Every NHL Team's Biggest Draft Bust
The NHL draft is the silver lining of a disappointing NHL season.
Teams that found themselves in the basement of the league finally get their moment once the Stanley Cup has been won and the season has come to a close. The first glorious moment of the following season belongs to the team with the No. 1 pick, and many other underachievers see an opportunity to jump start the club by investing in a future superstar.
But the best laid plans of mice and men...
Unfortunately for the teams with the best draft picks, there are no guarantees in the NHL draft. Even a unanimous top choice can fall flat on his face, leaving the team with nothing to show from its abysmal season.
Each club has suffered a draft bust in some form or another, and many of the fans embrace the disappointing history while simultaneously praying it won't happen again with this year's choice.
Anaheim Ducks: Alexei Smirnov (2000)
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With the 12th pick in the 2000 draft, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim went after a big centerman to add to their roster. They landed Alexei Smirnov.
Smirnov would stick around in Russia to further his development before leaping across the pond. Over two seasons, Smirnov managed to play in only 52 games and put up a disappointing six points in his tenure. He has played in Russia ever since.
Boston Bruins: Lars Jonsson (2000)
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In the same year that the Mighty Ducks went for Smirnov, the Boston Bruins picked defenseman Lars Jonsson five picks ahead in the seventh spot.
Jonsson never actually made it to Boston, as the team eventually chose a compensatory pick in the 2006 draft in exchange for releasing Jonsson, all as a result of new rules in the 2005 CBA. He would play eight games for the Flyers and 84 in the AHL before returning to Sweden for good.
Buffalo Sabres: Joel Savage (1988)
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The picture pretty much sums up Savage's role with the Sabres after Buffalo selected him 13th overall in 1988: nonexistent.
Savage proved to be a point-every-third-game player, racking up one assist in three career games. Whatever the Sabres saw in him was not meant to be.
Calgary Flames: Daniel Tkaczuk (1997)
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The Flames took Tkaczuk with the No. 6 pick in 1997, and he seemed to be on his away to a productive NHL career. He led Team Canada in scoring at the World Juniors in 1999 and was an AHL All-Rookie All-Star the next season.
The Flames called him up, but he only lasted 19 games, putting up 11 points, and never broke through to the NHL level again.
Carolina Hurricanes: Jeff Heerema (1998)
The 'Canes took Heerema, the cousin of future Hurricanes Jordan and Eric Staal, with the 11th pick in the 1998 NHL entry draft.
The big winger worked his way up to the NHL and looked promising when he scored three goals in his first ten games. He found himself in St. Louis the next season, where he only managed to put up three points in 22 games.
Heerema was sent down and never returned to the NHL.
Chicago Blackhawks: Bruce Cassidy (1983)
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The Chicago Blackhawks have a fairly successful history of developing their draft picks, so their franchise bust comes from a little lower in the first round.
Bruce Cassidy was the 18th pick in the '83 draft, a defenseman with a big upside who made his NHL debut at age 19.
Cassidy very well could have panned out to be another success story, but three knee surgeries would ultimately derail his career and limit him to just 36 NHL games over the course of five seasons. Eventually, the 'Hawks had to pull the plug.
Quebec Nordiques: Daniel Dore (1988)
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The Nordiques thought they had a winner when they selected Daniel Dore fifth overall in the 1988 draft.
Dore would remain in juniors for a year before bursting onto the NHL scene in 1989, tallying a whopping...five points in 16 games. He was sent back to juniors, only to return the following season.
For one game.
Dore has since played in the AHL, the ECHL, the CoHL and (not kidding) Roller Hockey International.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Alexandre Picard (2004)
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Not to be confused with the defenseman drafted in 2003, this Alexandre Picard is a forward drafted eighth overall in 2004, making him a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
And like all members of the Columbus Blue Jackets, his story ends in disappointment. The Jackets would give him plenty of opportunity to make it on the big stage, as he played 67 games over the course of five seasons.
What does he have to show for it?
He would be better off pretending he's the other Alexandre Picard.
Dallas Stars: Brian Lawton (1983)
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Swinging and missing on a tenth overall pick certainly stings, but it happens. A No. 1, on the other hand, is supposed to be a sure thing.
Brian Lawton was selected first overall by the North Stars in '83 and had a decent NHL career, notching 266 points in over 400 career games.
Those numbers are very underwhelming for a top pick, but the kicker is who came after him: Pat LaFontaine, Tom Barrasso, Cam Neely and Steve Yzerman all found themselves following Lawton to the stage at the draft.
Imagine how different hockey would be if the North Stars had gone for Stevie Y instead.
