Each NHL Team's Biggest 1st-Round Mistake of the Last Decade

Jason LewisCorrespondent IINovember 3, 2011

Each NHL Team's Biggest 1st-Round Mistake of the Last Decade

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    Draft day. What an exciting time for both player and organizations. It's the first step into a larger world, and much larger achievements.

    Team tables are full of smiles, families exchange hugs and tears as the name of their child is put up on the big board.

    But unfortunately, for both player and organization, that first step can make you fall flat on your face.

    Drafting, as anyone will tell you, is no exact science. Many things can happen; injuries, personal issues, problems adapting to the NHL. Some things are just truly unforeseeable.

    But then there are those picks that just make you scratch your head. Specifically in the first round, where the expectation is to pull off a sure fire score. Hindsight is of course 20/20, though.

    I'd say that the dust has officially settled from the years 2000-2010. (Although very few first rounders from 2010 will make this list.) So let's take a nice look back at each team and their face-planting moments in recent draft history.

Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets: Braydon Coburn

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    First of all, if you are an Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets fan, I am sorry. I commend you for sticking with your team through thick and thin. Things are looking up though.

    It's been rough for the franchise. I don't know what has been harder, drafting solid 1st round picks and letting them go, or drafting utter flops.

    I know what you are saying about this one, "Wait, Coburn played for Atlanta?" Yep!

    Drafted eighth overall in an insanely deep 2003 draft, Coburn suited up a grand total of 29 games for the Thrashers before being flipped to the Flyers for Alexei Zhitnik. Ouch.

    What's extra painful is that selected later in that round were players like Parise, Phaneuf, Getzlaf, Perry, Burns, Kesler, Mike Richards and Dustin Brown.

    It's not to say that Coburn hasn't become a very serviceable blue liner...in Philadelphia. But that 2003 draft was so rich with talent that looking at the remaining names could make any Jet/Thrasher fan cringe even more than mentioning Dany Heatley.

     

    On a positive note: F Evander Kane has looked very impressive in his two seasons in the NHL. Hold on to this guy, Winnipeg.

Anaheim Ducks: Stanislav Chistov

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    Despite having one of the more humorous names in hockey, Stan Chistov was a first round pick Anaheim would probably like to forget.

    The Russian forward was taken fifth overall in 2001, ahead of the likes of other forwards Ales Hemsky, Mikko Koivu, Colby Armstrong and R.J. Umberger.

    Chistov played an inconsistent 136 games with the Ducks over the course of three seasons, never living up to the hype of a top five pick. He netted just 14 goals throughout his NHL career.

    After at least one comeback attempt in Boston, and multiple AHL seasons, Chistov now plays in the KHL, still just 28 years old and with that first round draft pick title hanging over his head.

     

    On a positive note: Anaheim was able to score both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf in the second half of the 2005 first round. You think many GMs would let those guys slip to 15 and beyond now? 

Boston Bruins: Zach Hamill

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    It's tough to say a guy that is only 23, and drafted in 2007 is the worst pick of a decade. But Hamill might just make a solid case for it. It also helps that Boston hasn't had many first round picks through the last decade.

    The playmaking center was taken eighth overall and has failed to make the Bruins team out of camp again this year, making that four seasons and counting.

    Let's give Hamill the benefit of the doubt here. He is a small playmaking forward that has been trying to break in to a pretty solid Boston top nine. But I ask you one question, would Couture, Pacioretty, Backlund and Perron have made this Boston squad in a similar time frame?

    Hamill could be categorized as a slow developer and a project player. He has had decent numbers in the AHL but nothing spectacular. The truth, however, is that he is slowly being passed by many of his 2007 draft mates and other players in the Boston system.

     

    On a positive note: RW Jordan Caron has been a fantastic surprise as the 25th overall pick in 2009. He made the team and played 29 games last year at age 19. He has started off with Boston again this season. 

Buffalo Sabres: Artem Kryukov

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    Artem Who? Exactly.

