Lessons from Henrik Zetterberg

Updated: June 22, 2010, 11:33 AM ET
By Alvin Chang

Prior to the 1999 NHL draft, only a few scouts saw a Swedish forward named Henrik Zetterberg -- and many didn't even notice him. But as Detroit Red Wings scout Hakan Andersson said, "this little Zetterberg guy" always had the puck. We know the rest: He ended up being one of the biggest draft steals in recent memory.

But, for our sake, the important part isn't Zetterberg's success. It's the failure of NHL teams to value him correctly.

There are many factors that create the disparity between expected performance (relative to draft slot) and actual performance; the players creating the biggest disparity are labeled draft steals or draft busts. But, of all the contributing factors, three are easily quantifiable: height, weight and home county.

So we set out to find out how teams miss on guys like Zetterberg -- what biases NHL teams have against them, as far as physical stature and scouting exposure. We looked at the top 10 percent of draft steals, and the bottom 10 percent of draft busts, as well. And we compared those players' height, weight and home country to the rest of the field.

A preview of our results: It's not a huge surprise Zetterberg exceeded expectations.