Detroit Red Wings: Fred Williams (1976)
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The Red Wings took Williams fourth overall in 1976, and he would move right into the NHL the following season. Unfortunately for Williams, it would be his only season in the NHL.
He managed only seven points in 44 games with Detroit and was ultimately sent down, where he continued to struggle. He would bounce around independent leagues before finishing his career with the Maine Mariners of the AHL.
Edmonton Oilers: Jason Bonsignore (1994)
The Edmonton Oilers figured they would get big mileage out of their two first-round picks in 1994. With the No. 6 pick, the Oilers took Ryan Smyth, who would go on to play over 700 games with Edmonton.
With the No. 4 pick, the team chose center Jason Bonsignore, who wouldn't fare quite as well.
Bonsignore played in 79 NHL games for the Oilers and Lightning before being bounced from the NHL. To give you an idea of the trajectory of his career, it is worth noting that Bonsignore has played hockey for 16 different teams in six different leagues and three different countries.
If only every draft bust came with a free Ryan Smyth.
Florida Panthers: Petr Taticek (2002)
In 2002, the Panthers went with a Czech center named Petr Taticek with the ninth pick in the draft.
If the team was looking to acquire a lanky Euro with awesome hair and the ability to play his way out of the NHL after appearing in only three games, mission accomplished.
Los Angeles Kings: Lauri Tukonen (2004)
Lauri Tukonen went to the LA Kings 11th overall in 2004, and the team had high hopes for the winger who had scored at a point-per-game clip in his international juniors career.
Unfortunately, the Kings shouldn't have gotten their hopes up. Tukonen never managed to impress much in North America, and he only played five pointless (in every sense of the word) games in the NHL.
For what it's worth, Tukonen has had some success in his native Finland.
Minnesota Wild: A.J. Thelen (2004)
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The Minnesota Wild took A.J. Thelen 11th overall in 2004, hoping that the well-built defenseman would break through to the NHL and bulk up the blue line.
Not only did Thelen never play a game in the NHL, but he only lasted ten games in the minor leagues. Not exactly the result you expect from a guy taken ahead of Drew Stafford, Travis Zajac and Cory Schneider.
Montreal Canadiens: Terry Ryan (1995)
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The Montreal Canadiens have been the team to beat for most of hockey history, but the Habs last won a Stanley Cup in 1993. Nothing personifies Montreal's sudden lack of bite better than this pathetic No. 8 draft pick.
Terry Ryan looks happy to join the Montreal family in this picture from the draft. Imagine how ecstatic he must have been each time he stepped out on the ice in a Habs uniform!
All eight times.
Apparently he was so excited that he couldn't even keep it together long enough to register a single point in his NHL career.
Nashville Predators: Brian Finley (1999)
The Nashville Predators have been a very savvy drafting team in their short history, so it was hard to find a bigger bust than Brian Finley.
Granted, Finley is a goaltender, and even goaltenders chosen with the No. 6 pick are known to be anything but a sure thing. Still, Finley qualifies as Nashville's biggest disappointment, as the promising goaltender managed only six appearances, posting an 0-2 record.
Methinks the Preds will take Pekka Rinne as a consolation prize.
New Jersey Devils: Neil Brady (1986)
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With the third pick in the 1986 draft, the Devils got their hands on a center who could put up points as easily as he racked up penalty minutes in Neil Brady.
When Brady failed to pan out, managing only three points in 29 games, the Devils traded him to the expansion Ottawa Senators for future considerations, the hockey equivalent of saying, "You take him."
Brady did manage to score the Senators' first goal in franchise history and put up 24 points in 55 games, but the resurgence didn't last long, and Brady would wander the IHL until 2001.
New York Islanders: Scott Scissons (1990)
Looking to recapture the glory days of the Isles' dynasty, New York took center Scott Scissons sixth overall in 1990, passing on riskier players like Martin Brodeur and Derian Hatcher.
Scissons would only manage to play in parts of three seasons with the Islanders, and even that statement is misleading in that it overstates Scissons' role.
More accurately, Scissons played one NHL game in 1990-91, one NHL game in 1992-93 and one NHL game in 1993-94.
Martin Brodeur has 117 more shutouts than Scott Scissons has games played in his career.
New York Rangers: Pavel Brendl (1999)
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Pavel Brendl was selected fourth overall in 1999, and his seemingly limitless potential helped bring Eric Lindros to the New York Rangers when the Flyers traded Lindros for Brendl and two other players.
If you think the Rangers got hosed by giving up three players to get the fragile Lindros, don't worry. The highly-touted Brendl notched 13 points in 50 games as a Flyer and was out of the league by 2006-07. He's only 31 years old and is currently playing in Finland.
Ottawa Senators: Alexandre Daigle (1993)
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Ah, the poster boy.