    In 2000, Artem Kryukov was considered in the initial rankings a sure fire NHL prospect. But his numbers started to slide as he suffered a concussion back in his home country of Russia. However, Buffalo decided to chance it anyways and grab Mr. Kryukov at 15th.

    As you probably have never heard of him, it's safe to say it didn't work out.

    Kryukov has never left his native Russia and has had a career plagued with injuries. The real insult to injury with the Sabres is that they waited too long to file for a compensation pick for an unsigned first round pick.

    So the Sabres literally picked nothing with No. 15 in 2000.

     

    On a positive note: A tale of two Tylers, in 2008 the Sabres picked 2010 Calder winner D Tyler Myers at No. 11, and stole 2011 Calder finalist F Tyler Ennis at 26th.   

Calgary Flames: Brent Krahn

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    I know Calgary fans just threw up in their mouths a little.

    Ranked as the No. 2 goaltender in the 2000 NHL draft, Brent Krahn was selected ninth overall and was the inaugural first round selection by new GM Craig Button. Probably not the best way to shove off.

    Krahn was one of the more successful junior goalies for the Calgary Hitmen. With the draft being held in Calgary in 2000, the stage was just perfectly set for newly appointed Craig Button to draft the home team hero, so to speak.

    What the stage was not set for was a career turned upside down due to reoccurring knee problems. (Maybe it was something about 2000 draft goalies and knee problems...)

    Krahn spent eight years in the Flames' minor league system before heading to Dallas where he played a grand total of one game. 

    His numbers? .667 save percentage and a 9 GAA. I Don't think he'll ever get the chance to return to the NHL to improve those. Nor will Craig Button ever have a chance to mulligan that first round.

     

    On the positive side: F Mikael Backlund has turned out to be an outstanding late 2007 first round draft pick by the Flames.

Carolina Hurricanes: Jack Johnson

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    The Hurricanes have to look back on this one and shake their heads. Johnson was a top five prospect heading in to the draft and the No. 1 ranked defenseman.

    Easy stuff right?

    When Johnson, who was selected No. 3 overall in 2005, decided to turn down the Hurricanes' entry level contract to opt for a sophomore year at University of Michigan, things went a little haywire.

    Johnson essentially packed his bags with that decision to deny his NHL team in need, and was hastily shipped off to Los Angeles for Erik Belanger and Tim Gleason.

    One could argue that the acquisition of Tim Gleason has slightly filled the void that could have been Jack Johnson, but you can't fill the void of a fourth round pick that never even wore your team colors.

    In hindsight, it's also frustrating that Devin Setoguchi, T.J. Oshie, Anze Kopitar, Marc Staal, Martin Hanzal and Jakub Kindl were still up for grabs.

     

    On a positive note: All-Star goalie, and '05-'06 Conn Smythe and Stanley cup winner Cam Ward still remains a dynamite pick at No. 25 of the 2002 draft. Oh, and there is that kid Jeff Skinner who is doing alright I guess. 

Chicago Blackhawks: Mikhail Yakubov/Pavel Vorobiev

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    Chicago gets two here, because this was just that bad. 

    With the 2000 draft seemingly the year of Russia (seven skaters in the top 20), Chicago followed suit and drafted Yakubov at No. 10, and Vorobiev at No. 11.

    Yakubov sputtered out after seven years in the Blackhawks' system, playing just 40 games.

    Vorobiev also played seven years, totaling a similar 57 games before making way back to Russia. He didn't go quietly though, accusing both the Blackhawks and Americans in general of being biased against Russian players.

    Sounds like sour grapes in my opinion. Either way, Chicago had back-to-back top half picks in 2000 that turned into back-to-back busts. And at least one bust left with an attitude.

     

    On a positive note: No. 3 overall in 2006, F Jonathan Toews has become the face of the franchise. He captained and carried his squad to a Stanley cup and picked up a Conn Smythe along the way. What more could you ask for?

