The All-time Biggest Draft Busts in NHL History
Draft day in the NHL has always been looked upon as a day of optimism by even the worst teams in the NHL. Every GM, coach, and player knows of a team that completely turned around its fortunes by drafting well.
The Buffalo Sabres became a perennial playoff team drafting Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin, Danny Gare, and Jim Schonfeld. The New York Islanders won four Stanley Cups by drafting Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, and MIke Bossy. The Pittsburgh Penguins were on the verge of throwing in the towel when Mario Lemieux and Jamir Jagr came along.
The Detroit Red Wings drafted Steve Yzerman and Niklas Lindstrom to fuel their cup surge and help them become the team of the decade.
But how about the draft choices that did not fare well for various reasons. Some had the talent but played for horrible teams, while others just did not seem able to ever dominate the NHL the way they did juniors or college.
For every success story, there is a unsuccessful story.
Jacques Richard—Atlanta, Buffalo, Quebec
Playing hockey in Quebec with a name like Richard could be a advantage as well as a disadvantage.
For Jacques Richard, it was an advantage while he played junior hockey for the Quebec Remparts. Richard was a scoring sensation on the same team that produced Montreal Canadien superstar Guy Lafleur. In fact, in his final junior season Richard scored 71 goals and 89 assists for 160 points.
In juniors, Jacques had the same type of press clippings as Lafluer. Possessing a wide array of weapons including a howitzer type shot and a scoring touch few others possessed, he was considered a can't miss prospect.
Unfortunately, Richard wasn't drafted by the Canadiens in Quebec; he went to the Atlanta Flames and struggled through a few seasons before being traded to Bufffalo and then Quebec.
While in Quebec, Richard scored over 50 goals and 103 points teaming up with the Statsny brothers. After his successful season, Richard was removed from the Statsny line and his impressive scoring stats disappeared with his removal.
Richard never achieved the greatness predicted for him.
He spent seven years in prison for drug smuggling and tragically died on his 50th birthday.
Bryan Fogarty—Montreal, Quebec
Teams have been looking for the next Bobby Orr since the Bruins signed Orr to a contract and he went on to become the best defenseman and, some argue, the best player ever to lace a pair of skates.
Bryan Fogarty's story was similar; he had great offensive gifts, breaking defenseman, scoring records, and winning awards and praise in juniors.
After scoring 47 goals and 108 assists in juniors he was a first round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens. Many felt he could not miss.
But ultimately, he did.
Unsuccessfully battling alcohol addiction and other problems, Fogarty ruined the chances his considerable talent gave him.
Despite his great skill and promise, Fogarty died in a hotel room in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina never achieving his considerable promise.
Alexandre Daigle— Ottawa, Minnesota
Alexande Daigle played hockey in Victoriaville, Quebec. The same city where both NHL greats Jean Beliveau and Gilbert Perreault also played.
Like both of the French Canadien hall of famers, most felt Daigle could not miss.
Drafted No. 1 overall, ahead of Chris Pronger and Paul Kariya and winning the Canadien Junior Rookie of The Year Award, no one could understand Alexandre's less than mediocre success in the NHL.
His best season was in 1997 with Ottawa where he scored 26 goals. Despite having all the skills, Alexandre never got on track in the NHL.
Patrik Stefan—Atlanta, Dallas
The Atlanta Thrashers drafted Patrik Stefan first overall, believing he would provide the stellar performance a new franchise needed to achieve steady footing in the NHL.
A Czech, Stefan was watched with curiosity. Many were waiting for him to show the skill that resulted in him being drafted No. 1. Stefan never lived up to his billing and was finally traded.
Patrik was also widely criticized for missing a goal on an open net breakaway.
Doug Wickenheiser—Montreal, St. Louis
Doug Wickenheiser was drafted first overall by Montreal in 79-80, after a fabulous junior campaign that saw him score 89 goals and 81 assists for 170 points.
Wickenheiser was indeed a superstar in the junior ranks playing for Regina.
When Doug arrived in the NHL, his reception was not quite what he expected. Montreal fans were expecting a Jean Beliveau style center, and when Wickenheiser did not deliver, they turned on him quickly. Many Quebec fans were angry that he was drafted rather than Quebec native Denis Savard.
He was soon traded to St. Louis but never achieved the star status many expected of him.
Wickenheiser died at age 37 of lung and brain cancer.
Greg Joly—Washington, Detroit
Those who saw Greg Joly play juniors will swear he should have been a "can't miss" in the NHL.
Joly, who reminded many hockey experts of a less physical Brad Park, had all the tools to make a name for himself in the pro ranks. Joly had a wonderful mixture of skating, shooting, and passing skills that might have distinguished him had he had a chance to develop.
Unfortunately, Greg Joly was saddled with veteran responsibilities on the worst defense in the NHL.
Washington soon lost confidence in Joly and traded him to Detroit for Bryan Watson. Joly played better in Detroit but was never able to capture the confidence that won him the Memorial Cup MVP award.
Joly now works in the sports insurance industry in upstate New York.
Brian Lawton was drafted first overall by Minnesota.
An exciting American player, many felt he would emerge as a superstar in the NHL. Alas, that was not to be.
Lawton's best season produced 21 goals in the 1986-87 season. Despite Lawton's "average' performance as a player; after retirement, he became a player agent.
Later, Lawton accepted a position as GM and Executive Vice President of the NHL Tampa Bay Lightning. Lawton is now in charge of finding and drafting talented performers to the NHL.
Pat Falloon—Philadelphia, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Edmonton
Pat Falloon was drafted second overall by the San Jose Sharks. Pat was drafted right after Eric Lindros.
After scoring 64 goals and 138 points and winning the Memorial Cup MVP, most thought Pat would step right into the NHL.
Falloon's best NHL season saw him produce 22 goals and 25 assists. After bouncing around in Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Philadelphia, and Edmonton, Pat left the NHL and played several years in the CHL with Foxwarren in Manitoba. He also did a stint in Switzerland with Davos.
Danny Geoffrion arrived in the NHL with an unbelievable pedigree. He was the son of "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, the Montreal Canadien Hall of Famer and the grandson of Howie Morenz, an early era Montreal great.
Fans pictured in their minds visions of Danny streaking down the right side and letting loose a cannon shot just like his father.
Unfortunately, that vision never became a reality. After a superb junior career with Cornwall, Geoffrion never lived up to expectation.
He was soon traded to Winnipeg where he had one 20-goal season prior to vanishing from the NHL.
Robin Sadler—Montreal ( Never Played in NHL)
Robin Sadler had a sterling career in juniors, scoring 32 goals and 61 assists in his final season of juniors with the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Sadler's talents were sought after by the NHL and WHA. After being drafted in the first round by Montreal, Sadler participated in training camp but soon left complaining about the pressure and expectations.
Sadler never played a single game in the NHL. Instead, he played in the European League for Austria and Holland, averaging over a point per game.
Sadler later returned to Canada, where he is said to be earning $250.00 per week working for a delivery service.