Patrik Stefan was drafted number one overall in 1999 by Atlanta
The National Hockey League entry draft has been in existence in one form or another since 1963, but it has not always been one of the focal points of each calender year for the league and its teams.
Until the draft became as we know it today, each NHL team sponsored junior teams in Canada. The NHL clubs would scour rinks for young players, sign them to contracts and place them on the sponsored teams. These sponsored junior teams served as developmental clubs for the NHL.
Known as the NHL amateur draft at its inception, the event was held for organizations to claim the rights to unsigned players who did not play for sponsored junior "A" teams.
The draft has evolved as junior teams are no longer sponsored by the NHL organizations and it has become a highly scientific process with teams placing strong emphases on scouting, testing and interviewing players in the days and weeks leading up to the NHL entry draft.
Over the 48-year history of the draft, there have been some major surprises where players who were not projected to be anything more than fourth liners have gone on to become stars. One such player would be Detroit Red Wing Pavel Datsyuk. The Russian forward was drafted in the sixth round (171st overall) of the 1998 entry draft and is widely regarded as one of the top five players on the planet in 2011.
The entry draft has also yielded some major disappointments.
It is time to introduce the National Hockey League's top seven players who were selected first overall in their respective draft years who would go on to be topics of discussion for all the wrong reasons. For whatever reasons, they are NHL draft busts.
The Detroit Red Wings had the No. 1 selection in the first round of the 1964 amateur draft. The organization chose right wing Claude Gauthier.
According to Wikipedia, Gauthier was a right wing with a midget team in Rosemont, Quebec at the time of his being drafted.
The website www.hockeydb.com shows that Gauthier played for the St. Jerome Alouettes in the 1964-1965 season. Unfortunately, his scoring stats are not available from his midget hockey days or beyond.
Despite being the top player chosen in 1964, Gauthier never played a game with the Red Wings nor any other team in the NHL.
In 1965, the New York Rangers held the first overall pick in the NHL amateur draft. The Rangers chose Andre Veilleux who was a forward with the Montreal Rangers Junior B team.
That year, 11 players were drafted. Only two made it to the National Hockey League. Veilleux was not one of them. He never played one minute in the NHL.
Ironically, with the tenth pick of the day, the Rangers chose Michel Parizeau who was a teammate of Veilleux's with the Montreal Rangers. Parizeau saw action with the St. Louis Blues and the Philadelphia Flyers. Parizeau played in a total of 58 NHL games registering three goals and 14 assists before enjoying a nine year career in the World Hockey Association.
The NHL's 1967 amateur draft saw 18 players chosen in a total of three rounds. The league's "Great Expansion" from the original six teams into a league of 12 was on the horizon and with it came a slew of new National Hockey League players.
To the dismay of many puck purists, a team from Southern California held the first overall pick in the '67 draft and with it the Los Angeles Kings chose defenseman Rick Pagnutti from Garson-Falconridge of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association.
After his junior career, Pagnutti bounced around the minor leagues for 11 seasons including six in the American Hockey League (1967-69, 1972-76). In the AHL, he played in a total of 396 games, scored 53 goals and 176 assists for 229 points but was never called up to the National Hockey League.
In the 1973 Amateur Draft, the New York Islanders landed the top defenseman in junior hockey when they selected Denis Potvin from the Ottawa 67's first overall. Potvin was a dynamic, offensive defenseman who would go on to become captain of the Islanders and lead them to four consecutive Stanley Cup championships in the early 1980s.
In 1974, the Washington Capitals used the top overall pick on another highly talented, offensive defenseman, Greg Joly of the Regina Pats. Billed as a can't miss prospect, the Capitals expected Joly to step in and lead them to the Stanley Cup. After all, he had enjoyed an outstanding junior career with the Pats. He scored 92 points on 21 goals and 71 assists in his final year of junior and surely would do the same for Washington.
Joly made the big club right out of junior, playing in 44 games and promptly scored one goal and seven assists. Not terrible for an NHL rookie coming right out of junior but those numbers were not what the Capitals organization nor their fans expected.
