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Research Shows it is Not Risky for the Red Wings to Draft a Goalie in First Round

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Swedish goalie Jesper Wallstedt could be selected in the top 10 picks of the upcoming NHL draft
The Detroit Red Wings could choose Swedish star Jesper Wallstadt with the No. 6 pick in the NHL draft

San Jose Hockey Now writer Sheng Peng offers research that refutes the notion that drafting a goalie in the first round constitutes risky behavior.

According to Peng, since the draft began in 1963, 14.9% of skaters drafted in the first round have played 1,000 or more games and 13.2% of goalies drafted in the first round played 600 or more games. Based on his calculations, Peng considers 600 games played as the goalie equivalent to skaters playing 1,000.

The perception has long been that the bust factor is higher for goalies. People remember Brian Finley (6th by Predators in 1999), not Marty Brodeur (20th by the Devils in 1990).

When Peng looked at players drafted in the first 10 picks,  30% of skaters played 1,000 or more and only 19% of goalies played 600 or more. In determining percentages, Peng only used inactive players. He notes if he included older goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price, the percentage would be 26% for goalies.

The appearance of four first round goalies (Andrei Vasilevskiy, Carey Price, Semyon Varlamov and Marc-Andre Fleury) in this year’s semifinal also supports the notion that drafting them in the first round has rewards.

Should the Sharks or Red Wings select Wallstedt?

Peng did his research because the San Jose Sharks could draft highly-regarded Swedish goalie prospect Jesper Wallstadt at No. 7.

This research is relevant to Red Wings fans because some mock drafts have the Red Wings drafting Wallstedt at No. 6. The Red Wings don’t have a blue chip goalie among their top prospects. The last time the Red Wings drafted a goalie in the first round was 2008 when Tom McCollum was taken at No. 30. He played only three games for the Red Wings. This past season, he played in the Austrian league. Before McCollum, the last time the Red Wings drafted a goalie in the first round was Terry Richardson in 1973. He played 19 games for the Red Wings.

For those who think the standard of 1,000 games played for skaters and 600 for goalies is too lofty, Peng broke it down for 500 games for skaters and 300 for goalies. But that still didn’t show any reason for GMs to be reluctant to draft a goalie in the first round

None of this probably matters to the Red Wings. General manager Steve Yzerman drafted Vasilevskiy in the first round when he was in Tampa Bay. A review of his draft history shows he views the rankings slightly different than his counterparts. He’s not fearful of going against the grain with his draft choices.

If he thinks Wallstedt is the best available player, he will take him. If he doesn’t, he won’t. He won’t take Wallstedt just because the team doesn’t have a premium prospect at that position.

Peng also did research on whether it’s easier to find a goalie in the later rounds. 

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