Each NHL Team’s Worst Draft Bust

Will Nolan Patrick be the next Ryan Getzlaf — whose style is like his own — or will he be the next Nikolai Zherdev, who was taken fourth overall the same year Getzlaf was plucked (2003) and was out of the NHL by 2011?

Wait and see, we say.

The projected no. 1 pick will need to be Atlas-like to carry around the weight of the expectations once New Jersey goes to the podium at the upcoming NHL draft and calls his name first.

Through the history of the draft there have been many successful top 10 players and just as many duds. Ditto that for middle and late round first round selections.

Who could forget (for those alive at the time) the Minnestota North Stars drafting Brian Lawton first overall in 1983. He had a sub-standard career while there were Hall of Famers picked just behind him, like Pat Lafontaine (3rd), Steve Yzerman (4th) and Cam Neely (9th).

But, the North Stars are defunct, so Lawton misses joining this list.

Here is each current NHL team’s most deplorable draft bust.

30. Anaheim Ducks – Logan MacMillan
Sometimes, the apple falls too far from the tree. Logan MacMillan, son of former NHLer Bob who 577 points in 753 NHL games, was taken 19th overall by the Ducks in 2007. Fresh off the franchise’s first Stanley Cup triumph, the team’s illuminati must have been giddy with post-title success and ignored their own advice. MacMillan would become just one of four players from that first round in 2007 never to have donned a NHL jersey. Never a big scorer in junior with the Halifax Mooseheads and Rimouski Oceanic, MacMillan did win a gold with Canada at the 2006 U-18 world championships. He would last just 30 games in Anaheim’s system with the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL before being traded to Calgary, where he languished further for another 118 games. Anaheim could have had Max Pacioretty (22nd to Montreal), Mikael Backlund (24th to Calgary) and even P.K. Subban (43rd to Montreal).

29. Arizona Coyotes – Brandon Gormley
At one time, Brandon Gormley was considered a stud defenceman in junior. He was a point per game man with the Moncton Wildcats and was a member of Canada’s bronze medal winning junior team at the 2012 IIHF championships, scoring six points in six games. In 2010 the Phoenix Coyotes had the 13th pick in the draft and called Gormley’s name, figuring that the heads-up defenceman was a steal at that position. Once he was done junior in 2012, they did the right thing by assigning him to their AHL affiliate in Portland and for the most part, Gormley played well, the only flaw being some defensive deficiency (-29 over two seasons). In 2013-14 he got his first taste of NHL action, scoring no points in five games. After that, he got in 53 more, scoring five points and logging a -10. He hasn’t played in the NHL since 2015-16 and is a free agent this year.

28. Boston Bruins – Zach Hamill
The first round of the 2007 draft turned up quite a few future superstars, including Patrick Kane (1st) and Logan Couture (9th). One pick ahead of Couture, the Boston Bruins selected high scoring Vancouver native Zach Hamill of the Everett Silvertips. He was something of a wunderkind in the WHL, starting his career with the Silvertips when he was just 15 in 2003. In his draft year, 2006-07, Hamill scored 93 points in 69 games, warranting a first round selection. After another year of junior, though, he would toil in Providence almost exclusively while the big club waited, and waited, for his scoring touch to mature. It never happened and he played only 20 games in Boston, recording four assists. He is now playing with Bjorkloven in the Swedish second tier Allsvenskan league.

27. Buffalo Sabres – David Cooper
In 1992, the first round of the entry draft was top heavy with future star NHL defencemen. The Tampa Bay Lightning made Roman Hamrlik the first overall pick and selected later were Darius Kasparaitis (5th to the Islanders), Sergei Gonchar (14th to Washington) and Jason Smith (18th to New Jersey). Buffalo owned the 11th pick and wisely — so they thought — took rugged puck-moving rearguard David Cooper of the Medicine Hat Tigers. He played four seasons in Medicine Hat and after being drafted, scored 65 points in 63 games and added 88 penalty minutes. He wouldn’t play a game with the Sabres and was eventually dealt to Toronto, where he bounced between their farm team in St. John’s, Nfld., and the Leafs. Cooper played all of 30 games in Toronto, scoring 10 points. His last stop in hockey was with Pontebba of the Italian League.

