NHL: The Biggest Draft Busts of the Past Decade

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IAugust 16, 2011

NHL: The Biggest Draft Busts of the Past Decade

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    First-round draft picks, ideally, are supposed to be rocks of their respective franchises. The higher you are drafted, the more expectations are shoved upon you.

    If you are a No. 1 overall pick, the franchise that drafts you expects championships, individual awards and most importantly, they are planning on that pick being a part of the team for the better part of a decade—if not their entire career.

    The following are players who were drafted in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft since the year 2000. These players have fulfilled no expectations and let their fans, their teams and themselves down. 

2000: Rick DiPietro, New York Islanders

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    The NHL’s glass-man doesn’t have much of a future ahead of him. DiPietro will be remembered for his outrageous 15-year contract and not much else. DiPietro is one of main reasons Mike Milbury will never be allowed in a position of power in the NHL for the rest of his life. 

2001: Pascal Leclaire, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    There are some other decent candidates here, but when you consider what Leclaire was supposed to be for the Blue Jackets, he is No. 1. Leclaire was Columbus’ chosen one, a franchise goaltender who would backstop them to great things.

    Things didn’t turn out the way either side wanted. Leclaire is currently looking for a job, and he better hopes he gets one because that is one ugly mug. 

2002: Petr Taticek, Florida Panthers

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    Taticek was drafted ninth overall by the Panthers and played three games for them at the NHL level.

    That number again—three.

2003: Hugh Jessiman, New York Rangers

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    Hugh “The Specimen” Jessiman finally played his first NHL game last season for the horrific Florida Panthers. What makes this pick sting even more is the fact that almost every other player in the 2003 draft has achieved some kind of success. 

2004: Boris Valabik, Winnipeg Jets

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    Valabik has actually played 80 games in the NHL. If you have never seen him play, though, you aren’t alone. Seeing him in a NHL uniform is an extreme rarity.

    Once considered the next Chara, then a project, Valabik is doomed to roam the minors for the remainder of his career before he inevitably bolts to a Euro league, where he will get stiffed on his paycheck. 

2005: Sasha Pokulok, Washington Capitals

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    Pokulok has never played in the NHL. A rare first-round miss for the Capitals, a team that has drafted tremendously between Alexander Ovechkin and the present. 

2006: James Sheppard, Minnesota Wild

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    Following the tradition of horrible drafting and keeping god-awful talent evaluators employed, the Minnesota Wild selected James Sheppard ninth overall in the 2006 draft.

    Sheppard managed 49 points in three NHL seasons before being traded for a third-round pick to the San Jose Sharks. The trade is universally considered a total steal for Minnesota. 

2007: Thomas Hickey, Los Angeles Kings

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    There’s still time for Hickey to develop and join the NHL, but as it stands now, he has not played a single NHL game. This decision was based purely on his draft position—fourth overall

    Karl Alzner, P.K. Subban and Logan Couture were still on the board, among many other skilled players, who have already made a name for themselves in the big leagues. 

2008: Anton Gustafsson, Washington Capitals

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    Gustafsson was cited for not having the drive to play professional hockey and was waived by the Capitals without ever playing a game in the NHL. His father must be so proud. 

2009: Nazem Kadri (Possibly), Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Now we enter the territory where it is increasingly harder to call players busts. Most of these young men were born in the 1990s and are currently developing in the minors and have not seen NHL action.

    The sheer hype surrounding Nazem Kadri, most manufactured by the Toronto media, would make him a prime candidate for most likely to bust as he has tried and failed to make the Leafs roster a few times.