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When does a draft pick become a bust?

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06-24-2004, 08:08 AM
  #1
Lowetide
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When does a draft pick become a bust?

I'm always amazed at how quickly drafted players become labelled as "busts" or "disappointments". In the last day or so, MA Pouliot has been called basically that despite the fact that the date on his birth certificate reads May 22, 1985.

He is younger, for instance, than Travis Zajac who will go in Saturday's draft. Johan Fransson is older and will likely be picked sometime Saturday. Unless there's a misprint in the Hockey News, he's 6 months younger than David Booth, another highly rated kid, and younger too than Sami Lepisto and Al Montoya, although goalies work on a completely different level.

Is there a line in the sand that can be drawn? How many seasons before a draft pick is in shady territory prospect wise? Thirty years ago, when a draft pick didn't make the team that fall it was news, but those kids were 20 when they were drafted, two full seasons older than the kids on Saturday. Imagine how the 2002 kids would do if they were coming to camp this fall.

So, where is the line? Here's the last 7 Oiler first rounders:


2003-MA Pouliot
2002-Jesse Niinimaki
2001-Ales Hemsky
2000-Alexei Mikhnov
1999-Jani Rita
1998-Michael Henrich
1997-Michel Riesen

My opinion is that only the first two (Henrich and Riesen) could be considered draft busts, and if someone called me on it I might even admit that both could have careers in the NHL. They're certainly young enough, if they decided to straighten up and fly right (or whatever malady set them back, Henrich had mono correct?) there's still time.

But beyond that, I just can't make an argument for any of the guys 99-03. It isn't possible. Yes, Jani Rita has been a prospect for 5 long seasons and seems just as far from the show as ever, but does that mean he's a bust? If the Oilers hired a new coach who suddenly LIKED Rita, would that not be a golden opportunity? As a young 22 year old, is he not capable of taking advantage of it?

So, what's your opinion? At what point, injuries aside, does a pick become a bust?

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06-24-2004, 08:52 AM
  #2
Bohologo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lowetide
So, what's your opinion? At what point, injuries aside, does a pick become a bust?
Another day, another outstanding post from lowetide. While it's easy to pick an arbitrary line for prospect development time (say, five years), every player develops on their own timeline, due to factors like talent, desire, and environment. For every kid that goes straight from the draft to the lineup (Patrice Bergeron), there's a guy who drives everyone bonkers for years before they get their act together (Todd Bertuzzi-although he still drives many bonkers). So we need to recognize that everyone develops according to their own matrix of factors.

But for the sake of discussion, it's good to have a rule of thumb, which I'll arbitrarily suggest at five (5) years. Any talk of a bust before this time is up should be considered premature. Patience is a virtue, and a scarce one at that.

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06-24-2004, 09:29 AM
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Jim_Harnock
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I really don't know where to draw the line. All I know is that every time I hear someone say that unless a guy makes an impact in the NHL by age 22 (or whatever) that he's a bust, I think of Sergei Makarov. For those who don't remember Makarov, he didn't play a single NHL game (or even come to North America) before he was 30, then from 1989-1995, scored 384 points in 420 games. He scored 30 goals twice -- once with CGY and once with SJ. Granted, the dynamics between North America and Russia was far different back in the 80's, but a more recent example could be Brian Rafalski -- a "bust" who was never even drafted who became an NHL impact player at the age of 28.

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06-24-2004, 10:27 AM
  #4
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I tend to go with the 5 year rule of thumb. However, the 5 years doesn't mean that the prospect should be even playing yet - it simply means that, given certain factors, the team and the player are still actively working towards that NHL spot:

- the prospect is still excited about playing for the team
- the team is still excited about the prospect playing for them
- both parties are working towards making that happen

Henrich and Reisen are legit busts. Rita is a much, much more frustrating case - he still wants to play but hasn't been SOOOO good that he can't be ignored while the team still thinks he has a future but hasn't done squat to facilitate him playing in the NHL and has gone so far as to make it abnormally difficult for him to do so (my opinion).

Mikhnov is on the bubble as far as I am concerned - even if he wasn't playing here the Oilers should have dealt with the question of his transfer fee costs LONG before now (i.e. they should have payed early before the existing agreement expired).

Hemsky is also on the bubble as a great black cloud by the name of MacTavish hangs over this kids head - if he and MacT have the same problems next year as they did this past one Hemsky will be a wasted prospect long-term.

Niinimaki bothers me as well. Here is a kid who was taken so far off the board it is astounding and was taken purely on potential. To me he is a pure example of what happens when a draft pick is made based on:

- "wow he could be a great player" vs. "he has what it takes to be a player".

Bonsignore vs. Buchberger comes to mind. Buchberger may have been a 9th rounder back in the day but that was only because of skill - not because of his heart or his head. I'll bet every scout who looked at him knew he had the mental/gut ability to play. Bonsignore, as we know, was the exact opposite case.