26. Calgary Flames – Leland Irving
Goalies taken in the first round of any NHL draft are a true rarity. It’s a big gamble on the part of any team, considering there are only two spots on their roster for netminders. The 2006 draft was really an oddity, as four out of 30 first rounders selected were netminders. Los Angeles grabbed Jonathan Bernier at no. 11, followed by Tampa taking Riki Helenius 15th, Washington picking Semyon Varlamov 23rd and finally Calgary opting for Leland Irving at no. 26. In his draft year, Irving was outstanding for the Everett Silvertips, posting a 1.91 goals against average and .925 save percentage. After being drafted he was nearly unbeatable in 2006-07, recording 11 shutouts in just 48 games and lowering his GAA to 1.86. He added to his growing resume a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2007 world juniors. But, Calgary never did get full value out of taking Irving in the first round, as he played 13 games, registering a 3-4-4 record, .902 save percentage and 3.25 GAA.

25. Carolina Hurricanes – Jeff Heerema
Jeff Heerema had a great rookie season with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL in 1997-98, scoring 32 goals and 40 assists, with 88 penalty minutes in 63 games. At 6’2″ the right winger had the size and enough grit to convince Carolina Hurricanes management to pick him 11th in a 1998 draft that saw Vincent Lecavalier go first overall. Heerema, selected just behind Nikolai Antropov (Toronto), played two more outstanding seasons in Sarnia before making the leap to pro with the Cincinnati Cyclones in 2000-01. He played another year in the AHL with Lowell before making his NHL debut with Carolina in 2002-03, scoring three times in 10 games. Before he could develop further, Heerema moved on to St. Louis, played 22 games (1 G, 2A) and then bounced around the minor leagues and Europe until 2012. A player the Hurricanes could have had in that first round was Alex Tanguay, who went 12th to Colorado.

24. Chicago Blackhawks – Kyle Beach
Four players taken in the first round of the 2008 draft have never played a game in the NHL which isn’t all that surprising. However, Kyle Beach was the highest rated, going 11th to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks were in rebuilding mode and had landed two studs in the previous two drafts, Jonathan Toews (third overall in 2006) and Patrick Kane (first overall in 2007). Beach was taken pretty much where he was rated, though issues with his temperament caused him to slide a little from early projections. He was a presence down the right side with the Everett Silvertips (there they are again) and Spokane Chiefs averaging a point per game, while amassing some pretty high penalty minutes (222 in 60 games during the 2007-08 season). Once he graduated, Beach would toil exclusively in the AHL with Rockford, never getting a call-up. Beach is still playing pro with Graz of the Austrian League.

23. Colorado Avalanche – Vaclav Nedorost
Of all drafts in the last 20 years, the 2000 event had near as many misses as it did hits. The Islanders chose goaltender Rick DiPietro first (spoiler alert; miss), while Detroit got yet another steal at 29th with Niklas Kronwall. Sandwiched in the middle, at no. 14, Colorado took low scoring Czech teenage centerman Vaclav Nedorost. Pretty much a checking center with decent wheels, Nedorost crossed the pond in 2001 and played 49 games with the AHL’s Hershey Bears (34 points, +12), earning a call-up to the Avs, where he scored four points in 25 games. The rest of his career in North America was split between the minors and two more stints, 42 games with Colorado in 2002-03 and 32 games with Florida (he was traded there) in 2003-04. Impact players the Avalanche could have taken were Brad Boyes (24th to Toronto) and Justin Williams (28th to Philadelphia).

22. Columbus Blue Jackets – Nikita Filatov
Nikita Filatov wasn’t the biggest first round blunder by a NHL team, but definitely one of the most noteworthy. Steven Stamkos was taken first overall in 2008, followed by four defencemen, including stars Drew Doughty (2nd to L.A.) and Alex Pietrangelo (4th to St. Louis). With the sixth pick, and in a draft loaded with defensive talent, the Columbus Blue Jackets chose speedy Russian winger Filatov. He was a scoring dynamo with CSKA Moscow and money at the world juniors three years running. All that talent, however, couldn’t get him a full-time gig in the NHL. He would play just 53 games with the Jackets and Ottawa Senators and score six goals and eight assists. Going back to those 2008 first round defencemen, Columbus could have taken Tyler Myers (12th to Buffalo), Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson (15th to Ottawa), or even John Carlson (27th to Washington).

