“I was also fortunate in one other area. Today’s system of drafting 18-year olds wasn’t around in 1973. I was 22 years old before my pro career began to blossom and if I’d been drafted at 18, I don’t think I’d be in a position to write this book today.”
-Lanny McDonald, from LANNY.
I remember reading that quote many years ago and thinking it was probably wrong. Good organizations adapt to change and if the draft rules changed then scouts were going to have to project players earlier and then teams were going to have to be patient.
Is that true? Is that how it’s gone?
I think so. McDonald came to the attention of Canadian hockey fans right away, as he was on a “Kid Line” in Toronto and gave the entire MLG energy with some monster hits as a rookie. His first two seasons (stop me if this sounds familiar) saw him struggle with the pace of the game and for the most part he was a complimentary player. By the time he was 23 years old he had “blossomed” as he wrote above, scoring 93 points in 75-76.
Just looking at various careers through the ages that is a pretty typical developmental curve. Some get it together sooner (Rick MacLeish), others take a little longer (Reggie Leach, Rick Middleton) and still others never make the grade. Marc Pouliot is 22 this fall, this is the window where we look for him to join Shawn Horcoff and Jarret Stoll or slide back like Jani Rita. He’s already cleared the “Fata” line, which we can use much like baseball uses the Mendoza line for hitters who never clear the most basic professional hurdle and usually reflect addle-minded procurement (certainly this would hold true in the case of Fata and his original drafting team).
When Fata was 22 years old, he went 63gp, 7-12-19 for two different NHL teams. He was drafted 6th overall and would represent one of the very few players taken in the top 10 over the last 38 summers who would be able to make the claim in McDonald’s book and be correct.
We can then make the statement that “with few exceptions, players who represent the very best of a specific draft year can exceed the Fata line by the time they reach age 22.”
If you agree, then Lanny McDonald is suffering from false modesty or is simply as addled as the organization he has been most closely associated with since 1981.