Pouliot is a guy I still believe in. I have seen him play and he isn't a guy who backs down. He has whacks of skill and plays a real leadership role. Think about it for a second - here he is getting wasted by injuries on a team that has a brand new superstar in Crosby (and that new guy is getting the best linemates) JUST AFTER A YEAR in which Pouliot gave everything he had on a team that sucked. Yet Pouliot went out there as team captain, played the second fiddle without question or gripe and played a damn fine game despite a chronic injury filled year.

Hell. Even if he doesn't ever play I'm proud just to have had him as a prospect. He gives every indication of being a stand-up guy and having a maturity level far beyond that of most current NHL'ers. He has echoes of Smyth in him as far as I am concerned.

----

Final note - Malakov and Rafalski are poor examples to use - both players were, on a regular basis, impact players on an international level before they joined the NHL. That is a far cry from being some 17-19 year old.


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06-24-2004, 10:59 AM
  #5
Jim_Harnock
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YKOil
Malakov and Rafalski are poor examples to use - both players were, on a regular basis, impact players on an international level before they joined the NHL. That is a far cry from being some 17-19 year old.
You missed my point. Rasflaski in particular wasn't drafted by an NHL team, which essentially means he was projected to be a bust. He wasn't -- scouts were just shortsighted. He didn't become a legit NHLer until he was in his late 20's, by which point most prospects would have been dumped and declared a wasted pick.

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06-24-2004, 11:16 AM
  #6
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Depends on the prospect. You could probobly say Jiri Novotny is already a bust, as is Nathan Smith, and they were taken in 2001 and 2000 respectivly (both 1st rounders).

Most folks (maybe not some on this board) would rank Rita and Mikhnov as busts.

My personal belief is this:

If the player has played 3 years of professional hockey and still hasn't turned into an NHL player, you're getting close to 'bust-ville'. 4 years and I'd say barring the odd Rafalski and Wes Walz, you've got a bust.

So 4 years of pro-hockey without becoming an NHL player might be agood margin, though it is different for NCAA guys in particular. If guys in Europe don't have a contract after 3 years, things look dim.

I was talking to Guy on MSN the other day about leaving prospects in Europe. I asked him, and maybe you guys can help:

Can you think of any good European-born NHL player (say a top 6 forward or a top 4 defenseman) that, after being drafted, stayed in Europe for 3 or more years?

This is why I have given up on Mikhnov and am getting annoyed with Niinimaki staying in Europe. I think the Oilers (and the Canucks to be honest) need to bring these Europeans to the AHL a lot sooner than they do.

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06-24-2004, 11:31 AM
  #7
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Petr Forsberg... drafted in 1991 and played in 1994-1995 (4 years in sweden)

Datsyuk didn't come over until he was 22 years old (3 years in Europe after being drafted)

Zetterberg didn't come over until 3 years after he was drafted.

Janne Niinimaa spent 3 years in Finland after being drafted.

That's 3...

I think a flipside to this question is how many Europeans were busts after being brought over within 3 years of being drafted? Or how many have failed to meet expectations.

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06-24-2004, 12:21 PM
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My theory is a prospect becomes a bust the minute he hears the words "The Edmonton Oilers are proud to select with their first pick.......".

Seriously though, I kind of get upset with all of the articles and news stories regarding busts leading up to the draft. I know even busts usually make out with a decent amount of cash in their careers but I always wonder what it would be like to be ohhh, I don't know, be Scott Scissons and turn on the TV one day to hear some TSN news story calling you one of the Top 20 busts in draft history. I think a lot of these 'busts' are kids who peaked physically and skill wise, at 17-18 and never progressed farther. Not their fault the NHL draft is an 18 year-old crapshoot. I think we need to sometimes imagine what are lives would be like to be constantly labeled a bust. I know personally I haven't been all I could possibly be, in my life and to a degree 95% of us would probably admit to underachieving in life in some aspect or another.

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06-24-2004, 12:22 PM
  #9
Mizral
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dawgbone
Petr Forsberg... drafted in 1991 and played in 1994-1995 (4 years in sweden)

Datsyuk didn't come over until he was 22 years old (3 years in Europe after being drafted)

Zetterberg didn't come over until 3 years after he was drafted.

Janne Niinimaa spent 3 years in Finland after being drafted.

That's 3...

I think a flipside to this question is how many Europeans were busts after being brought over within 3 years of being drafted? Or how many have failed to meet expectations.
Good job on the guys there, Dawgbone. Datsyuk is a really good example in particular. However, it doesn't seem there are many. How about 4 years or more? I knew of Forsberg before, but 4 or more seems even rarer.

