When a National Hockey League general manager is asked why he drafted a player, nearly every time he will respond with, "because he was the best talent available." For the most part one wouldn't question that response. It's only logical thinking.
Nevertheless, the statistics shown below don't lie. Some teams show clear tendencies of drafting out of specific leagues. And it does seem unlikely that there is a consistent coincidence of the top player being available out of the same league.
It seems there could be a handful of different reasons why some teams have appeared to target specific junior leagues for the future.
The pecking order of the scouts has to play a role in a team's draft list. If a team's head scout or one of their highly respected scouts is adamant about certain players in the area that he covers or is located in, it seems likely he will have more say in whom his club selects than scouts with less seniority.
Contacts also play a major role at the draft table. If a team's general manager or scout has a close relationship with a coach or executive of a junior team, they should be able to find out inside information on a player's work ethic, attitude, and dedication. Therefore, this would give them an inside track on those players. This extra information could sway a team into selecting a player they know inside and out rather than a similar player they do not know as much about.
Here is a look at all 30 NHL teams' history on the draft floor over the past five entry drafts.
Since the Montreal Canadiens organization have made it known that they want to keep their French culture alive in their front office and dressing room, it was surprising to see they have only drafted five players out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in the last five years.
Montreal instead looked south of the border for the future. They drafted 14 players out of United States hockey programs. Some of these players do have French backgrounds, though. Montreals' first-round pick in 2009, Louis Leblanc, grew up in Quebec. He decided to play in the United States Hockey League before later joining Harvard University.
Despite CBC hockey analyst Don Cherry criticizing the Toronto Maple Leafs and especially their general manager Brian Burke for not drafting enough players out of the Ontario Hockey League, only two teams, the Los Angeles Kings and New York Islanders, have drafted more players out of the OHL than Toronto in the past five years.
To add insult to injury to Cherry's inaccurate judgement of Burke not paying enough attention to Ontario, Toronto have drafted more players out of the OHL in Burke's three drafts with the club than the three drafts before Burke was with the team. Burke has drafted nine players out of the OHL. Only one player was selected out of Ontario's major junior hockey league in the previous three drafts.
The Ottawa Senators, Ontario's other team, have only drafted four players out of the OHL. Only three teams drafted fewer players out of the O.
The Senators have instead looked to Sweden for their next set of superstars. They drafted a league high eight players out of various Swedish leagues, including all-star defenceman Erik Karlsson, who was originally spotted playing for Frolunda's junior club.
The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers looked to their own backyard for young talent. They led the way with WHL draft selections. Calgary drafted 14; Edmonton 11.
The Flames most recent West draft pick, Sven Bartschi, looks very promising. The Switzerland native shined in his five-game stint in Calgary this year, notching three goals. He hasn't been that bad in Portland either. Bartschi scored an outstanding 33 goals and 94 points in 47 games with the Winterhawks this season.
Oilers fans can't complain about director of scouting Stu MacGregor sticking to the WHL. After all, Edmonton did find rookie sensation Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 1st overall pick in 2011, in Red Deer, and 30-goal sniper Jordan Eberle, 22nd overall in 2008, in Regina.
The Dallas Stars drafted just as many players out of the Canadian Junior Hockey League as the OHL and QMJHL combined. The Stars drafted five players out of the CJHL, including star forward Jamie Benn. The three-time 20-goal scorer was drafted 129th overall in 2007 out of the BCHL, where he suited up for the Victoria Grizzlies.
It is tough to say whether these stats will coincide with the upcoming 2012 NHL entry draft. Sometimes teams' draft selections are far from predictable.
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn't draft anyone out of the Dub for six straight years, but that didn't stop them from drafting two WHL prospects in last year's draft. They selected Winterhawks defender Joe Morrow 23rd overall and Spokane Chiefs centre Dominik Uher 144th overall.
Last year Dallas drafted Victoriaville Tigres blueliner Troy Vance 135th overall out of the QMJHL. The previous four drafts they didn't select anyone out of the Q.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen