About a week ago, I was talking with a friend about 2013 eligible draft prospect Darnell Nurse. He's huge and athletic and while I'm not a pro-scout, I'd guess that he's a guy with an awfully high ceiling. I suggested that some team that barely missed the playoffs was going to be awfully lucky to draft him and that I wouldn't even be surprised if he snuck into the top-10 on draft day. It was at that point that my friend suggested that taking a defenseman in the top-10 was a risky proposition.
We shot some names back and forth of forwards and defense who had worked out, where star players came from, Cam Barker, &c. &c. Are your odds better of getting a good player in the first round if you take a forward? At what point, if any, are defensemen generally safer picks? We couldn't really come to any reasonable conclusions without doing the work.
So with that, I set about putting together a spreadsheet with 10 years of draft data (1999 to 2008) where each pick in the first three rounds was categorized as an All-Star, an Impact Player, a Replaceable Player, or a Bust. For now, I've held fast to defining an All-Star strictly (must have actually been an All-Star) but I do think this analysis would benefit from a little more flexibility in this regard (ex. Hamonic and Subban are not All-Stars but Justin Williams and Alexander Frolov are.) An Impact Player is a top-6 forward or a top-4 defenseman, a Replaceable Player would be a guy who has predominantly been an NHLer but generally in a support role, and a Bust would be a guy who didn't have a significant NHL career.