21. Dallas Stars – Jack Campbell
Like we said earlier, taking a goalie in the first round is fairly unusual. The 2010 Taylor (Hall) vs. Tyler (Seguin) draft was one of those drafts, with exactly two netminders going in the top 30. The first was Port Huron, Michigan native Jack Campbell who came up through the U.S. National Team Development Program and starred for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. He won gold as the starter for the U.S. Team at the 2010 World Juniors, upping his draft stock considerably. Thus, the Stars used their 11th overall pick to take him. Even though he had some success in their minor league system with the Texas Stars, he played but one game and was even demoted to the ECHL. He was traded to Los Angeles and played with their AHL affiliate in 2016-17, with a one-game call-up.

20. Detroit Red Wings – Tom McCollum
The Detroit Red Wings, and GM Ken Holland by extension, have been pretty astute at finding nuggets in the late stages of the first round and even well down the list. Not so in 2008. Having just won a Stanley Cup, they automatically had the 30th pick in that draft, settling on Guelph Storm workhorse Tom McCollum. He had just played 51 games in 2007-08, winning 25 and posting four shutouts, when the Wings came calling. He graduated to the pros in 2009 and for the next seven seasons he was employed mostly at the ECHL and AHL levels, seeing action in only three games with Detroit. He ended his affiliation with the team in 2016 and is now in the Carolina Hurricanes minor league system with the Charlotte Checkers.

19. Edmonton Oilers – Nail Yakupov
There have been few no. 1 overall picks who have promised so much, and delivered so little. The Edmonton Oilers, a bad team just about every year in recent memory, have had the luxury of four first picks since 2010 and three other top 10s. After selecting Taylor Hall (2010) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011) at no. 1, the Oilers had another in 2012, taking Russian sniper Nail Yakupov. What the Oilers really needed, after drafting two premier forwards, was a defenceman and the ’12 draft was loaded with them. Edmonton could have had Ryan Murray (2nd),  Hampus Lindholm (6th), Morgan Rielly (5th) or even Jacob Trouba (9th). But they took “the best player available” and during the lockout shortened 2012-13 campaign, Yakupov was all right, scoring 31 points in 48 games, with a -4. However, Yakupov was loath to improve his defensive game and during the next three seasons he was a collective -84 and wasn’t near as productive. The Oilers were so disappointed in him they dealt him to St. Louis last year for virtually nothing.

18. Florida Panthers – Petr Taticek
The luxury of one top-10 pick is a bonus, having two is near unheard of in NHL history. But, that was the situation Florida was in during the 2002 draft, when they owned the no. 3 and no. 9 picks. With the third selection, the Panthers wisely took stud defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, who is still contributing today (with St. Louis). At no. 9, Florida thought they were shoring up depth down the middle, taking two-way center Petr Taticek, who had played with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 2001-02, scoring 63 points in 60 games, with a +22. Unfortunately, his production stayed the same in 2002-03 with the Hounds, but his plus-minus faltered to -14. Taticek never really clicked in Florida’s minor league system, played just three games and was back in the Czech Republic in 2006.

17. Los Angeles Kings – Lauri Tukonen
The 2003 entry draft was a watershed one for the NHL, with many future superstars being taken in the first round, from Marc-Andre Fleury at no. 1 all the way down to Corey Perry at no. 28. Which made the ’04 draft sort of anti-climactic. Yes, Russian phenoms Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin went one-two, but there wasn’t a whole lot of meat after. The Kings had the 11th pick and chose decent sized Finnish right winger Lauri Tukonen, who had been playing in Finland’s top league with the Blues and was a scoring star at the 2004 U-18 world championhips. He came over in 2005 and spent two seasons with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL, getting used to the North American game. He got two brief call-ups to the Kings, scored no points and after one more season in Manchester bolted for home, where he has played ever since.

