As was pointed out, goalies take the longest to develop, and D men take longer to develop than forwards. The further into the future you try to predict anything the less chance of being right. That's why you see fewer goalies drafter in the first round. It's why you should be extremely cautious drafting D men with high picks.
Somebody posted some pretty impressive stats around here a while back relating to all of this.
Okay, but here's the follow up: how come it's like that, all of a sudden? I've followed the NHL for more than 20 years, and until very recently the conventional wisdom was that dmen were more valuable than forwards as top prospects because Norris calibre defensemen were so much harder to acquire than top forwards. Dmen didn't peak any earlier ten years ago. So why has the equation now changed?
Actually, you see a lot more dmen dominating at an early age now than before. Phaneuf, doughty, pietrangelo, karlsson - it seems nearly every year you have a norris candidate below 25. I don't think that happened even once in the 1990s.
It's striking that it's more unpredictable than before. It used to be the same guys Every year who was in the picture for the Norris, a very stable group that changed gradually. Now it's all over the place - other than a small handful, the top ten changes year to year.
I am not sure if we should stop overrating them, but I think teams should stop rushing them into the league. I think the reason why we see later picks producing top flight defenders is because they are allowed to develop at a proper pace because the expectations are mucher lower. The kids that are taken high in the draft are rushed into the league as an 18 or 19 year old on lousy teams with a horrible supporting cast and are in way over their head. The top forwards can handle playing in the league at 18, but the development curve for defenders is slower so it doesn't make sense to handle the top defenseman the same way as a forward.
When you look at many of the best defenders in the league today you see that most of them were given enough time to develop. Lidstrom, Suter, Weber, Timonen, Chara, Keith, Letang, Yandle, Shattenkirk, Edler, Staal, Phaneuf, Campbell, and Pietrangelo all took all did not make the NHL full time at for at least 2 years after they were drafted. While many of the top picks that fail to live up to their pre-draft hype are rushed into the league at 18 or 19.
I just don't really see the benefit of having an 18 year old on your blue line especially if you're not contending for anything anyway. There are always the exceptions, but I think it would benefit teams more to play it safe and let their young defenseman spend their developmental years at the lower levels since it's such a tough position to learn.
Agreed. I think all defenseman should play junior until they reach ahl eligibility at the very least. Then move on to the ahl for at least a year, although a 2 years in the ahl would likely benefit everyone. Problem is stayin committed to that plan. With free agency coming so early for these guys, it's tough for teams to burn entry level contract years in the ahl. I love the college hockey route for d men. Play against older physically developed competition and after brief stints in minors , they enter league ready to contribute. Then again with cba loopholes, we see situations like Justin Schultz and it puts pressure on teams to sign prospects early.
Not easy decisions, but IMO I would be inclined to draft d men later, late 1st round and beyond, and encourage the college route.