I've seen quite a few discussions lately about whether or not the Wings should target a defenseman with the 6th OA pick. While it seems like the consensus is that people prefer a defenseman, there seems to be a disconnect whether or not it's crucial that they do so, with some people being perfectly fine with picking a forward.
I've long been under the impression that it would be absolutely crucial for them to pick a defenseman with the 6th pick, because I've always thought that top pairing defensemen in general take a longer time to develop. Thus it would make sense to go heavier on defense in the first years of a rebuild to avoid having your top forward's best years wasted by a defense that's still in development. I've also been under the impression that top-pairing defensemen are a lot harder to find past the first round, but this has also always been a discussion it seems because some claim that a lot of the best defensemen in the league weren't drafted in the 1st round while a large portion of the best forwards in the NHL were picked in the 1st round.
So i decided to take a look from 2010-2015 to see how many top-pairing defensemen were drafted in later rounds compared to the first round, and how long these defensemen took to develop into first pairing defensemen (the definition of a first pairing defenseman is quite subjective though, so i picked whoever i personally seemed to fit the description). The years you see listed aren't how long until they made the nhl, but rather how long the took to develop into 1st pairing defensemen (also subjective).
This list is quite subjective, let me know if i missed someone or if someone i've listed don't belong let me know.
faulk (4 years)
Klingberg (4 years)
Manson (6 years)
Parayko (3 years)
Severson (4 years)
Ghost (3 years)
Slavin (4 years)
Montour (3 years)
(jury still out on this one)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Fowler (stepped in first season)
Klefbom (5 years)
Hamilton (3 years)
Larsson (3 years)
Dumba (3-4 years depending on who you ask)
Lindholm (1 year)
Rielly (2 years)
Maatta (1-2 years, then injuries derailed him)
Trouba (4 years)
Morrisey (3-4 years)
Ristolainen (2 years)
Jones (2-3 years)
Nurse (4 years)
Ekblad (stepped in first season)
Werenski (1 year)
Provorov (1 year)
(2016 had Mcavoy)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Outside of 2012 it seems like top pairing defensemen are hard to come by in the later rounds, and considering also that there's a much higher chance that your 1st round pick will actually develop into a 1st pairing defenseman.
It would be interesting to look further back, between 2000-2010 perhaps. Because i believe we would see more top-pairing defensemen picked in the later rounds in that time period (only speculation here), considering you have guys like Letang, Keith, Josi, Vlasic, Burns, Yandle etc etc picked in later rounds. That has yet to be seen though, but i do believe that scouts are getting better at evaluating defensemen and therefore we see less and less top-pairing defensemen slip past the 1st round.
Another thing to consider are also the age of our yound forwards next season Larkin will turn 22 (soon to hit prime), Mantha 24, AA 24, Bertuzzi 24. Which is also a worrying aspect, and the possibility of seeing all of these guys have their prime's wasted on a obsolete team gets higher the longer it takes to fix the defense. Perhaps a solution to the problem would be to package Mantha and AA for a defenseman (Bertuzzi is more a role forward anyway), given that they go after forwards with the earlier picks.
All in all i understand that this team has a lot of holes to fill before even consider the play-offs, and there's certainly a need of wingers as well as centers.. And even goalies. But i for one really believe that it's crucial to pick a defenseman with the first pick this year.
I understand that this thread and the information isn't perfect, to paint the full picture you'd have to look at forwards as well and see how long they take to develop and what the chances are to find top-line forwards in the 1st round compared to the later rounds. I'll considering doing a follow up on forwards and maybe look further back on defensemen if there's any sort of interest for this thread.