There are 165 defenders who were drafte in the first round of the NHL entry draft who ended up playing 500 NHL games.
Here is how the 165 "successful" defenders breakdown:
- 35% were basically full time NHL players right off the bat, playing a full season in their Draft+1 ("D+1") season. This encompasses everyone from Drew Doughty to Jim Benning.
- 14% Did not play in their D+1 but played a basically a full NHL season in their D+2. This includes everyone from Erik Karlsson to Michael del Zotto.
- 9% Played some games in their D+1 and then were basically full time after that. Examples are Scott Niedermayer and Rostislsav Klesla.
- 10% Did not play in their D+1, played some games in D+2, and were full-time by D+3 . Darryl Sydor, Karl Alzner.
- 5% Played a partial season in their D+1 and their D+2 and then were full-time D+3. Say hello, Alex Pietrangelo and Drake Berehowsky.
- 4% Skipped D1 and got just a partial season in both their D2 and D3. What else do Ken Daneyko and John Van Boxmeer have in common?
- 9% Did not play through D2 but played some of their D3. This is "Nick Boynton/Barret Jackman"
- 8% Did not play in either their D+1 or D+2 but got a full D+3. This is the Ryan Suter-Dion Phaneuf group.
- 5% of our players did not get any games through their D+3 and still made it to 500 NHL games. These are mostly NCAA guys and Jeff Beukeboom.
- Finally, there is one dude who got a partial season in all of his D1, D2 and D3. His name is David Shaw.
While I have not yet evaluated forwards, it seems to me that the evidence supporting the wide-spread belief that "defensemen take longer" is pretty weak, as roughly 50% of the eventual successful players got at least 1 game in their D+1 and basically 70% of them got some games by their D+2.
Here is a pie chart.