16. Minnesota Wild – A.J. Thelen
That 2004 draft really did produce some duds. As seen above, Lauri Tukonen was a complete bust with Los Angeles after going 11th. Minnesota also laid an egg with their first round pick, A.J. Thelen, who was taken one spot behind Tukonen at no. 12. Thelen had a standout freshman season with the Michigan State Spartans in 2003-04, racking up 29 points in 42 games. The Wild then made him the third rearguard selected in the first round. From there, his career took way too many twists and turns. He was drummed out NCAA hockey after his sophomore season for rules infractions, then played two seasons in the WHL with Prince Albert and Vancouver, winning a Memorial Cup with the Giants in 2007. He never did sign with the Wild and ended up playing all but nine of 219 minor league games in the ECHL.

15. Montreal Canadiens – David Fischer
Montreal had some pretty good luck with draft picks in the first decade of the new century. They snagged all-world goalie Carey Price at fifth overall in 2005 and found gold in P.K. Subban (43rd overall, 2007) and Mark Streit (262nd overall, 2004). The Habs did, though, goof on at least one first round selection, he being Minnesota high school defenceman David Fischer in 2006 at no. 20. A big, stay-at-home type, he then spent four pretty good years with the University of Minnesota but never signing with the Habs. Without a contract, he attended Vancouver Canucks training camp in 2010, was cut and then played two seasons in the ECHL. In 2012 he left for Europe and has been there since.

14. Nashville Predators – Brian Finley
In their 19-year history, the Nashville Predators — under the guidance of GM David Poile — have drafted very well without ever having a no. 1 pick and just seven top-10s. However, even hockey geniuses have a brain cramp or two once in a while. In 1999, Poile and the Preds took part in their second draft, owning the sixth overall selection. This draft was marked by the back-to-back selection of the Sedin Twins by Vancouver and would be fairly milquetoast after that. The Predators called Barrie Colts goalie Brian Finley’s name at no. 6, the first netminder gone in the draft. While he had the size (6’4″) and the junior pedigree (167 games), Finley couldn’t get over the NHL hump, splitting four games between Nashville and Boston and the remainder in the AHL/ECHL. Two great goalies picked well after Finley are still active in the NHL today, Ottawa’s Craig Anderson (77th overall) and Vancouver’s Ryan Miller (138th).

13. New Jersey Devils – Adrian Foster
Pretty much everyone in the hockey world, including Central Scouting and 29 other teams, wondered who the powerful New Jersey Devils had picked at no. 28 in 2001. His name was center Adrian Foster, who had played all of 12 games in the WHL with the Saskatoon Blades up to that point — due mainly to recovering from a catastrophic hip injury. Foster would then increase his number of games in the WHL in 2001-02 to a meager 27 contest before making the jump to New Jersey’s affiliate in Albany in 2002-03. He played just nine games that season and another 113 over the next five seasons before his relationship with Jersey soured and he left for the Houston Aeros. Foster never played a NHL game and wore sweaters in five different leagues before retiring in 2013.

12. New York Islanders – Rick DiPietro
If a NHL franchise is going to pick a goalie no. 1 overall, they should do their homework and ensure they get a keeper. Before 2000, just one goalie in the history of the entry draft had been taken first overall, Michel Plasse b the Montreal Canadiens way back in 1968. Mike Milbury was GM of the Islanders in 2000 and his reputation was already kind of mess due to ownership meddling and his own lame-brained transactions. Thus, with Roberto Luongo already in the fold, Milbury thought it a good idea to make Boston University netminder Rick DiPietro the first goaltender in 32 years to go no. 1. In due course, Milbury traded Luongo away, along with Olli Jokinen for spare parts like Mark Parrish. DiPietro did play 319 games in the NHL but spent so much time on the DL his nickname was “Rickety.” And that contract he signed for 15 years and $67.5 million in 2006 still haunts the team to this day.