Colorado Avalanche: Kevin Shattenkirk

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    Before you get angry Colorado fans, let's talk about a few things.

    First, Colorado has had so many years of success through the mid 2000s that they went five years without a first round pick. Five. That's quite a few. And in the years you did, most were late first round picks.

    Which leads me to the decision on Kevin Shattenkirk. Certainly Kevin Shattenkirk is a good player, and he is proving his worth. But it's in St. Louis.

    Shattenkirk spent his early years playing for Boston University until 2009-2010. After that he fast tracked himself to the NHL for the 2010-2011 NHL season, practically bypassing the AHL.

    With 26 points in 46 games he looked to be the solid blue liner that Colorado was looking for. Then they traded him to St. Louis, after just 46 games in the Mile High City.

    My question to Avs management is, "why?" Why use your 14th overall pick on a guy that you will trade halfway through his rookie season, and an impressive rookie season at that? Seems like a wasted pick in all honesty.

    Yet the return was Erik Johnson, who has been good this season for Colorado. But this pick is still a head scratcher.

     

    On a positive note: F Matt Duchene might very well be the next coming of Jonathan Toews in a way. Drafted third overall in 2009 and already an all-star, Duchene maybe on the way to captaining and leading his young team to a Stanley Cup in the near future.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Nikita Filatov

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    Want to talk about tough decisions? Try choosing the worst pick for Columbus in the last 10 seasons. Not easy.

    For some reason Columbus has had a knack for drafting enigmas. Voracek, Zherdev, Brule and then of course Nikita Filatov.

    Filatov was the top ranked European skater entering the 2008 draft. When Columbus selected him sixth overall they thought they were getting a young offensive powerhouse. The anticipation for a Nash-Filatov connection was created.

    What they got was an enigmatic player who didn't work in the system, and didn't want to learn the system. It also didn't help Filatov that then Blue Jackets coach, Ken Hitchcock, had a reputation of being rough on young players.

    Filatov, just one year removed from his draft class, requested to be released back to Russia.

    Even though he did return in 2010-2011, it was lackluster. Filatov went 23 games without a goal. Not what you expect from a sixth overall pick.

    Filatov is now attempting a comeback with a change of scenery in Ottawa. Godspeed Nikita, Columbus was just not for you. 

     

    On a positive note: 2006 sixth overall pick F Derick Brassard has quietly developed and worked his way into a 40-50 point two way center.

Dallas Stars: Not Having a First Round Selection in 2003

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    The 2003 draft was easily the biggest pool of talent we have seen in the last 10 years of hockey draft classes. It may be one of the best in history, actually.

    Dallas sat on the sidelines while other GMs paraded on stage and took their turn beating the pinata full of all-stars.

    To their credit though, Doug Armstrong and crew hit a home run drafting Loui Eriksson in the second round. Still, with Dallas somewhat struggling through the late 2000s it would have been huge had they had one of the plethora of world class players in that first round.

    Picture a Dallas team that includes, Perry, or Getzlaf, or Brown, or Mike Richards, or Ryan Kesler, or Zach Parise etc. etc. etc. It's just so tempting to think what could have been. (In fact, the No.  28 pick, acquired from Dallas by Anaheim, ended up being Corey Perry.)

    In this case, having no first round pick at all hurt way worse then having one and drafting a flop.

     

    On a positive note: F Loui Eriksson truly is a first round choice in any other year. Drafted just outside the first round at 33, Eriksson has been a powerhouse in Dallas.

Detroit Red Wings: Having Two Picks from 2000-2007

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    Those two picks? Niklas Kronwall and Jakub Kindl. So you could say that Detroit does well with what it has. Nonetheless, two picks in seven years?

    Fortunately for Detroit they have done well in their late and mid round drafting to make up for the lack of first round choices. Much like many successful teams, draft picks are late in the first round and normally tossed away to rebuilding teams for solid veteran players.

    Detroit has followed that line of thought and traded away a ton of first round picks over the years in acquiring here and now players. Where has it hurt most? Depth and the future.

