The NHL Entry Draft Numbers Game

NHL teams have different histories of drafting and signing college players

June 12, 2007

By Elliot Olshansky


NHL Draft Statistics 2001-2005


Elliot is's hockey editor and runs his Rink Rat hockey blog on
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The Anaheim Ducks have built a reputation for success with college hockey products, but when it comes to the NHL Entry Draft, the Stanley Cup Champions are hardly the biggest fans of the college game. has released a table displaying the performance of all 30 NHL teams in the Entry Draft from 2001-2005, with a focus on the signing of underclassmen. 


A list of college players drafted between 2001 and 2005 was compiled, and the percentage of players who signed pro contracts as underclassmen was compiled separately for each team. From there, the early signers were divided into three groups: players who played the majority of their first pro season in the NHL, those who played the majority of their first pro season in the AHL and those who played most of their first pro season at the "AA" level (the ECHL, or, in the case of Nashville Predators draftees, the UHL).




Players who were traded after being drafted are counted toward the number of college players drafted by the team that drafted them, but their signing decision was counted toward the team that controlled their rights when they signed a pro contract or completed their senior season. Players who fall into this category include Michigan defenseman Jack Johnson, who was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes, but was traded to the Los Angeles Kings (who signed him in March), and Maine forward Greg Moore, who was drafted by the Calgary Flames, but completed his college career after being traded to the New York Rangers.


Underclassmen who signed pro contracts in the spring of 2007 were counted toward a team's percentage of early signees, but only players who have been professionals for a full season were counted toward the remaining statistics. Thus, even though Jack Johnson played five games in the NHL this season, and was not assigned to the Kings' AHL affiliate (the Manchester Monarchs) for the Calder Cup Playoffs, he was not counted as an early signee who was NHL ready.


The Colorado Avalanche was the biggest drafter of college players in the 2001-05 drafts, selecting 21 players from the college ranks (this includes junior hockey players who later played college hockey). Other teams that drafted heavily from college hockey include the Los Angeles Kings (19), the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins (18 each) and the New York Rangers (17). The Detroit Red Wings drafted only three college players, with the New York Islanders (five), Montreal Canadiens (six) and Toronto Maple Leafs (six) among the other teams that drafted sparingly from college.


The Avalanche was also one of the best performers in terms of signing underclassmen. Only two of Colorado's draftees were signed before their senior years, and one was David Jones, who recently forfeited his senior year of eligibility at Dartmouth to sign with Colorado.  The other early signee - the one who was eligible to count toward the Avalanche's NHL and ECHL percentages - was Denver forward Paul Stastny, who made the Avalanche out of training camp and is a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's Rookie of the Year.


While Colorado signed a low percentage of its draftees as underclassmen, two teams - the Atlanta Thrashers and Carolina Hurricanes - did not sign any underclassmen from the 2001-05 drafts. Other teams who rarely signed underclassmen include the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars. The Stars' lone underclassman signing, Minnesota Duluth defenseman Matt Niskanen, has not played a full pro season yet and was not counted toward the NHL and ECHL categories.


The Montreal Canadiens signed half of their college draftees as underclassmen, but since the Canadiens only drafted six collegians between 2001 and 2005, the sample is small. The Tampa Bay Lightning, however, signed five of their 12 drafted collegians as underclassmen, coming in right behind the Canadiens at 45.45 percent. The Ducks signed four of their 10 college draftees as underclassmen, while the New York Rangers signed six of their 18 college prospects (17 draftees plus Greg Moore) from the 2001-05 drafts as underclassmen.


The Rangers and Lightning also had little success with signing NHL-ready collegians. Each team sent two of its early signees to the ECHL for the majority of their first pro season, translating to 33 percent for the Rangers and 40 percent for the Lightning. At the other end of the scale, the St. Louis Blues matched the Avalanche for NHL-readiness among early signees - statistically, at least - as Minnesota State forward David Backes played the majority of his first pro season with the Blues. The San Jose Sharks also enjoyed a high rate of success, as two of the team's three early signees - Denver defenseman Matt Carle and Wisconsin forward Joe Pavelski - spent most of their first pro season with the big club.


Keep checking back to all week for more analysis of the 2001-2005 NHL drafts, including comments from NHL team executives and college head coaches.