11. New York Rangers – Alexei Cherepanov
The Rangers, who have had one top 10 pick in 12 years, have had to draft wisely. In 2007, the Blueshirts had just six total picks, including the 17th overall. And knowing how uncertain drafting Russian players can be, they decided on Alexei Cherepanov, the only one to be taken in the first round. The lanky right winger had been a solid player in in the Russian league with Omsk and a fixture on two medal-winning Team Russia squads at consecutive world junior championships in 2007 and 2008. Sadly, before he could ever lace them up in the NHL, Cherepanov passed away while playing in a Russian league game in October 2008. What makes Cherepanov a draft blunder wasn’t for his talent, but for the fact no one in Russia — or with the New York Rangers for that matter — knew he had heart muscle hypertrophy, which is fatal if not detected. With all the medicine available to pro clubs, especially in pre-draft activity, this was an oversight with tragic consequences.

10. Ottawa Senators – Alexandre Daigle
All show and no go. That is the book on Alexandre Daigle, one of the worst first overall picks in the history of the draft. Put it this way, his career was doomed the minute he donned a campy nurse’s outfit for a photo shoot early in his career. Considered a “can’t miss prospect” while with the Victoriaville Tigres in the early 90s, Daigle recorded 247 points in 119 games over two seasons. The Senators were blinded by his speed and scoring upside and went full “tank”, losing games seemingly at will to land the first overall pick in 1993 to get him. That chicanery caused the NHL to implement a lottery system to try and keep it from happening again. While Daigle did play 301 games with Ottawa and score 172 points, he was a defensive liability who was -137. For a first overall pick, he can be considered as nothing but an utter bust.

9. Philadelphia Flyers – Maxime Ouellet
Here’s that first round goalie theme again. In one of their worst overall drafts in team history, the Flyers took Quebec Remparts goalie Maxime Ouellet 22nd overall and the first netminder called that year. In all, Flyers draft picks that year, six of them, played a grand total of 13 NHL games, 12 by Ouellet. Considering his junior achievements like back-to-back bronze medals as Team Canada’s goalie at the world junior championships in 1999 and 2000, Ouellet probably did merit a first round nod. But, he never did find footing at the NHL or even AHL level, and was gone from North American pro hockey in 2006. Ouellet, like Brian Finley at no. 6, was yet another first round netminder blunder that year.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins – Angelo Esposito
The Penguins sure had a solid run of first round picks in the middle part of the last decade, getting future Stanley Cup centerpieces in Marc-Andre Fleury (2003), Evgeni Malkin (2004), Sidney Crosby (2005) and Jordan Staal (2006). It all came to a resounding halt in 2007, when we think management was thinking they were getting Phil, and not Angelo, Esposito. Pittsburgh drafted Esposito (no relation to Phil or Tony) 20th overall in 2007, after he scored 79 points in 60 games with the Quebec Remparts. He also scored the game-winning goal at the 2009 world juniors against Sweden. But, the comparisons to Guy Lafleur proved too much for him and Esposito never played one single game in the NHL.

7. San Jose Sharks – Teemu Riihijarvi
He had a great and recognizable first name, which we think may have clouded the judgement of San Jose Sharks scouts and executives leading up to the 1995 draft. In a year they had 12 picks and stole goalies and fellow Finnish products Vesa Toskala (90th overall) and Miikka Kiprusoff (116th overall), the Sharks really whiffed on 12th overall selection Teemu Riihijarvi. At 6’6″, the Sharks were probably thinking that his big body would be useful down the wing, but Riihijarvi was not possessed of a good shot and wasn’t overly physical. The low scoring and not overly fast native of Espoo never came to North America, staying in the Finnish league until 2006.

