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Where Do Players Come From? Examining NHL Draft Patterns From 1995 To 2005

Derek Zona opines about the Edmonton Oilers at our blog, The Copper & Blue. He brings his weekly column (not Oilers-related, no worries) here, to

My last column looked at the success rates of each team in the NHL draft during the time period 1999-2005.  The Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils writers each followed suit by looking at team success rates. 

Scott Reynolds, a brilliant writer at The Copper & Blue, looked at league preferences by team since the lockout, but I want to take the larger view - overall in the years 1999-2005, where did these players come from?  It's not a surprise to see the WHL and the OHL at the top of the list, though the amount of Russians might surprise some.

League Total % Total
WHL  299 15.3%
OHL  295 15.1%
Russia 201 10.3%
NCAA  200 10.2%
QMJHL  178 9.1%
Sweden 140 7.2%
Finland 125 6.4%
Czech 108 5.5%
USHL 102 5.2%
Junior-A 87 4.4%
USHS 80 4.1%
Slovakia  48 2.5%
Junior-B 35 1.8%
Swiss-A  28 1.4%


The CHL combined to account for nearly 40% of all drafted players in this period.  Europe combined for nearly 35% and the various components of the U.S. system combined for nearly 20%.  The missing percents came from various levels of Junior-A and Junior-B hockey and other European leagues.  The first and second rounds were skewed more towards the leagues at the top of the list.  The WHL and OHL alone combined for 45.6% of all first round choices and 37% of all second round choices.  The NCAA accounted for 15% of first round choices and 12% of second round choices.

What of the "career player" metric used in the last column to measure draft success by team?  Remember, league-wide, 16.1% of all drafted players became career players, so how does each league and/or country stack up?  The chart below shows the ratio of players drafted from each league that eventually became career players.

League Total Career Total %
WHL  299 60 20.1%
OHL  295 71 24.1%
Russia 201 16 8.0%
NCAA  200 40 20.0%
QMJHL  178 25 14.0%
Sweden 140 25 17.9%
Draft Avg. 1958 316 16.1%
Finland 125 19 15.2%
Czech 108 17 15.7%
USHL 102 16 15.7%
Junior-A 87 4 4.6%
USHS 80 7 8.8%
Slovakia  48 5 10.4%
Junior-B 35 3 8.6%
Swiss-A  28 3 10.7%


Drafting from Russia during this time period was a colossal flop.  Only 8% of Russian players drafted developed into career players, half of the average, and worse yet, one-third of the rate of the top league - the OHL.  The Tampa Bay Lightning took fifteen players from Russia and had one turn into a career player, and that was Evgeny Artyukhin.  The Devils took nine Russians during this period, fifth-most in the league and went 0-9. Three of those nine were in the second round.  I've yet to sit down and go through this case-by-case to see if players weren't coming to North America, or these were poor picks.  The QMJHL, Finland, The Czech Republic, and the USHL were all slightly below average.

Drafting from Junior-A, Junior-B and from U.S. High Schools was also poor as the three combined to turn 7% of their draftees into career players.  Slovakia and the Swiss leagues were only slightly ahead.

The OHL was the big winner with the WHL and NCAA close behind.  Drafting from these leagues was a much safer bet overall and it was reflected in the picks weighted by round.  The league loaded up on players from the OHL, WHL and NCAA in the first two rounds and then started taking risks in the later rounds on players from the other leagues.