The Athletic’s Eric Duhatschek chose to engage in a thought experiment this past week, contracting the NHL from a 32-league team to a 12-team league, and the results thereof would be positive for the Red Wings, as Max Bultman noted:
Based off the question “what if the NHL never expanded beyond 12 teams?” we at The Athletic conducted a “contraction draft” to condense the teams’ talent pools and show what the average roster would look like — how absurd the talent concentration would be, but also what would be lost by keeping the league small. Each team got to protect four active players to preserve its essence, but, as will be no surprise to Red Wings’ fans, that left me at a bit of a disadvantage as their pseudo-GM. Toronto protected four superstars. My last spot was down to Filip Hronek — a rookie who hasn’t even played a full season — and Tyler Bertuzzi, a great player for the current Red Wings, and a prime example of how much of the game would be lost if the league was still so small …but one who ultimately didn’t end up drafted in our simulation.
I kept Hronek for two reasons: one, I didn’t want to protect just forwards; and two, the ultimate assessment of our teams was to be done via simulation. I was hoping Hronek’s combination of production and youth could give him a slight boost in the analytics models.
And when it came time to make some picks, my draft strategy followed a similar set of goals. I consulted with friend of The Athletic (and Analytics Knower) Prashanth Iyer before the draft and decided to prioritize elite forwards early on, load up on defense in the middle rounds and then try and find some late-round gems to fill out the bottom six. I couldn’t have been happier when, after drafting MacKinnon second overall, I got Taylor Hall and Matthew Tkachuk at the next turn. Combining them with Dylan Larkin, that gave me four borderline elite forwards to build around, with keeper Anthony Mantha and middle-round sleeper Viktor Arvidsson filling out the top six.
Bultman continues (paywall)