6. St. Louis Blues – Marek Schwarz
A Schwarz is definitely not to be confused with a Schwartz. In 2004, the St. Louis Blues committed the cardinal sin in our eyes, selecting a goalie in the first round who wasn’t North American. They picked Sparta Praha’s Marek Schwarz 17th overall, when Cory Schneider, especially, was still on the board. They made up for that Schwarz blunder years later, selecting current useful player Jaden Schwartz 14th overall in 2010. The Czech Schwarz wasn’t overly big at 5’11” but did get exposure as a starter for Team Czech Republic at U-18 and U-20 events, winning bronze in 2005. He was never able to snag a no. 1 job with the Blues, though, playing in just six games and posting a 4.32 GAA and .809 save percentage. He was gone from North American pro hockey in 2009.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning – Alexander Svitov
The Tampa Bay Lightning could be excused for falling in love with man-child Alexander Svitov prior to the 2001 entry draft. At 6’3″ and 245 lbs., Svitov was a two-way terror with Omsk of the Russian league in 2000-01, scoring 15 points in 39 games playing against men and sitting in the sin bin for 115 minutes. His robust play earned him a spot on Team Russia at the 2001 and 2002 world juniors too, where he was the most penalized player and won a gold in 2002. The Lightning brought him over in 2002 and he was OK his first season, scoring eight points, a -4 and having 58 penalty minutes in 63 games. However, for a high first round pick and being a big man, he fizzled out quickly, playing in 114 more games before hightailing it back to Russia. Had the Bolts been a little more prescient, they could have picked Mikko Koivu, who went sixth to Minnesota.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs – Tyler Biggs
Before recent drafts yielded first round picks Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly, the Leafs pretty much got it wrong for many years before that. The 2011 draft was a huge low point, when the Buds squandered two first round picks on Stuart Percy (25th overall) and Tyler Biggs (22nd overall). Percy has at least played 12 games at the NHL level, while Biggs is gone from the Maple Leafs system and is in the ECHL as a free agent. In the Brian Burke “truculence” era, Biggs was square in Burke’s sights at the ’11 event, coming in at 6’2″ and 220 lbs. Unfortunately, Biggs was a bust in the AHL with the Marlies and was eventually sent to the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears in 2015 before being included in the Phil Kessel trade to Pittsburgh.

3. Vancouver Canucks – Patrick White
Canucks management in 2007 can’t pat themselves on the back for any of the picks they made that year. Of the six, including first rounder Patrick White, none has played a game in the NHL to this point. White was a finalist for the prestigious Minnesota Mr. Hockey as a high schooler during the 2006-07 season and was picked 25th overall by the Vancouver Canucks. The two-way pivot went on to play four seasons at the University of Minnesota, never signing with the big club and eventually being traded to the San Jose Sharks, who he never played for either. Of the players still available after White, there was still David Perron (26th to St. Louis) and defenceman Brendan Smith (27th to Detroit and now with the New York Rangers).

2. Washington Capitals – Sasha Pokulok
The Caps were probably still hung over from the big draft in 2004 that netted them Alex Ovechkin (first overall) and then defencemen Jeff Schultz (27th) and Mike Green (29th). No other reason, then, needed to be given for hacking up a fur ball on Sasha Pokulok at no. 14 in 2005. A huge (6’5″, 228 lbs.) defenceman at Cornell University, Pokulok also had decent hands (23 points in 53 games with Big Red). Despite that gargantuan frame, Pokulok couldn’t stick it out with Washington, playing a majority of games in the ECHL and not the AHL to further his development. He went over to Europe briefly and up until the 2015-16 season was playing low level semi-pro in his home province of Quebec. One player they could have drafted that year was T.J. Oshie, who coincidentally is a top six forward for them now.

1. Winnipeg Jets – Alex Bourret
The new new Winnipeg Jets haven’t blundered at the draft yet, but their predecessors, the Atlanta Thrashers did at least once. In 2005, they had their lowest pick in years at no. 16 and thought it wise to get some beef down the wings to complement guys like Ilya Kovalchuk. The beef came in the form of Lewiston MAINEiacs bruiser and goal scorer Alex Bourret. In his draft year, the Drummondville native scored 31 goals and 55 assists and added 172 penalty minutes. The 5’10”, 205 lb. right winger improved on his stats after being drafted by Atlanta and was promoted to the AHL in 2006. He was strictly below average in the Thrashers system, and was recently playing with Jonquiere of the low-level LNAH in Quebec.

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