    The Red Wings are getting older and slowly starting to lose a grip on the Central. With a lot of lost youth over the years, having two first round picks in seven years is starting to show.

    The Red Wings have plenty of hardware to show for their efforts. I am sure they will just draft another player in the seventh round who will turn into a 90-point Selke winner anyway.

     

    On a positive note: D Jakub Kindl has slowly honed his skills in the minors since '07-'08 and the Red Wings are starting to be rewarded for their patience and development of the 19th overall pick in 2005. 

Edmonton Oilers: Marc-Antoine Pouliot

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    Taking all the picks into perspective throughout the years, Edmonton has had some bad ones. Really bad. While Pouliot played about 176 games more then some of the Oils' earlier decade picks, they again became a casualty of the rich 2003 draft.

    Does it seem like a reoccurring theme that people struck out in the first round of 2003? The reason I keep bringing it up is because odds are you would hit a home run more so than drop a bunt and trip on the way to first base.

    Pouliot wasn't quite that, but he got thrown out on a routine ground ball. Pouliot was selected at 22nd, and just behind him at 23 and 24, Mike Richards and Ryan Kesler were picked up, respectively. The next four picks behind those two included Anthony Stewart, Brian Boyle and Corey Perry.

    Tough to say if this is actually the worst selection in the last decade for Edmonton standing up against other picks. But given what they could have had, it's easily the one that most Edmonton fans would frown upon the most.

     

    On a positive note: F Jordan Eberle was selected 22nd in 2008, establishing himself as a highly skilled top-six forward, and a cornerstone of Edmonton's offense.

Florida Panthers: Kenndal McArdle

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    The real painful thing about looking back on the decade of picks for the Panthers is that they drafted some damn good players. But none of them have stayed.

    McArdle hasn't stayed either, but it wasn't a huge loss. 

    With so many good first round picks going elsewhere (Horton, Frolik, Olesz, and Bouwmeester), McArdle is a name that slips through the cracks.

    Why? He was expected to be a physical but skilled forward who could contribute offensively, sort of in the mold of a Ryan Kesler.

    What Florida got was a player who struggled to hit his strides in the NHL and adjust to the faster game. McArdle put up an underwhelming one goal for the Panthers over the course of 33 games and three seasons of call-ups.

    With new management in place and patience wearing thin, Florida and Winnipeg exchanged fellow struggling first rounder Angelo Esposito for McArdle. At 24, hopefully the change of scenery benefits Mr. McArdle.

     

    On a positive note: Not enough can be said about 20-year-old D Dmitri Kulikov. Coming straight in to the NHL at 18, Kulikov has shown tremendous offensive skill and made an impact for Florida from day one. 

Los Angeles Kings: Brian Boyle and Jeff Tambellini

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    Almost halfway through and if you're still with me, I commend you. Some of these have been painful. Now we get to my team, and trust me, I want to break things looking at this.

    This probably isn't your most conventional of bad picks, considering the Kings had some pretty bad ones besides these (Lauri Tukonen, Jens Karlsson, Denis Grebeshkov, Thomas Hi....nah too soon). But where it hurts is pride.

    Tambellini and Boyle were back-to-back picks at 26 and 27 in '03. The Kings had three first rounders in the year of riches and selected Brown along with the formerly mentioned.

    The next pick, at No. 28, was Corey Perry. Yes, of cross-town rival Anaheim. A constant thorn in the side of every Kings fan, a hated player at Staples, public enemy No. 1 in L.A.

    If we could go back in time, you bet we would have taken him and loved it.

    We also probably would have tried to pick division rival Dallas' pick, Loui Eriksson, who was taken at 33. When he was paired with Anze Kopitar at last year's All-Star game we caught a longing glimpse of the chemistry that could have been.

    So next time you scorn Perry for being the annoyance he is, Kings fans, just realize we had two chances in a row to have him in black and silver. We selected Boyle and Tambellini instead.

