2011 Vancouver Canucks: of the 9 defensemen that played 10 or more games for them, seven of them (Hamhuis, Ehrhoff, Salo, Tanev, Ballard, Alberts, and Rome) were not draft picks of the team. Neither was Roberto Luongo, who rocked a .928 save percentage that year. For that matter, of the 16 goalies that have suited up for Vancouver in the past 10 seasons, just two (Cory Schneider, and Rob McVicar who appeared in just one game) were drafted by Vancouver.

The point of the entry draft isn’t so much to build the core of your team as it is to accrue enough assets to be able to build the core of a hockey team through acquiring players by all means available to you. Because this is the case, it doesn’t matter if you take all forwards or all defensemen or all goalies as much as it matters that you take guys who are going to be able to play a lot of NHL games in their careers. As you can see, Vancouver (highlighted in bright red) has been miserable at drafting any sort of future NHL talent:

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Under the guidance of Ron Delorme, Vancouver has been the second worst team in the NHL at finding junior-age talent that would go on to play in the NHL, either in Vancouver or in any other market. However, Vancouver also had fewer draft selections than any other team over the Ron Delorme era, so we should also look at drafting efficiency. Unfortunately, Vancouver is also near the bottom of the league by this measure:


Vancouver is slightly closer to the pack here, but 29th out of 30 is still 29th out of 30.

The last thing we’ll look at is the number of blown drafts a team has had in the Delorme era. For this measure, I excluded the 2011 and 2012 entry drafts (despite what the chart title says – that’s a small error on my part) since many of the players taken then are still considered prospects so it’s hard to tell if a team blew either of those years yet. I classified a “blown draft” as a draft in which a team comes away with a group of players who fail to go on to play a certain number of NHL games. In this case: 50 GP, 100 GP, and 250 GP.


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Since 2000, Vancouver has had:

  • The most drafts in which their selections failed to combine for 50 career NHL games played.
  • The most drafts in which their selections failed to combine for 100 career NHL games played.
  • The most drafts in which their selections failed to combine for 250 career NHL games played.

The Canucks’ scouting staff has completely blown more drafts than any team in the NHL, and has more <50 GP drafts than 15 teams


. That is significantly less than ideal. It’s one thing to say that a team’s drafting is poor – Edmonton Oilers fans bemoan the Kevin Pendergast era all the time for a complete inability to find NHL talent – but it’s another thing to line up all the teams and truly see who the worst drafting teams are. 

Here, it’s pretty clear that Tampa Bay and Vancouver are in a class of their own, not just because of the sheer lack of NHL-calibre players drafted, but by also the stunning consistent futility they have shown on draft day. In the Ron Delorme era, Vancouver came away with literally nothing every other draft, and had an above average haul in just two of thirteen years.

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Tampa Bay already addressed their issues at the draft table by hiring Al Murray (previously of the L.A. Kings in the early 2000’s) in 2010, which is a move that looks to have paid off with an influx of young talent into the Bolts’ system. Vancouver looked like they were ready to make changes after 2012 too, but all these changes amounted to what looks like a re-shuffling of the deck, with Ron Delorme retaining his “Chief Amateur Scout” title while Eric Crawford was promoted to Director of Player Personnel.

There is a problem in Vancouver, and it will be a crippling one in the long run. I’m not on the inside, so I can’t say what it is. It could be that Vancouver systematically undervalues actual hockey talent while overemphasizing such nebulous things as “good defensive play,” “leadership abilities,” and other “intangibles.” It could be that they properly value skill but just have a group of scouts that suck at finding it. It could be a little of both, I can’t say.

The good news is that this is all fixable, by either re-considering and re-emphasizing what to look for in prospects (hint: LOTS OF SKILL), or by firing everyone if the old guard refuses to buy in. And if anyone is capable of fixing the Canucks, Trevor Linden appears to have hired the right guy to do it. Let’s look at Jim Benning’s time as the head of Buffalo’s amateur scouting during the Delorme era and compare how he did with the rest of the NHL:


Yep, that’s Benning on the far right. Maybe, just maybe, there are reasons for optimism going forward.

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One last thing: a quick note on the Sham article that literally everyone and their dog read (it is the most read post in Canucks Army history. Thank you all so much for sharing it with your friends!). Daniel Wagner of Pass It To Bulis pointed out to me that there’s a bit of an issue with the “Sham method” in later rounds of the draft. Specifically, Sham would not have known to draft players that were unranked by NHL Central Scouting Services (such as Mathieu Perreault) over higher scoring players that would eventually go undrafted (in the Perreault case: Yannick Riendeau).

