Dec 28, 2010; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke (left) and senior vice-president of hockey operations David Nonis (right) look on from the rafters against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Air Canada Centre. The Hurricanes beat the Maple Leafs 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Burke’s Draft History With The Maple Leafs


Brian Burke has now been at the helm for four NHL Drafts as the President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Although it is too soon to grade the results of his draft picks, I took some time to break down his selections to see if I can identify any patterns in his draft philosophy.

When Burke joined the Maple Leafs organization back in November of 2008 he gave the Toronto media a sound bite that has been repeated more times than you can imagine.  The legendary quote of “we require, as a team, proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence” will be his legacy if he can’t get the organization turned around.  Well based on the way he has constructed his NHL roster he hasn’t exactly followed this model and his draft history doesn’t really fit the bill either.

In the four drafts, Burke has selected a total of 29 players.  Of the 29 players, 25 were at least 6’ tall while 10 players were 6’2” or taller.  The average player height in the NHL is just less than 6’2”.  Now height isn’t a requirement for a player to be truculent or belligerent, but larger players typically fit those roles.  If you look at penalty minutes as a better indicator, only two of the players he drafted had more than 100 penalty minutes in their draft year (Brad Ross and Ryan Rupert), although Sam Carrick and Jamie Devane were both very close at 96 and 92 penalty minutes respectively.

Brian Burke caught a lot of flack last year by Canadian icon Don Cherry for the lack of players from Ontario on the Maple Leafs roster.  Burke, an American, was basically being accused of having a prejudice against players from Ontario, however, his draft history suggests otherwise. The table below gives a breakdown of Burke’s draft day selections by country of birth and league.

BIRTHPLACE

LEAGUE

CAN

15

51.7%

OHL

13

44.8%

US

9

31.0%

WHL

3

10.3%

SWE

5

17.2%

SWE

5

17.2%

NCAA

1

3.4%

US – HS

3

10.3%

USNDP

3

10.3%

Almost half of Burke’s draft picks have come from the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with 11 of the 13 players being from Ontario (two Americans).  Considering that Canadians have accounted for 46% of all NHL draft picks over the past four years, Burke’s 11 OHL draft selections is much higher than the average across the league. In fact, Burke is above league averages for drafting Canadian, American and Swedish born players.  This should be fairly intuitive since he has not drafted players from any other country.  Maybe when Burke said he would have taken Morgan Reilly first overall last year he was serious, since he has not drafted a Russian player in his four drafts with the Maple Leafs.

The next table gives Burke’s picks by position.  Of note, he has only drafted one goalie (Garrett Sparks) in the four drafts.  This should not be too surprising.  Goalies have often been thought of as the most difficult position to predict future success and take the longest time to develop. Instead Burke has gone the route of college and European free agents to stock his goalie cupboard.  Since joining the Maple Leafs Burke has signed Europeans Jonas Gustavsson, Jussi Rynnas and Mark Owuya, as well as, college free agent Ben Scrivens.

POSITION
F

17

58.6%

D

11

37.9%

G

1

3.4%

 

One interesting thing that I noticed was that Burke used one late round draft pick in each of the four drafts on an overage player (a player not in his first year of draft eligibility).  This is something that Mike Gillis and the Vancouver Canucks have done with late round draft picks using the idea from Moneyball that you can better predict the future success of older players.  Seeing as players drafted in rounds four to seven all have a similar probability of NHL success, getting more data on a player might give them an edge.  I could not find any detailed information on overage players in the NHL draft to determine if this is true, but this is something I plan investigating in the future.

The only things that I think we can conclude about Burke’s draft philosophy based on the last four years is that he does not like to draft goalies and that he prefers players from Canada, USA and Sweden.  In a future article I will look back at Burke’s draft results over all his years as an NHL General Manager to see if these conclusions hold true over his entire career or if this is a philosophy he has developed more recently.

Follow Tony on Twitter: @TheDailyBites

 

 

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