On Talent In General
When you want to do some useful work, you need a skill to do that work. Naturally, one doesn't need a skill to tweet, but that's not a useful work to start with. But to do stuff that actually profits you a certain level of skill is absolutely necessary.
In order to have the skill, you need to learn it, and then to improve it. And there are only two basic factors that define how well you learn and improve in the skill - the talent and the effort. The bigger is your talent, the bonus from the nature, whether it's thanks to inborn memory, flexibility, or a quick eye, the less effort you need to achieve the given level of skill. And the trade-off is not even linear, there are areas, mostly creative ones, such as music or painting where no amount effort, grit and determination can bring you to a certain level of skill.
On the other hand, the bigger the talent, the less necessary the effort becomes, and at the extreme level of talent, also known as ... genius the person sometimes doesn't need practically any effort to improve at an incredible pace. This phenomena, already extremely rare, is mostly restricted to mind activities, bound by the necessity in constant exercise to maintain a high level of skill in a physical activity. Names of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in composing, Jose Raul Capablanca in chess or Robertino Loreti in music come to mind when we talk about such geniuses. Mozart was composing himself already at age five, Capablanca learned the game of chess from observation only, but won the Cuban Championship when he was twelve, and Loreti became a European super-star shortly after he was noticed singing folk tunes on the streets of Rome.
Talent And Skill In Hockey
Hockey is also a work that requires skill. It's a complex skill that consists of many abilities: skating, observation, agility, strength, endurance, wit an others. Since it's a team game, the team consists of players that excel at these abilities on a different level, and a "complete hockey player" would actually be someone who can skate like Mike Gartner, is observant like Wayne Gretzky, can shoot like Mike Bossy, has the strength of Eric Lindros, endurance of Nicklas Lidstrom, and, actually, can easily take a hit from Cam Neely (and hit like Neely, too) and hold his ground in a fight against Tie Domi, and such a "complete hockey player" would exist mostly in the computer games.
Nevertheless, of course the hockey players have different levels of ability in these dimensions of the hockey skill, and, unfortunately, today, mostly the ability to stickhandle is exclusively classified as 'skill'. No, the hockey skill is composite, and the wonderful dekes are just one aspect of it. Naturally, the most appealing, and probably the most important dimensions (we're not talking about goaltending here, but the reader can make similar projections to that position, too) are the ones directly relating to the goal scoring, and the players who excel at them are generally valued higher.
However, in the way the hockey is defined by the NHL rules and and the NHL tradition, other qualities of the skill - hitting, blocking shots, fighting are required to make the complete hockey team. In a different league, such as the USSR league was, with very limited hitting and explicitly prohibited fighting, the sportsmen would develop more into the goal-scoring oriented hockey players.
Where The Talent Comes From
Well, from mothers' wombs. But then, the players usually begin to learn the skill of hockey from a very young age, and by the age of the NHL draft eligibility, their talent is well-evaluated and the positions in the draft order give a good approximation of the order of the talent of the available players. There are few exceptions, and these mostly are the European players, especially the Eastern-European ones who do not take part in the draft, but continue to develop in their leagues, such as the KHL. But the rule that the biggest chunk of the hockey talent is available at the annual draft, and that the talent is sorted according to the actual draft picks pretty much holds.
Therefore, the teams that feature the higher draft picks in their roster are on average definitely more talented ones than the ones with the lower picks. Are they most skillful? Not necessarily. Remember, that in the first part of this essay we stated that to develop a skill, both talent and effort are required. Some players, for whatever reason, fail to put the necessary amount of effort to achieve the skill level expected for their talent, and became disappointments, or even draft busts. Some, on the other hand, put a great effort and determination, and leap beyond such expectations. The latter ones, unfortunately, are bound by that aforementioned ceiling that sometimes lack of talent produces.
A team whose top draft picks underperform on a regular basis must recognize it has a culture problem. When time after time, players, who are supposed to be easy learners and advance rapidly, stall or degenerate it means that the organization, and, pardon the pun, it's farm, has a soil problem, that even the best seeds planted in it fail to yield the desired fruit.