Fixing this doesn’t change the results much, if at all. Daniel ran the Canucks drafts just by using CSS rankings and came to the same conclusion as I did: a simple set of rules was able to out-draft how the Vancouver Canucks actually performed. I don’t think his characterization of the “Sham method” is entirely fair (“creat[ing] a pool of players with potential, then skimm[ing] the cream off the top” is the entire reason why scouts exist, so a specialized proprietary scouting staff should still be able to out-perform a simple set of rules), and the hiccups he’s pointed out don’t undermine the point or the conclusion of what I wrote.

Remember: the point isn’t “we could have had Claude Giroux!” The point is that whatever Vancouver has been doing since 2000 has been leading to sub-optimal and easily avoidable brutal outcomes at the entry draft. “We could have had Claude Giroux instead of Michael Grabner” is just one piece of evidence for this.

Still, I am aware of the oversights I inadvertently made, so you’ll all be happy to know that I’ve been talking to Josh Weissbock about re-Shamming the Canucks, taking the issues pointed out into consideration, as well as possibly Shamming the whole league. I don’t know how this is all going to fit in to our summer of prospect profiling, nor do I know when it will happen (hopefully soon) or how we’re going to share our findings. It is something that we have planned and are working on though, so stay tuned.

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  • Mantastic

    It sure would be nice to hear Mr Delorme defend himself. I’m sure Linden, Benning et al know the poor history of the Canucks scouting. If the new administration still has faith in the current group, we have to assume there has been a misdirection of priority from the top that has led to our current plight.
    In addition, I believe the poor state of our farm and development system should be partly to blame for our lack of success bringing talent to the NHL. Only last year did we have a farm team of our own that did great things (hat tip to Travis) helping our young talent along. Imagine what our development system could do if the NHL head coach communicates at all with the AHL coach next year!

  • DNF

    Appreciate the follow-up to the previous article.

    Although I’ll certainly agree that the work done by the Canucks scouting staff is very unattractive, an equal, if not greater, amount of criticism and ridicule should be directed at the player development philosophy and staff. I’m of the belief, and perhaps I’m in the minority, that talent evaluation accounts for approximately 1/3 of the process while talent development takes up two-thirds of the battle. Therefore, it might be interesting to break up the “Delorme era” further and compare across different player development staffs. (I’ve no idea how complicated or tedious that task might be)

    In this sense, I’m not sure that even using the original flawed “Sham model” (or any similarly designed criteria) would’ve been particularly successful if the Canucks didn’t have the appropriate personnel (specifically developmental coaches) in place to harness and bring that talent up to the NHL level.

    • Mantastic

      i completely disagree, when you’re dealing with top level athletes, drafting is 75% while 25% development, health and luck. why else would there even be draft if when 2/3 of the players success is just development?

      and if you’re going to say anything about the AHL team in Utica, that team is mostly comprised of non-canuck prospects that made it successful

    • JCDavies

      “I’m of the belief, and perhaps I’m in the minority, that talent evaluation accounts for approximately 1/3 of the process while talent development takes up two-thirds of the battle.”

      If this was true the success rates of NHL draft picks wouldn’t be nearly as top-heavy as it is.

      • JCDavies

        Generally speaking, I agree with you.

        I’m curious, though, about organizations like Detroit & Ottawa that repeatedly find NHLers outside of the 1st round.

        Is it a scouting advantage?

        A developmental advantage?

        An opportunity advantage?

        Who knows and, of course, these organizations do not owe us an explanation…

          • DNF

            Thanks for the feedback. I’ll admit that I was being far too liberal/arbitrary with the way I divided up that ratio. I suppose I should have been emphasizing that, from an organizational perspective, talent identification and player development shouldn’t be discussed as mutually exclusive from one another.

            My contention that more value (whatever value that might be) be placed on the development process stems from the evidence that using measures of a 17-18 year old player to predict future performance is highly variable. From a physiological standpoint, while some of them may be close to reaching maturity, many prospects still have approximately 1-3 years of physical maturation left. By “physical measures” I’m referring to not just height and weight, but also muscular strength, muscular power, aerobic/anaerobic fitness, etc. All these traits require proper developmental time to maximize fully. This can be controlled more carefully by the team’s development staff.

            From a hockey skills perspective, a majority of prospects still require some time to improve and fine tune the fundamentals. That onus goes upon both the player (natural ability/capability/ talent) and the development staff that works with the prospect. In fact, there is data out there that even perceptual-motor skills (i.e. ability to “read-and-react/make decisions on the ice”) can be improved through coaching/development.