There are tons of busts from Europe that were brought over earlier, but there are certainly a lot more Europeans that come over within 3 years after being drafted that go on to a lot of success in the NHL than guys brought over after 3 years. Like I said, maybe 4 years is a better marker?

It is definetly different in the CHL/NCAA though. NCAA guys I usually give a lot more time, even moreso than Europe (many NCAA guys such as John Madden or Marty Turco don't even make much noise in the NHL until after 24/25 years of age.

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06-24-2004, 12:34 PM
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dawgbone
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lol... I just went with 6 guys off the top of my head who I thought might have...

4 of them turned out to be so... the list could be significantly longer, or I could have gotten most of them.

It's a fair amount of research, which I may take periodic stabs at.

Just to note the other 2 guys I was thinking of were Naslund (2 years), and Sundin (1 year).

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06-24-2004, 12:39 PM
  #11
MrMackey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Thompson
Good job on the guys there, Dawgbone. Datsyuk is a really good example in particular. However, it doesn't seem there are many. How about 4 years or more? I knew of Forsberg before, but 4 or more seems even rarer.

There are tons of busts from Europe that were brought over earlier, but there are certainly a lot more Europeans that come over within 3 years after being drafted that go on to a lot of success in the NHL than guys brought over after 3 years. Like I said, maybe 4 years is a better marker?

It is definetly different in the CHL/NCAA though. NCAA guys I usually give a lot more time, even moreso than Europe (many NCAA guys such as John Madden or Marty Turco don't even make much noise in the NHL until after 24/25 years of age.
I can think of Hejduk and Vyborny off the top of my head (with 4+ years in Europe after being drafted), but I think you're right that players can fall off the radar with too much time spent in the European leagues.

I think this will change somewhat as some of those Euro leagues get more competitive.

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06-24-2004, 04:05 PM
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Jere Lehtinen played 3 years in Finland after his draft year.

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06-24-2004, 04:54 PM
  #13
Mizral
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrMackey
I can think of Hejduk and Vyborny off the top of my head (with 4+ years in Europe after being drafted), but I think you're right that players can fall off the radar with too much time spent in the European leagues.

I think this will change somewhat as some of those Euro leagues get more competitive.
This is what I mean, and yeah I agree but that might be 10 years from now.

It seems that after about 3 or 4 years in Europe, you may as well just give up on the guy unless he totally shocks and surprises like a Vyborny. There are very few guys who seem to stay in Europe for about 4 years and then make the NHL as a significant player.

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06-24-2004, 04:55 PM
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I'll bite.

First of all, I don't think you can quantify a bust in terms of the the time taken (# of years) to make a significant impact in the bigs. All players have different rates of development, and furthermore, players in different positions are projected to mature differently also (forwards vs. goaltenders)

Secondly, contrary to an argument posted above, I don't think a player can be a bust, per se, until he actually enters into an organization's plans. I'm not sure I agree with the idea that Rafalski was a bust, because no team really took a chance on him in the first place - ie. whose bust was he?

That said, my opinion of a bust would be a player who has failed to make an impact at the NHL level with any team with whom he entered the NHL.

Once a player changes teams, the original team can rightfully deem him a bust or not, whereas the new team has the benefit of time to decide whether or not the player will be another bust (although trade busts are a different story altogether!).

For me, Rita & Henrich aren't yet busts, as they still have the potential and opportunity to do something for this organization - I'd even say they have the same potential & opportunity as recent drafts such as Pouliot & Niinimaki. Any can knock the other out of a bid for an NHL job with a solid run & training camp. As long as they're with the org, I don't think I can deem them as genuine busts.

Riesen & even Helmineinen (sp) I would deem as busts. At the point of departure from the team, neither had made a significant impact in the bigs. And although Helmineinen didn't have much time to make an impact with the Oilers, he would be a bit of a bust in my books in the sense that there was a more valuable commodity to be had by trading him away - that is, if the org thought highly enough of him, he probably wouldn't have been traded. Likewise, I would deem Woywitka as a sort of bust for the Flyers.

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06-24-2004, 05:03 PM
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xerburt
Likewise, I would deem Woywitka as a sort of bust for the Flyers.
I agree with your assessment for the most part except this one. There are times that prospects get moved for other assets before a determination on them can be made. Woywitka is an example.

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06-24-2004, 05:10 PM
  #16
xerburt
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Originally Posted by George Bachul
I agree with your assessment for the most part except this one. There are times that prospects get moved for other assets before a determination on them can be made. Woywitka is an example.
Yeah, I was even thinking twice before I posted that out. I suppose when it comes to trading prospects, it's an entirely different story.

Even when I think back to Helmineinen, is he really a bust? If I recall correctly, his development after he was drafted even raised his value. I guess I'd have to factor in somehow the level of chance a prospect gets from an organization to prove his worth - but then it gets too complicated and very subjective!

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