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The 2003 NHL Draft Redone: An Introduction

In April, with the Canadiens season over and everyone talking about Marc-Andre Fleury's true talent level, Elliotte Friedman mentioned in one of his 30 Thoughts that a lot of people wouldn't have picked him ahead of Eric Staal or Nathan Horton that year. This was somehow construed as a positive at the time (before the playoffs), when the mainstream media really did think of Fleury as one of the league's top talents. I made a bit of a bold proclamation on Twitter that I bet you if you did an honest redraft of 2003 that Fleury wouldn't even go in the first round.

So, of course, I sought out to do such an honest re-draft. I included all the players that were picked in 2003, plus all the first time draft eligible players in 2003 that weren't picked that year, into some spreadsheets and tried to assign the amount of value they delivered as NHL players. I tried to keep the evaluation as simple as possible, and for forwards this was quite easy, sticking with the basic stats that we're all used to seeing. With defense it got tougher, with goaltending it got a bit crazy... which is why I did this piece last month.

Andrew Berkshire's point evaluation system from this piece in April provided the template for my system, but with a twist: I'd count each player based on their results for each season they played.

The 2003 Entry Draft was, well... stacked. We haven't seen a draft quite like it since and there's only a couple in NHL history that are comparable. The picks made in this draft played a big role in how their clubs did under the CBA that just retired: teams held full rights for these players for the majority, if not all of the time period from 2005-12. It impacted multiple teams in positive ways, something no single free agency year since then could say in the same manner.

As you can imagine, there's a lot of data to sort through. So what is being judged here? Join me after the jump for a breakdown.

First the statistical categories being considered in the evaluation. In order to determine how a player did, I didn't use the raw number each year, but rather their league rank by position (F, D, G) in each category.

Forwards: Games Played, Goals, Assists, Points, Time On Ice, Shots.

Defence: Games Played, Points, PP Points, Shots, Time On Ice, ES Time on Ice, SH Time on Ice, QCOMP*, GA/60*

Goaltenders: Games Played, ES SV%, SV%, Minutes/Classification, Class Rank ES SV%, Class Rank SV%, WOWY, SV% points above Replacement Level.

QCOMP and GA/60 data was only available from 2007-08 and on, so those categories were ignored for the first three seasons after the Entry Draft. The goaltender categories are all variations on save percentage, including WOWY, which is simply comparing how a team did SV% wise without the goalie in question in net. As you can see on my post on replacement level goaltending, I have graded each goaltender by comparing them to the goaltenders who played similar minutes to them in each year.

In the end, the forwards are judged almost exclusively for offense, with Time On Ice being the only category that really looks at overall play, but again, I tried to keep it simple. For defense, I had to find some categories to rank them defensively, and that's why I have so many different measures and dipped into the Behind the Net stats a little to help out.

And after all of that, I had to give them a grade based on their accomplishments. I used Andrew's point categories, although I eliminated the 0.25 point level and just went with 0.5 and 1 through 6.

Points Forwards Defence Goaltenders
6 All-Star (Top 24) All-Star (Top 12) All-Star (Top 6)
5 First Line (25-90) First Pair (13-60) Above Average Starter, High End Platoon
4 Second Line (91-180) Legit Top 4 (61-105) Average Starter, Above Average Platoon
3 Third Line (181-270) Borderline Top 4 (106-150) Below Average Starter, Average Platoon, High End Backup
2 Fourth Line (271-360) Regular NHLer (151-195) Replacement Level Starter, Below Average Platoon, Average Backup
1 Replacement (361-470) Replacement (196-240) Replacement Level Platoon/Backup
0.5 Call-up (471-end) Call-up (241-end) Call-up (10 GP or less)

I divided it up the fairest I could think of, and then gave a bonus for truly elite performances: Bonus half points were given for any major trophy wins, or First or Second team All-Star selections (year end). For an idea of how this works, here's two of Corey Perry's years, his rookie season (2005-06) and his Hart Trophy season (2010-11), which was the best single season anyone had from this draft class:

Season GP (actual) G A Pts S TOI Value Pts
2005-06 56 13 12 25 98 11:34 3 (3rd Line)
2010-11 82 50 48 98 290 22:18 7.5 (All-Star, won Hart, Richard, 1st Team Selection)

In the end, I totaled all the value points earned up and gave them a ranking. Sounds simple, right?

Well, too simple. Of course.

Players drafted in 2003 were of varying age (Jan Hejda was drafted as a 25 year old), and they all lost a potential year of play with the 2004-05 NHL lockout. So, I evaluated each player based on how much value they provided to each team before they qualified for unrestricted free agency. The lockout really comes into play for the players that played in 2003-04, right after the draft, as the lockout was deemed a year of service and each team lost that year as a result of their collective greediness. I've tried to weigh this factor in, counting their actual value as well as their maximum potential value if the teams had not burned a year or two of service before the lockout.

For most of the draft class, this summer is their first year of unrestricted free agency, as they are now 27 years old. However, for players born between July 1 and September 15, 1985, they could still have one more year of service before become UFA. Shea Weber and Loui Eriksson are prime examples of these players, as they are still just 26 years old and still have one more RFA season before they gain the full rights of a UFA. For these players, I have projected their next season based on their most recent results.

So there are three value point categories: value to date, projected value until UFA, and maximum value if teams had exercised their rights over the players to their fullest. All three categories are added up for a grand total, and from there we get the re-draft.

It's as fair of a system as I could come up with.

So who goes first, and did Fleury still get picked in the first round? Find out on Monday as I start revealing the redone first round three picks at a time.*

* For presentation purposes, I'm now revealing them one pick at a time.

Introduction #1: Shea Weber