            Like I stated, I was probably being too casual with that 1:2 ratio that I suggested earlier, but I believe there is a big difference between being able to identify the most talented asset and harnessing/maximizing that individuals’ skill-set to fit within the organizations’ global philosophy/concept. I’ll use a cooking example as an analogy: one can buy the most expensive piece of steak that is of the highest quality and still incinerate it if not handled appropriately.

          • JCDavies

            I agree with those points. As I mentioned earlier, my issue was only with your ratio – which you admitted was probably too liberal. Player development is still important and should be part of the same conversation as talent identification.

          • JCDavies

            I’m not suggesting this is an argument you are making.

            But your point about the draft being top heavy could also be used to consider the role of coaching on an individual player’s success.

            If coaching at the NHL level was as critical an element as some make it out to be, why is the draft so top heavy?

            A lot of ink last year was spilled on whether or not Tortorella could “get more” from the same aging Canuck core than AV could.

            He obviously left his fairy dust supply in New York since Kassian & Schroeder do not look like the next Callahan & Stepan…

  • Mantastic

    “The point of that article wasn’t to say “this is how Vancouver SHOULD have drafted”, which some apparently took it as.”

    Who did this…

    “This is the bit of criticism to the Sham post that amused me the most; that drafting only forwards would mean that you have no defensemen or goalies”

    The criticism was largely based on that fact that you based quality on a metric (points) that is obviously going to favour forwards over defenseman and espescially goalies…

    While I applaud the attempt to look at how the Canucks did relative to 29 other teams, not all draft picks are created equally.

    The Canucks have had 0 top five picks, 2 top ten picks (Bourdon, Hodgson) and 4 top 20 picks (Umberger & Grabner) from 2000 – 2012.

    It is not surprising that a number of teams have beaten the Canucks in the GP measure.

    Also, Mike Brown has played more NHL games than Cory Schneider and Luc Bourdon (RIP).

    It doesn’t make him any better than those two players.

    “The good news is that this is all fixable, by either re-considering and re-emphasizing what to look for in prospects (hint: LOTS OF SKILL), or by firing everyone if the old guard refuses to buy in.”

    Completely and utterly false.

    You can suggest valuing skill all you want.

    This is a zero sum game and inevitably some team is going to be #30 and some team is going to be #1 whether the GMs/scouts are 30 analytical bloggers or 30 chimps.

    You are not offering a single legitimate solution to a problem that may or may not exist.

    “I’ve been talking to Josh Weissbock about re-Shamming the Canucks, taking the issues pointed out into consideration, as well as possibly Shamming the whole league.”

    I can’t speak for anyone else but I’d find the Shamming the entire league project a lot more interesting (if done logically, of course) than pondering the career path of Yann Sauve and co.

    If you folks can find a method to beat the majority of NHL teams, more power to you.

    Despite the criticisms, this has been the most interesting discussion on here in months…

    • “Who did this…”

      To be fair, the “which some apparently took it as” part was added sometime within the editorial process, so I don’t know who that could be in reference to.

      As I mentioned in the last part of the article, myself and Josh Weissbock are working on an extensive follow up that deals exclusively with the Sham method and how it relates to all 30 NHL teams and scouting on the whole. I’ll hopefully address the prevailing arguments and concerns at that time.

      Until then, thanks for reading and being a vocal participant in the discussion.

      • Mantastic


        Have you and Josh decided on what specifically the Sham system would be?

        Perhaps sharing it with the community beforehand would be beneficial if tweaks are needed so that you and Josh do not end up doing more work than necessary…

      • JCDavies

        Really enjoying this series and looking forward to reading your league-wide comparisons and seeing what changes you and Josh Weissbock make to the model.

        It should be pointed out, however, that if this is an evaluation of the “the Ron Delorme era”, he didn’t get promoted to Chief Amateur Scout until August 2000, after the 2000 draft. The 2000 draft probably shouldn’t be attributed to Ron Delorme.

    • DNF

      What is your point in all your comments, on this article and the last two?

      You think Ron Delorme is an excellent scout?
      (You ARE Ron Delorme? – that might explain some things)
      You think the Canucks do NOT have a drafting problem?
      You think the Canucks have done very well at drafting these last 15 years or so? (as evidenced by all their Stanley Cups… whoops awkward)

      Or is your point just to attempt to negate every single article ever posted on CA point by point for funsies? Are you going for some kind of record with that?

      • JCDavies

        Do you have a specific criticism I have made that you feel is unfair?

