Potato Picks

Can a diligent potato out-draft NHL General Managers?


Back in 2014, a Canucks blogger tried a wild new strategy to the NHL Entry Draft – they would take the highest scoring available Major Junior player. The point of the narrow-sighted strategy was to see if a literal inanimate object could perform better at the draft than a team's front office with one simple rule. The results were definitive, a literal child with this strategy could outperform the Canucks. Thus was born the legend of the Potato GM (the selected inanimate object), a theory that having a literal potato with a sticky note with this rule in place of a General Manager would be more successful.


The obvious tenet to this unbelievably proven theory is the fallacy of overthinking. Fans and analysts alike often remark the overcomplicated thought process that GMs seemingly take as oppose to trusting the obvious results in front of them.


Today, let us expose a few more GMs who would fare worse than a potato.


Instead of using complicated algorithms to assign to the potato, we will outline a couple rules for the potato to follow:


1. You only get to make the first pick in the team’s draft

2. Your only reference is Central Scouting’s Final Pre-Draft European skater rankings

3. You pick the highest player on their list still available


We are using Central Scouting because, if you were to use one consolidated source to avoid over-thinking, Central Scouting is the place. We are also limiting our poor potato to only players who played in Europe in their draft year, just as an extra handicap to further embarrass GMs.


We will be using the draft years of 2010 through 2015 for the purposes of this experiment. Now without further ado…


Arizona Coyotes

In my humble opinion, Potato had better picks in four out of the six years in question:


Year Actual Pick Potato Pick

2010 Brandon Gormley Vladamir Tarasenko

2011 Connor Murphy Dmitri Jaskin

2012 Henrik Samuelsson Sebastian Collberg

2013 Max Domi Alex Wennberg

2014 Brandon Perlini Jakub Vrana

2015 Dylan Strome Mikko Rantanen


One or two top six forwards, and two solid albeit uninspiring players selected by the actual Coyotes are just overmatched by two bonafide superstars, an emerging high end sniper, and two capable NHLers. We could have missed on every single pick except for Rantanen and Tarasenko and still made out better than the Coyotes.


Our potato rules reigned supreme against, admittedly, an easy opponent. So let's level up to a team that has one of the best prospect pool in the league...


Montreal Canadiens

SIX OUT OF SIX, A PERFECT SCORE. POTATO GM WITH THE SHUTOUT OF THE MONTREAL CANADIENS.


Year Actual Pick Potato Pick

2010 Jarred Tinordi Evgeny Kuznetsov

2011 Nathan Beaulieu Dmitri Jaskin

2012 Alex Galchenyuk Filip Forsberg

2013 Michael McCarron Robert Hagg

2014 Nikita Scherbak Adrian Kempe

2015 Noah Juulsen Gabriel Carlsson


Not as much star power as the Coyotes, but we have, again, six surefire NHL players. Forsberg and Kuznetsov are elite scorers, and are supported by a great cast including hard-hitting Hagg and up-and-comer defenceman Carlsson. Jaskin makes his second appearance, a phenomenon you'll notice throughout as, well, Central Scouting rankings don't change across teams, so the same players will be available to different teams.


Having defeated one great farm system, let us tackle a team who was recently dubbed as the second-best team to be set up for future success (per the Athletic's draft guru Corey Pronman).


New Jersey Devils

Potato GM makes hay, securing five better picks out of the six, with the sixth really being a wash.


Year Actual Pick Potato Pick

2010 Jon Merrill Calle Jarnkrok

2011 Adam Larsson Mika Zibanejad

2012 Stefan Matteau Sebastian Collberg

2013 Steven Santini Artturi Lehkonen

2014 John Quennville Marcus Pettersson

2015 Pavel Zacha Mikko Rantanen


With some low draft positions, Potato GM really had his work cut out for him. Thanks to our rules, it was straight forward. Despite Central Scouting's love for bust Collberg, we still made out with two stars in Zibanejad and Rantanen, and great support pieces in Pettersson, Lehkonen, and Jarnkrok.


With one final case study, our triumphant potato faces it's toughest test yet... a recent conference finalist.


New York Islanders

Faring the best of our case studies, they lose a superstar but gain six bonafide NHL players.


Year Actual Pick Potato Pick

2010 Nino Neiderreiter Mikael Granlund

2011 Ryan Strome Mika Zibanejad

2012 Griffin Reinhart Filip Forsberg

2013 Ryan Pulock Andre Burakovsky

2014 Michael Dal Colle Kasperi Kapanen

2015 Matt Barzal Gabriel Carlsson


Okay, this one was close. I included this one to demonstrate that our potato isn't always going to do better than the GM. But even here, I'd argue he went 3-1-2. The sting of losing Barzal quickly subsides with the inclusions of Kapanen, Zibanejad, and Forsberg. In 2010 and 2013, the results are close, and in fact I think I'd lean potato in 2010 and Islanders in 2013. Nevertheless, this is still a victory for Potato GM, resulting in a perfect 4-0 record through our case studies.


Conclusion


So do GMs overthink at the draft table? Without a doubt. By using our simple rule of following Central Scouting's Euro rankings, potato emerged victorious on all four occasions, even with the handicap of trimming the prospect pool down to less than half (as most draft eligible prospects play in North America).


Taking shots on prospects projected to go lower than popular conscious can still work out. But as we've learned, if you have a known quantity available to you on the draft floor, chances are that its one of the best picks you can make. If GMs can't rationalize this concept... maybe it's time we see more vegetables in the front office.


Draft Stats courtesy of Central Scouting, Quantum Hockey, and Hockey Reference.

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