With the 2012 NHL playoffs now a thing of the past, focus has shifted to the NHL's entry draft, set to take place just 10 days from now in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Between June 22nd and 23rd, over 200 players will be selected by the NHL's 30 teams over the course of seven rounds.
It's almost an absolute certainty that some of those picks will never end up playing a game at the professional level.
Such is to be expected when you're chosen in the sixth or seventh rounds. When you're selected by a team in the first 15 or 20 overall picks in the draft, however, you are not only expected to one day crack the lineup of an NHL team, but to be an everyday contributor as well.
Over the years, some picks haven't performed the way that the organization that drafted them thought they would.
Here we take look at the biggest draft busts since the NHL lockout.
The reason Angelo Esposito is not higher on this list is twofold.
First, Esposito was only taken with the 20th overall selection in 2007 by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Secondly, the expectations on Esposito had been decreasing with each year that he played junior hockey.
In 2005-2006, Esposito put himself on the map by scoring an incredible 98 points in 57 games with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL at the age of just 16.
This put the NHL and its followers on notice, letting them know another sensational player may be entering the draft and, in turn, the NHL in a few years time.
His next two seasons playing in Quebec, however, saw Esposito tally just 79 and 69 points.
After a brief one-game stint with Chicago of the AHL, Esposito was sent back to play yet another season of junior hockey, this time only managing 42 points in 35 games as man among boys.
For his AHL career, Esposito has played in 124 games, scoring just 38 points.
He even spent three games playing in the ECHL this season.
At one point, Esposito was billed as the next great player that would certainly go first overall. Unfortunately, he's turned out to be the one of the biggest draft busts of the last seven years.
Scott Glennie was drafted with the eighth overall pick in 2009 by the Dallas Stars.
I'm personally not a fan of labeling guys as young as Glennie as busts very often (you won't see any other players drafted in 2009, 2010 or 2011 on this list), but Glennie is an exception.
Glennie is now 21 years old and has struggled mightily at the professional level.
While choosing to finish up his junior career may have seemed like the right choice in order to be as prepared as possible for his professional career, it doesn't appear as though that decision is paying off.
In fact, he's the only player taken in the top 10 of the 2009 draft that has not played at least 50 games at the NHL level (he's played only one).
He's also only managed to post 37 points in 74 career AHL contests. Not exactly what you'd expect from an eighth overall pick.
While Glennie has more than enough time to turn things around, at this point he's been one of the biggest busts since the lockout season.
With the 11th overall selection in 2008, the Chicago Blackhawks drafted Kelowna, B.C., native Kyle Beach.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, the 22-year-old left-winger has still not dressed up for a regular-season NHL game.
After playing his first full season in the AHL last year, tallying 36 points in 71 games while posting the worst player rating for Rockford at minus-24, Beach started out the 2011-2012 campaign with the Rockford Icehogs once again, marking 10 points in 19 games before suffering a dislocated shoulder that ended his season.
The future for the young and talented Beach is now somewhat in question.
The Blackhawks prospect may never see any NHL action.
For both his performance and injury, Beach has found his way onto this list.
The 15th overall pick in the 2007 entry draft was Calgary Hitmen defenseman Alex Plante.
Now 23 years old, Plante has played for three seasons in the AHL and has only managed to suit up 10 times for the Edmonton Oilers in that span.
While his player rating has improved every season he's played in the AHL, Plante has taken longer than Edmonton had hoped for.
Whether or not he can crack the lineup for Edmonton in 2012-2013 and become an impact player remains to be seen.
For now, he's one of the biggest draft busts of the last several years.
Zach Hamill is yet another early first-round selection that has had a lot of trouble finding a way to translate his success in junior hockey into success at the professional level.
After putting up 93 points in just 69 games with the Everett Silvertips in 2006-2007, the Boston Bruins chose him with the eighth overall pick in that year's draft.
Now nearly 24 years old, Hamill has only appeared in 20 career NHL games, accumulating just four points.
He's now played in just about four full seasons for Providence, and has 139 points in 256 AHL games.
For that reason, Zach Hamill is one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory.
At 6'5" and 230 pounds, Sasha Pokulok seemed like he could be a menacing presence in the NHL for years to come.
That's why, in 2005, the Washington Capitals used the 14th overall selection of the draft to add the big defenseman from Vaud-Dorion, Quebec.
Pokulok, though, would never see NHL ice time, spending a few years bouncing around the minor leagues, before heading back to Europe to play in Germany and Austria.
Pokulok played 68 career games in the AHL, tallying 15 points and posting a player rating of plus-9.
During that span, Pokulok also spent a good deal of time in the ECHL (one level below the AHL), where he was able to amass 65 points and a player rating of plus-27 over a 93-game stretch.