        If so, please share and I will gladly address.

        Otherwise I suggest interacting with the delusional Canuck fans on here that will placate your limitations…

    • It may seem like I’m being facetious here, but I’m actually asking… what IS your opinion?

      Because you have lots of reasons why everyone else is wrong about everything they’ve posted, but you never really seem to voice any kind of opinion of your own.

    • JCDavies

      “This is a zero sum game and inevitably some team is going to be #30 and some team is going to be #1 whether the GMs/scouts are 30 analytical bloggers or 30 chimps.”

      Sure, but if the teams that need to improve do improve and change the separation between the top teams and the bottom teams, wouldn’t being 30th become less of a hindrance to success?

      • JCDavies

        Easier said than done.

        For starters, we/they would have to identify what needs to be improved.

        Aside from some vague accusations about privileging skill over size or some other such nonsense, nobody has identified whether there has legitimately been a problem in the Delorme era that can’t simply be attributed to things outside of his control.

        Such as draft position, lack of draft pick capital, Bourdon (RIP) and the lack of opportunity for certain players (Schneider, Hodgson, Grabner & Connauton come to mind) that has completely gutted the farm system in recent years.

        And, of course, whether or not the issue pertains as much or more to the GM as it does to Delorme.

        I personally don’t see an issue prior to 2007 and feel people are ignoring a successful era of Canuck scouting/drafting/player integration that culminated with the best Canuck team ever in 2011.

        Though I’m glad that the delusional scout that selected Alexander Mallet 57th overall is no longer with the organization…

        • JCDavies

          I never said it was easy, only that the possibility exists that a team could “fix” their drafting problem and still be #30.

          If you want to argue with Rhys about whether or not there was a drafting/scouting problem prior to 2007 or whether privileging skill over size may or may not be the answer then that is between you and him.

  • getwu

    Like this series.

    It is valid that not all picks are equal. It would be interesting to see the same league wide rankings but with the picks weighted by round/position using the likihood of a player pick position yielding an nhl player.

    • DNF

      13 drafts (2000 – 2012) equals 65 top five picks and 130 top ten picks.

      When the average NHL team has about 2.2 top five picks over this time frame and the Canucks have 0.0, it’s not surprising that they do poorly by the games played measure.

      When the average NHL team has about 4.4 top 10 picks over this time frame and the Canucks have 0.15 – and one of them unfortunately dies after accumulating a mere 36 games – it’s not surprising that they do poorly by the games played measure.

      The 2005 draft is a good example of the limitations of what Rhys is doing in this follow up piece.

      Mason Raymond is currently 11th in games played and points from this draft and he was selected 51st overall.

      By any measure, he was an excellent selection at that spot and would surely be in the top 30 of any 2005 redraft.

      Yet by games played and out of context, the Canucks don’t look to have done particularly well at the 2005 draft.

      And Mike Brown appears to be better than Cory Schneider…

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    I think that everyone has kicked in some very valid points regarding future experiments going forward.

    This morning I was reading some constructive criticisms from NM00 and others of the Sham model research when I came up with a potentially useful one of my own.

    It might be in your research’s best interest, Rhys, to consider trying the model again with the 30th draft pick consistently year over year. In effect, you’d be working under the assumption that this was a successful scouting/drafting model currently in use by a repeat Stanley Cup champion and drafting from this lowliest of positions would help ensure that the model is not only still effective regardless of draft position, but sustainably successful year over year, season over season.

    Other than that, keep it coming!

  • Spiel

    Not really sure how much this analysis tells us. The two teams with no “blown drafts” are Edmonton and Columbus. Those two teams have arguably been the two of worst performing teams in the NHL over the given period. The Canucks were far and away the best team in their division over this time period. What does that say about using simply games played as a metric?

    A fair evaluation should factor in where in the draft order a pick falls. I don’t see that here. Some sort of “expected return” for each pick needs to be included. The expected return gets worse as the picks get later.

    I don’t doubt that Delorme and company have been inept, but I don’t think you are proving the point as conclusively as you should.

    The drafts that standout as blown drafts for the Canucks are 2000, 2002, and 2007. In those seasons, I think it is safe to say that a potato could have done better.

    2009 might still be too early to judge, but its not looking great. In the 2009 draft the Canucks used your advice of highly skilled players and selected Schroeder and Rodin with their first two picks. So it is not as simple as “MOAR SKILLZ”.

    In 2010 the Canucks had no picks until the 4th round. Management knowingly punted that draft.