The fact is, Daigle had a lot more NHL success than most other players on this list. Hell, he may have played in more games than almost all of them put together. Because 327 career points is nothing to scoff at.
But when you're the top pick in the draft and you comment that you're glad to go No. 1 because no one remembers No. 2, you'd sure as hell better live up to all the hype.
Daigle did not.
And that No. 2?
Does the name Chris Pronger ring a bell?
Philadelphia Flyers: Ryan Sittler (1992)
Some players are busts because they never live up to their talent, like Daigle and Brendl (both former Flyers).
But sadder cases are found when players with potential can't overcome injuries to get their careers kickstarted. Philly's Ryan Sittler was drafted seventh overall in 1992 and continued his college career before heading to the minors.
Along the way, he would suffer a series of injuries and never made it to the NHL before retirement.
Phoenix Coyotes: Kyle Turris (2007)
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The Phoenix Coyotes have had highly successful drafts over the years, and this pick pushes the definition of "bust."
Right now, Kyle Turris is playing for the Senators and is moving along at a point-per-game pace. If he keeps up this resurgence, he will eventually leave this category of "draft bust."
However, Turris went third overall in 2007 behind Patrick Kane and James van Riemsdyk. A No. 3 pick should not have failed to break 30 points in a season at this point in his NHL career.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Craig Hillier (1996)
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Like Phoenix, the cunning Penguins have had plenty of success in drafts over the years, so the case of Craig Hillier is hardly a dramatic fall from grace.
As a goalie drafted late in the first round (23rd overall), it should come as no surprise that Hillier didn't meet his expectations. Developing goalies is difficult, and picks in the 20s tend not to be impact players to begin with.
Hillier never played an NHL game.
San Jose Sharks: Teemu Riihijarvi (1995)
With the 12th pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, the San Jose Sharks surprised everyone by picking Teemu Riihijarvi.
What surprised no one is that Riihijarvi never played an NHL game.
I'm assuming that the Sharks didn't bother to draft Marc Savard with that pick because Savard's name was too hard to pronounce.
But, in San Jose's defense, way down in the fifth round of the draft, they brought another Finn on board: Miikka Kiprusoff.
St. Louis Blues: Keith Osborne (1987)
The St. Louis Blues took Keith Osborne with the 12th pick in the 1987 NHL draft, and that might as well have been the last time Osborne's name was announced.
He played only five games with St. Louis and 11 with Tampa Bay before disappearing into hockey obscurity forever.
And yet, he has a trading card.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Alexander Svitov (2001)
The Lightning had big dreams for Svitov when they used a No. 3 pick to acquire him in 2001. The big, strong centerman seemed he would fit nicely into Tampa's roster.
Of course, disappointment lay ahead. Svitov managed only 11 points in 74 games with Tampa, and the team would go on to win the Stanley Cup a few months after trading Svitov to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
For what it's worth, the 264th pick in that draft, P.A. Parenteau, put up 67 points last season.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Brandon Convery (1992)
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Brandon Convery went eighth overall to the Leafs in 1992, and he would begin playing for the team in the 1995-96 season. The undersized centerman was equally underwhelming, managing only 50 games and 17 points in two seasons before the Leafs cut him loose.
He would play parts of three more seasons with the Canucks and Kings but only played in 22 games. Convery eventually played in Europe and hung up the skates for good in 2004.
Vancouver Canucks: Jason Herter (1989)
Jason Herter went sixth overall to the Canucks in 1989, ahead of players like Olaf Kolzig, Adam Foote, Sergei Fedorov and Nicklas Lidstrom.
Herter never made it to the NHL, while those four players had magnificent careers, and Lidstrom retired only last season. The Canucks did make out in the end though, as they drafted Russian Rocket Pavel Bure in the sixth round.
Washington Capitals: Alexandre Volchkov (1996)
In Volchkov's defense, he is only one member of one of the most underwhelming draft classes in NHL history, especially when you look at the top of the list.
Ahead of Volchkov, who was picked fourth overall, were J.P. Dumont, Andrei Zyuzin and, at first overall, Chris Phillips. Nothing against Phillips, but he doesn't strike you as "first overall" material.
Still, here's the difference between Phillips and Volchkov: Phillips missed as many NHL games between 2006-07 and 2011-12 as Volchkov played in his whole NHL career: three.
Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Stefan (1999)
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Much like Alexandre Daigle and Brian Lawton, Patrik Stefan carries a heavier cross than most of these busts: He was a first overall pick. Directly behind Stefan were the Sedin twins, who have combined for over 1,400 points to date.
The top selection in the 1999 NHL entry draft would score only 64 goals in 455 career games. It easily could have been 65 if not for this infamous empty-net moment.