Chosen with the pick right ahead of Sasha Pokulok (13th overall in 2005), Marek Zagrapan has a very similar story to Pokulok.
After playing two seasons of junior hockey, followed by three more in the AHL, Zagrapan realized he was just not cut out to play in the NHL and has since gone back to Europe, playing two seasons in the KHL, one year in the Czech league and, most recently, a year in Finland's top hockey league.
During his time in North America, the Slovakian center was never able to reach the 50-point plateau in any of his three seasons spent playing in the AHL.
Far and away the top goalie draft bust since the lockout season, Riku Helenius has played a grand total of seven minutes in the NHL (though he is the owner of a sparkling 1.000 save percentage).
Selected with the 15th overall pick in 2006, the 24-year-old netminder from Palkane, Finland, is yet another player who has made their way back to Europe after a disastrous North American career.
After being drafted in 2006, Helenius' performance was quite underwhelming. He was never able to play in more than 25 games in any season, whether it be in the ECHL, AHL or NHL.
Helenius spent two seasons in the Swedish Elite League, before returning home to play in Finland this past season.
The good news for the Columbus Blue Jackets is that at least Derick Brassard has played the vast majority of games at the NHL level for the past three seasons.
The bad news?
Brassard was supposed to be a top-tier first-line center when he was selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2006 entry draft, ahead of players like Michael Grabner, Claude Giroux and Milan Lucic.
Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, Brassard has never produced more than 47 points in a single season and doesn't seem like he will be anything more than a career second- or third-line center.
Anyone else remember all the talk surrounding Nikita Filatov leading up to the 2008 draft?
Yeah, he's another early first-round pick that makes you wonder if the Columbus Blue Jackets are the unluckiest team in the league, terrible at drafting, or a little bit of both.
Filatov was the third sixth overall pick in four years that seems to have gone to waste for the Blue Jackets, seeing as he is now part of the Ottawa Senators organization (though he was loaned out this season to CSKA Moscow of the KHL, after splitting 24 games this year between Ottawa and Binghamton of the AHL).
Filatov has only managed to suit up in 53 NHL games over a four-year span, collecting just 14 points.
If the first thought that popped into your mind when reading the name James Sheppard was "who?" then you're probably not alone.
The 28-year-old spent most of his time with the Minnesota Wild as a bottom-six center, racking up just 49 points in 224 career NHL games.
Now, those numbers wouldn't be so bad had Mr. Sheppard been selected in the latter rounds of a draft.
Such is not the case.
James Sheppard was actually the ninth overall pick in 2006.
Needless to say, when a team drafts a 6'1", 200-pound center, they are probably expecting a little bit more than 0.22 points per game.
Sheppard is now part of the San Jose Sharks organization and played four games this year for their AHL affiliate in Worcester, Massachusetts.
After being drafted sixth overall in 2005 by the Columbus Blue Jackets (I'll bet the Blue Jackets never want to see a sixth overall pick fall into their hands again), Gilbert Brule has bounced from organization to organization and between the NHL and AHL since he was drafted in 2005.
As of now, Brule is a member of the Phoenix Coyotes organization, putting up 14 points in 33 games in 2011-2012.
While Brule has found a way to stick in the NHL, he's far from being the top-tier forward that the Blue Jackets expected to get when they drafted him.
Jack Skille is yet another top-10 pick that has never found his footing at the professional level.
After being drafted seventh overall in 2005 by the Chicago Blackhawks, the 25-year-old right-winger is already well on his way to becoming a bottom-six forward journeyman.
After a few seasons of disappointment with Chicago's organization, Skille was shipped to Florida, where he's appeared in 59 games, compiling 12 points.
On the whole, he's played in 138 career games, scoring just 37 points.
Drafted fourth overall in 2005, Benoit Pouliot may be the only player from that draft that has been more disappointing than the aforementioned Brule.
Even though Pouliot never put up more than 65 points in a season of junior hockey, the Minnesota Wild saw plenty of promise in the Alfred, Ontario, native and chose him anyway.
Pouliot has gone on to play in 257 career games, barely reaching the 100-point mark.
Pouliot can now be found grinding games out on the Boston Bruins' third and fourth lines.
That brings us to the biggest NHL draft bust since the lockout season of 2004-2005...
Thomas Hickey is the highest overall selection since the lockout yet to play in an NHL regular-season game.
Drafted fourth overall in 2007, Hickey was supposed to be one Los Angeles' defensemen of the future.
Instead, Hickey has been stuck in the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs ever since he finished playing junior hockey.
While other players chosen with such a high pick may have had disappointing careers, at least they've had a taste of NHL hockey.
Hickey, on the other hand, is proving to be the worst draft pick of the post-lockout era.
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