    • Mantastic

      people need to recognize that this is just a shallow analysis of the draft, if you want a break down on statistical percentages of draft picks turning into NHLers, there are plenty of them on the internet and it’s really simple just to google them.

    • Mantastic

      The teams that get the most games from their draft picks, by and large, have better draft capital (i.e. higher picks/volume of picks) and/or, for lack of a better term, suck at the NHL level and, therefore, can integrate their draft picks into the lineup in an easier fashion.

      While it would still be incomplete, perhaps Rhys can look at the Delorme era in terms of games from draft picks selected outside of the top 20 picks (pretty much what the Canucks and other successful teams have had to deal with due to their success).

      And as antro has mentioned, TOI would improve this even more.

      Or even a proxy for TOI such as multiplying defenceman games played by 1.33 (average forward plays 15 mins/60 and average defenseman plays 20 mins/60).

      Although multiplying goaltender games by 4 in comparison to a forward might not be fair…

  • I still remain skeptical of how this constitutes an intervention into something we already knew (that the Canuck’s drafting has been pretty laughable, even relative to their draft position for many years prior possibly to the last couple), but this article is a far better stab at it than the last (or the defensive defenses of it). I’ll be intrigued to see what you come up with.

  • JCDavies

    Also… in 2012… Canucks picked Gaunce #26… and Coyotes picked Henrik Samuelsson at #27.. who had an outstanding campaign on the Memorial Cup-Winning team this year with the Oil Kings.

    Of course it is early to say…….. but im cringing already…

  • DNF

    Oh, and to my previous comment, don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means claiming that talent evaluation/identification is irrelevant. After all, you need to have talent in order to develop it… Dave Nonis and the “Pat White experiment” is a testament to that.

  • kd5mdk

    Two things spring to mind:
    1) You could do an absolute comparison by comparing each draft pick to the guy selected immediately after him. Or everytime they picked a D or G you could compare the next D or G picked. But really, different ways to run the experiment are infinitely tweekable. The thrust of the article is that the magnitude of the gap between observed outcome and the average team is really high. Reducing the gap is the primary need, not becoming #1.

    2) the opposite question to did you do better than a potato is if you pick a well-regarded organization, how did they do on the same metric? Who is the benchmark? What do players they draft have in common? If analytics are to have a predictive value you need to be able to identify what aspects they show that regular observation isn’t valuing properly. Can you establish a ratio of PPG in the Q vs the O or W? How does the 20 goal scorer in the SEL compare to a 30 goal scorer in the WHL? What do busts have in common?
    Hopefully there are people being paid to do these things, and they’re producing useful answers.

  • DNF

    So many armchair experts in here… most of these bombaclats probably can’t even skate.

    Great piece tho, certainly hard to argue against if you’re sane.

    Sad but true.

    I pledge allegiance to thee, Sir Bennington.

  • Spiel

    This is the article you should have written in the first place. And it is a good one.

    Please leave the methodology used in the original in the arse end of the internet where it belongs, never to see the light of day.

  • Spiel

    I’ve always thought that when people bitched about how bad the Canucks were at drafting talent, it was one of those grass is greener elsewhere things that we Canucks fans do.

    But no, the Canucks really are inexcusably terrible at drafting.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Spiel

    Shouldn’t you also take into account the time period? Obviously older drafts will have more people playing more games, since their careers are presumably longer and they would have had more opportunities to play.

    I’m not sure if adjusting for that makes a huge difference, but it might help.

    You could look at the average careers lengths as well to determine this.

    And you could also probably tie it in to points, comparisons to other players, etc.

    Obviously that’s not the point of the article (and great work, by the way!) but this would also be very interesting to look at.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    I think it is difficult to refute the statistical evidence… which basically reinforces what has been speculated in the city for a long time, Ron Delorme and his scouting staff is a problem, and it needs to addressed, as the performance of the scouting department will have a definite impact on the long term success of any franchise.

    That being said, and this is not to grant Mr. Delorme a reprieve… but one thing that needs to be kept in mind when using NHL Games played to judge the success or lack there of in drafting, is how an organization develops talent after the draft.

    Lets keep in mind that scouts select talent that is largely PRE-NHL ready… in most cases these kids are still 3 – 5 years away from playing in the league… that is 3 to 5 years that an organization is charged with aiding in the players development… while the scouting staff in Vancouver should be on the hook for some of their selections, perhaps the development process in Vancouver should also be thrown under the bus… especially after getting past the first two rounds of a draft, many of the players drafted are simply a crap shoot… and how an organization works to develop that talent over the years will have a massive impact on the # of games played any particular draft year will produce…