Saturday, June 27, 2015

What does BPA mean?

I don't think anybody wants their team to not pick BPA at the draft. No executive, as far as I've seen, says they're not going BPA. But what does BPA mean?

The easy answer is "best player available." But that's not how teams should pick, necessarily.

Look at the NBA Draft and this is pretty clear. The best player in college basketball this year was Frank Kaminsky. He went 9th overall. Eight players (well, nine, probably, to include Justise Winslow), most of whom were also playing in college, were judged to be better pro basketball prospects, even though they are worse players now.

While the NBA Draft has that extra factor of (year-plus) age difference, in hockey, it's the same general idea--best prospect available. Nic Petan was a top player in the CHL but only went in the second round (and while that's a rare case, it's not unprecedented). Anthony DeAngelo was CHL defenseman of the year this past season--in a redraft, I highly doubt he moves up much, even though he's the best D available. What you want is the best prospect available, not the best player available. Both BPA ideas contrast with drafting for need, but the former is better--that should be self-evident. It also should be obvious that they're not the same. (Keep in mind we're still allowing for teams to make errors in assessing BPA.)

The Caps in Ilya Samsonov may have drafted the best player available--AGM Ross Mahoney said that's their philosophy--but given that skaters are about twice as likely as goalies to pan out in the first couple of rounds (going off memory, something like 70% vs 35% to play 100 games), it seems unlikely that he was also the best prospect available.

(Hell, even the history of late first skaters vs the top goalie in each draft doesn't look so hot for the netminders, if you think about it. Bernier, Varlamov, and Price are the last three top goalie picks who really panned out, as far as I can recall, although Vasilevskiy may be getting there.)

It's also possible they thought he was the best prospect available and equate best player with best prospect, but that strikes me as a rookie mistake--the numbers say favor forwards slightly over defenseman, and both heavily over goalies, early on.

I guess the bright side here is that if he develops rapidly, the Caps could be saving $5m or more by moving Holtby and going with Samsonov and Grubauer in the final years of Backstrom's deal (which has five years remaining). In a vacuum, though, I find it hard to believe any team is so good at drafting goalies that picking one in the first round makes sense, and projecting your situation a few years down the road is always tricky business. I'm not a fan of this pick.

I hope I'm wrong.