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Does order matter? An empirical analysis of NHL draft decisions

Peter Tingling (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada)
Kamal Masri (Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey, Canada)
Matthew Martell (Octothorpe Software Corporation, Vancouver, Canada)

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Article publication date: 19 July 2011




The purpose of this paper is to examine the effect of order on the quality of outcomes when making sequential decisions and test the widely‐held belief that choosing earlier is preferable and results in better outcomes than choosing later.


Quantitative performance from the sequence of athletic decisions made by the teams of the National Hockey League (NHL) at the annual amateur entry draft is longitudinally analyzed using a participation threshold of 160 games.


Analysis indicates that earlier choice does result in outcomes that are significantly and substantially better but that this effect is muted beyond approximately the first 100 decisions, after which there is no discernable advantage.

Research limitations/implications

The dichotomous performance measure excludes more qualitative or stratified assessments of performance and does not include context of the individual decision choices. The results may not generalize beyond the National Hockey League or other human resource situations.

Practical implications

The research suggests that sequential decision processes are suboptimal in the presence of large amounts of information and choice. Recommendations include reallocating the amount of confirmatory attention spent on highly‐ranked candidates.


The paper exposes limitations to the widely‐held belief that choosing earlier is preferable to choosing later.



Tingling, P., Masri, K. and Martell, M. (2011), "Does order matter? An empirical analysis of NHL draft decisions", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 155-171.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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