Joly would play 365 career NHL games between 1974 to 1986 with the Capitals and Detroit. Due to a series of injuries, Joly never played an entire season with either organization. He retired from the Red Wings after playing only two games in the 1985-86 season.
The blue liner from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, who had shown so much promise in junior hockey that he was the No. 1 overall pick in 1974 by not only the Capitals but also the World Hockey Association's Phoenix Roadrunners would never be able to match his offensive prowess in the NHL. After putting up those 92 points in his last season of junior, he scored a total of 97 points during his entire NHL career. Perhaps worse than that, he left the NHL with a career plus/minus statistic of a mind numbing minus-70.
The 1992-1993 Ottawa Senators won a grand total of 10 games. They lost 70. The team was in dire need of some new blood that would turn the organization around and put it on the road to the Stanley Cup.
The Senators held the first pick in the 1993 NHL entry draft and used it to select junior scoring sensation Alexandre Daigle.
In the two previous seasons with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Victoriaville Tigres, Daigle had played in 119 games and amassed 80 goals and 167 assists for a total of 247 points. Daigle, believed by Senators fans, was destined for stardom.
Over the next five seasons with Ottawa, Daigle scored 51 points followed by seasons with 37, 17, 51 and 16, respectively.
The junior scoring wiz would spend parts of six more seasons with five NHL teams including a brief comeback out of retirement to play for the Minnesota Wild in the 2003-04 and 2005-06 seasons. He would never score more than 51 points in any season during his NHL career and left the NHL with 327 points in 616 games.
The native of Montreal left North America in 2006 for the Swiss A League. After more offensively challenged seasons in Switzerland, Daigle retired from hockey after the 2009-10 season.
Montreal has a long, storied history. One does not think of the Montreal Canadiens without thinking of the 24 Stanley Cup championships the franchise has won. Many of those championships have come with the help of many French-Canadian born players so when general manager Irving Grundman announced that the organization would use the first overall selection in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft to welcome Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year Doug Wickenheiser into the fold, it was met with shock and anger from the club's Francophone fans. Those fans were hoping to see French-Canadian born Denis Savard join Les Canadiens.
Wickenheiser was coming off an unmatched junior season of 170 points on 89 goals and 81 assists in 71 games with the Regina Pats. In his rookie season as a Canadien, Wickenheiser disappointed with 15 points in 41 games. He showed steady improvement but Montreal fans were not enamored with the Saskatchewan native. Management gave in to fan pressure and traded Wickenheiser to the St. Louis Blues in 1983.
After 46 games with the Blues, he was sent back to Montreal for the remainder of the 1983-84 season, in which Wickenheiser scored only 12 goals and 38 points.
From 1984-90, Wickenheiser played for four NHL teams before finishing his career in the minors.
Wickenheiser's stats are not what one would expect from a No. 1 overall selection, however, he was not welcomed in Montreal from day one. It appeared that this affected his play. He played in 556 NHL games and accumulated 111 goals, 165 assists and 276 points.
It seems Wickenheiser was more a victim of circumstance than a draft bust.
Sadly, Wickenheiser was diagnosed with lung cancer in the fall of 1997. He lost his battle with the disease on January 12, 1999 in St. Louis. He was 37 years old.
In 1980, thanks to the Team USA's Miracle on Ice, hockey had become a sport that mattered in America. And the 1983 NHL entry draft rode on Team USA's gold medal coat tails when the Minnesota North Stars made Rhode Island's Brian Lawton the number one overall selection.
Lawton had led his high school team, Mt. St. Charles, to the state championship and also exhibited his talents at the 1983 World Junior Hockey Championships as a member of Team USA.
Lawton clearly was not ready for the huge step from US high school hockey to the National Hockey League.
The center struggled for all five of his seasons in Minnesota. His biggest offensive output with the North Stars came in his fourth season with the team, 1986-87, when he scored 44 points in 66 games.
Before the start of the 1988-89 season, Lawton was traded to the New York Rangers. After 30 games in New York, he was traded to the Hartford Whalers.
Over the next four seasons, he saw action with four different NHL teams and four minor league clubs.
He retired from playing after the 1992-93 season as a member of the San Jose organization.
