#NHLDraft2013: ...And On The Notion of Best Player Available

So now that we know how a team operates at the Draft Table- building a list- suddenly the notion of "Best Player Available" makes more sense. We, as fans, have to rely on scouting services like Future Considerations (Draft Guide now available!) or Central Scouting rankings to largely base our opinions on who our favorite team should take because, really, that's the only real information available to us.

In a way, FC, or ISS, or Redline, or even CSS is the NHL's version of Mel Kiper, Jr; he/they/me/we go watch games and evaluate talent and rank it not just because there is a market for it, but because, well, its fun to do.


However, while it is the best thing for Draft/Prospect Junkies like FRB, it can be the worst thing too.
The most important thing to remember about scouting hockey players is that it is an inexact science; as in, decisions are made largely based on opinion and experience. You don't need to look any farther than how the rankings vary from service to service; it is fascinating to see how and why opinions differ on players and their potential impact at the NHL level. Whoever is ranked 46 by FC isn't going to be the same at Redline Report, or whoever.

The important thing to remember is that it's all opinion; it should be meant to be taken as a guideline or a rough guess and not so much as gospel. This isn't to say some hockey fans aren't well-versed already and have their own opinions on players either.

There is no doubt that during the course of the season that scouts will become enamored with certain players; so much that strategies will be shaped and long discussions will take place in regards to justifying the cost to get that player, or seeing if you can gamble and trade down and still get your guy (see: Nick Leddy in 2009.)

Now, in the piece I linked to in the last post, Brent Flahr mentions that after the list is complete, they target a few guys. In the first season of the "Becoming Wild" series, episode 2 focused primarily on the 2011 Draft. After the table found out Boston was sewing Dougie Hamilton's name onto a jersey, a couple of guys at the table said "we're going to get one of our two guys."

At last year's Draft Chuck Fletcher told the media that they had Matt Dumba "higher than seventh" on their List, and that they really liked the entire package (on and off-ice) that Dumba brings to the table. There were many of the long time scouts who were "very excited" about getting him at #7.

With that being said, they were offered a trade with St. Louis, where they'd trade out of the 28th pick for a couple picks in the 40's; however, they opted not to because it would "take them out of some of the higher end guys." They ended up taking Zack Phillips, and one can make the reasonable conclusion that they had him higher than 28th on their list; hence, they took the best player available on their list.

You can also point to Jason Zucker in 2010 and Mario Lucia in 2011; two players who were still on the board, and the table obviously felt they wouldn't be around when they selected next. So you pick up the phone, and consummate a deal to get your guy. They tried to trade back up in 2010 (for an unnamed Minnesotan; Justin Faulk went two picks ahead of Brett Bulmer, or Justin Holl, who went two picks ahead of Johan Larsson) and last year; the price was too steep and/or teams wanted to make their selections.

It's all about working off of the list a team has spent all season building. It i
s also about getting the most quality you can; whether it be five players you feel can play Top-9 or Top-4 minutes, or getting extra picks and making nine picks because you feel the depth of talent in the Draft warrants hoarding.

"Best Player Available" can be a frustrating term, especially in the context of GM-speak; it comes across as cliche and uninformative, but the reality is that they are speaking the truth to a certain extent.

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