Discussion

Risk of drafting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Updated: April 27, 2011, 3:59 PM ET
By Alvin Chang

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is 6-foot-1 and 164 pounds -- which is fine for a cashier at Wendy's, but not the potential No. 1 overall pick.

In that respect, Nugent-Hopkins is a true outlier. So when NHL scouts want to know whether his toughness, skill and growth potential offset his current stature, they can't look at past trends -- the sample size for underweight, high-skilled players is tiny.

But former Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock thinks it's a non-issue. He recently told the Edmonton Journal that scouts are paying too much attention to Nugent-Hopkins' slight frame: "Remember what they said about (Wayne) Gretzky? He was the toughest player in the league because he always had the puck. Weight in a player isn't relevant to me. Look at [Patrick] Kane in Chicago. He plays at 165 pounds and nobody gets a piece of him and he's always got the puck."

At first, it seems like Hitchcock is guilty of only using anecdotal evidence and cherry-picking two highly successful players. In most situations, he should be looking at the entire sample size, which in this case would be all highly-skilled, underweight players. But, like we said, the sample size is tiny and so anecdotal evidence is greatly valuable because it shows what is possible.

So just how rare are these underweight players? And how much of an outlier is Nugent-Hopkins? Well, since 1990, only 10 players lighter than 180 pounds have been selected in the top 10, which is less than five percent. There has been only one player who was less than 170 pounds -- and he was a goalie:

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