In 2003, New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello traded up in the first round to draft Zach Parise at No. 17. And when Parise turned into a star, it was yet another piece of anecdotal evidence that Lamoriello was a good drafter. But it's hard to be sure until you run the numbers because these huge successes have a way of blinding us to masses of failure.
So that's what we did; we ran the numbers and ranked GMs by their drafting prowess. And, to no one's surprise, Lamoriello knows exactly what he's doing on draft day. But not all longtime GMs have the same kind of success (Glen Sather), while others simply haven't been drafting for long enough for us to pass judgement (Ray Shero).
In any case, we took those numbers and ranked NHL GMs -- by division -- on how good they have been at drafting. This week, we're starting with the Atlantic. But first some ground rules:
1. We're not simply judging the GMs based on the quality of players they have drafted. Because a guy with four top-5 picks will always fare better than someone who consistently drafts late in the first round. So, instead, we're looking at how well they've drafted relative to their draft position.
2. We know some GMs let their scouts make the final calls on draft day, but they still are responsible for the picks.
3. We're looking at drafts from 1990 to 2008. Recent drafts are discounted because the jury is out on the large majority of those picks.
4. Metrics are based on Tom Awad's GVT, which is an advanced stat that encompasses all aspects of the game.
With that in mind, let's dive into the Atlantic. The general managers are ranked in descending order.
5. Ray Shero
Value added per pick: -0.73 GVT/season
Drafts: Pittsburgh Penguins (2006-present)
The sample size for Shero is extremely small, so his "value added" metric should be viewed with a grain of salt. His numbers should improve over time, especially if he can hit on some late-rounders, much like he did with Jeffrey and Caputi. In addition, Angelo Esposito (No. 20, 2007) never panned out, which really hurt. That said, Shero inherited quite a situation from former GM Craig Patrick, who left him with a core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury. And because of that, it hasn't been essential for him to convert his picks into NHL contributors. But if he wants to stick around for the long-term -- especially when Crosby and Malkin pass their prime -- this will be a bigger factor moving forward.
4. Paul Holmgren
Value added per pick: -0.47 GVT/season
Drafts: Philadelphia Flyers (2007-present), Hartford Whalers (1994)
Top picks: Jeff O'Neill (No. 5), Hnat Domen (No. 83), James van Riemsdyk (No. 2)
His best picks come from his interim stint with the Whalers in 1994 but, even then, the sample size is a bit small to pass judgment. But his picks in Philadelphia haven't provided great value; van Riemsdyk is his best pick thus far, but he's been a mediocre No. 2 pick (though it was a weak draft class in 2007). Otherwise, the only big contributors have been Luca Sbisa (No. 19) and Sean Couturier (No. 8), who might already be Holmgren's best pick after less than a season. Like Shero, Holmgren will need to find better value in the draft moving forward -- especially in the late rounds.
3. Garth Snow
Value added per pick: -0.19 GVT/season
Drafts: New York Islanders (2008-present)
Dear Islanders fans, John Tavares is not on the list above for a reason: First of all, we're only counting the 1990 to 2008 drafts; he was drafted in 2009. And even if we included that draft, he was the No. 1 pick and therefore his expected production was so high that he wasn't a better "value" pick than Hamonic. With that said, the sample size for Snow is small -- and, of that list, he doesn't have many great picks on which to hang his hat. He had a few good finds in the late rounds, and he hit on key first-round picks like Tavares and Josh Bailey. But he still hasn't had a great value pick yet.
If Nino Niederreiter (No. 5) or Ryan Strome (No. 5) develop into All-Stars, they'd skyrocket to the top of Snow's value list. However, he hasn't had much to live up to because his predecessor, Mike Milbury, left much to be desired. He had two fantastic selections in Roberto Luongo (No. 4) and Zdeno Chara (No. 56) -- but he traded both guys before they established themselves as elite players. He then had the No. 1 pick but used it on a goalie (Rick DiPietro), which is always a mistake. So at the end of the day, if we look at all 95 of his picks for the Isles, the guy who was the best value pick -- and contributed significantly on Long Island -- is Frans Nielsen. Snow must do better.
2. Glen Sather
Value added per pick: 0.02 GVT/season
Sather's best picks came in the '80s, which we aren't taking into account. But we have to give a nod to the great value picks he made in his first draft (1980), which included Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and Andy Moog. Since then, however, it's been downhill. Outside of Lundqvist -- an incredible value at No. 205 -- and a few others, Sather hasn't been great at converting the 207 picks he's had since 1990. In his stint with the Rangers, he's found the best value in Zidlicky, Brandon Dubinsky (No. 60), Ryan Callahan (No. 127) and Marc Staal (No. 12). But since that amazing first draft, finding value has been challenging.
1. Lou Lamoriello
Value added per pick: 0.35 GVT/season
Drafts: New Jersey Devils (1988-present)
Lamoriello has made the most picks of any GM since 1990 at 210. But until last summer, when he drafted Adam Larsson at No. 4, he had had only one top-10 pick in that time span (No. 3, 1991, Scott Niedermayer). But even without lottery picks, Lamoriello has added top-tier talent to his club. Guys like Brodeur and Parise are easy to cite, but others he drafted without elite picks include Brian Gionta (No. 82), Scott Gomez (No. 27), Travis Zajac (No. 20), Paul Martin (No. 62) and Petr Sykora (No. 18), among many others.
There are many reasons he's stuck around for so long, but one big factor is that he has been among the best GMs of the past two decades at drafting talent. He's been able to replenish a contending team without falling back into the lottery.