In 483 NHL games, Lawton scored 112 goals and 154 assists, totaling 266 points.
If hindsight is 20/20, the big question is, would the New York Islanders trade Roberto Luongo for Rick DiPietro...again? That is precisely what former Islanders general manager Mike Milbury did before the 2000 NHL entry draft.
Luongo was a young goaltender who had split the 1999-2000 season between the Islanders and their AHL affiliate in Lowell, Massachusetts. In Lowell, Luongo had gone 12-10-4. With New York, Luongo posted a 7-14-1 record. It looked as if the Islanders were in need of a goaltender who could step in and stop the proverbial bleeding. Dipietro looked to be the perfect man for the job.
DiPietro had a freshman season to remember at Boston University where he was named his team's co-mvp along with being named to the Hockey East All-Rookie team, second team All-Hockey East and Hockey East rookie of the year. DiPietro and the Islanders felt he was ready to become the next superstar goaltender at the NHL level and the Islanders chose him with the first pick in the first round of the 2000 draft.
DiPietro left Boston University for the Island but he may have been better served had he remained at the university for at least one more year.
The goaltender split his NHL rookie season between the Islanders and Chicago of the International Hockey League. He had a very disappointing 3-15-1 record in New York. He spent the entire 2001-02 season with Bridgeport of the American Hockey League then returned to Long Island for ten games in 2002-03.
DiPietro appeared to finally arrive for the long haul in 2003-04 by appearing in 51 games. He won 23.
Over the next three NHL seasons, he played in no less than 62 games, winning a total of 86 games in that time period.
The Islanders rewarded their goaltender with an unprecedented 15-year, $67.5 million contract in 2006.
Since signing the contract, the Winthrop, Massachusetts native has played in 164 games over five seasons which is an average of only 33 games per season.
DiPietro has battled knee injuries that have forced him to miss large parts of the last five seasons.
The Islanders are paying a very large sum of money to a player who has become a part time netminder. He has never won more than 32 games in a season. DiPietro's goals against average has been under 2.58 just once in his nine-year NHL career while his save percentage has been never been better than the .919 he posted in 2006-07.
With DiPietro as the club's number one goaltender, the New York Islanders are still waiting for him to put the team on his back and carry it deep into the playoffs. Something he has failed to do up to this point and with the series of knee injuries he has sustained during his career. He may not be able to do that at all.
1999 was a big year for everyone around the world. It meant the end of the 20th century was around the corner. A new year and new beginning was on the horizon for the world, the NHL and more importantly, the Atlanta Thrashers.
As each team does, every year, the Thrashers went into the 1999 NHL entry draft prepared to select the best player in the world with the number one overall pick.
Most hockey observers agreed that one player would be a fast, skilled native of the Czech Republic named Patrik Stefan.
Stefan decided to forego junior hockey and arrived in North America to play professionally in the minor leagues. In 1997-98, the forward saw action in 25 games with the International Hockey League's Long Beach Ice Dogs. He posted five goals and ten assists for 15 points.
The following season, Stefan played in 33 games with Long Beach and contributed 11 goals and 24 assists for 35 points.
The Thrashers chose Stefan and immediately expected him to help turn a dismal franchise into a winning one.
Unfortunately, for the Thrashers and their fans, that was not going to happen.
The following six seasons were filled with frustration for everyone concerned. Stefan never scored more than 14 goals in a season nor more than 26 assists. He scored a career-high 40 points in 2003-04.
Stefan was traded to Dallas before the start of the 2006-07 season. With the Stars, the big (6'2", 210 lbs.) center played in 41 games and did little to show he had what it took to turn his career around. He scored five goals and six assists for a total of 11 points.
At the completion of that season, Stefan signed with Bern of the Swiss A League. He played in three games. In the three games, he scored one goal and had no assists.
Patrik Stefan's NHL career consisted of 455 games. He scored 64 goals and 124 assists totaling an anemic 188 points. His career plus/minus statistic was minus-33. He also picked up 158 penalty minutes.
Patrik Stefan's National Hockey League statistics, arguably, make him the biggest bust in the history of the National Hockey League draft.