     

    On a positive note: Patience is starting to pay dividends with former 2006 17th overall pick F Trevor Lewis. Last season was his rookie season and Lewis stepped up capably.  

Minnesota Wild: Benoît Pouliot

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    Was this really even in question, Minny fans?

    Pouliot had the tag of second best rated skater by central scouting coming in to the draft, and was selected at No. 4 overall in 2005. 

    Pouliot never quite lived up to his high praise labels, playing 65 games with the Wild over four seasons. He scored nine goals and had 18 points in that time.

    He has since moved on to Montreal where his play improved, and most recently the Boston Bruins where he has struggled early on.

    It's a pretty big hype to be selected top five, and it comes with a lot of expectations. Pouliot failed to deliver on those expectations.

    It goes to show you that sometimes "off the board" picks can end up great, and sure fire picks can flop. Central scouting is good but even they can't predict the future.

     

    On a positive note: F Mikko Koivu was selected sixth overall in 2001 and has quietly been a consistently high quality player for the Minnesota Wild ever since.

Montreal Canadiens: Ryan McDonagh

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    This isn't a poor pick because McDonagh is a bad player. It's a bad pick because McDonagh is looking more and more like a fantastic player and Montreal traded him away.

    McDonagh was drafted 12th overall by Montreal in 2007. Before he could even play a game with the Habs he was involved in the trade that sent Scott Gomez and Tom Pyatt north.

    McDonagh was a huge centerpiece for New York in that trade, and Gomez has been the centerpiece of many a complaint by Montreal fans due to his high price tag.

    McDonagh has looked solid on the blue line for the Rags. That has to hurt for division rival Montreal and its fans, considering how desperately thin Montreal looked on the blue line the last two seasons.

    It's probably best that McDonagh isn't playing with the Canadiens though. It is not a place that is light of scrutiny, and in his young age, the St. Paul native is still prone to quite a few mistakes.

    In five to six years I know most Montreal fans will be uttering to themselves, "I wish we had kept that guy." Or maybe "C'est la vie."

     

    On the bright side: G Carey Price has established himself as the goalie to beat in Montreal. Drafted fifth in 2005, Price has grown into a solid, all-star caliber tender.

Nashville Predators: Alexander Radulov

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    I am actually pretty surprised at just how well Nashville has drafted in the first round over the last decade. Every one of the players they have selected has gone on to be pretty good (Ryan Ellis is coming, don't worry).

    We'll consider this a bad pick not because of the quality of Radulov's play, but the ensuing headache that happened for Nashville management and the NHL.

    If you don't remember the story, Radulov was entering his last year of his entry level contract with the Preds in 2008-2009. However, in a public statement, he decreed that he would be getting better playing conditions and treatment in Russia.

    So naturally, he went against the contractual legality of the Preds and signed a 3-year contract with Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL.

    Thus the NHL and the IIHF had to order a voiding of Radulovs contract, which never happened, and Nashville had to suspend their former first rounder without pay for his final year. They never saw him again.

    Radulov is a great player, but Nashville, if they could do it again, almost certainly would avoid the ulcer.

     

    On a positive note: 2007 first round pick, D Jonathan Blum, and 2008 first rounder F Colin Wilson both enjoyed solid rookie campaigns last season and look to lead the Preds' new youth movement.

New Jersey Devils: Niclas Bergfors

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    Swede Niclas Begfors was selected 23rd overall in 2005 and has yet to find a team he can call home.

    Bergfors played three solid seasons with the AHL Lowell Devils after his selection and finally got his chance for full-time in 2009-2010. Early on, Bergfors was fantastic. In fact, a lot of analysts were talking Calder trophy.

    But then he slumped, and bad. And as a rookie he was traded to Atlanta along with Johnny Oduya in the legendary Kovalchuk trade. Maybe he could find himself in Atlanta.

    But he didn't. He didn't play a full season with Atlanta and was traded after 52 games to Florida for veteran Radek Dvorak. Maybe he could find himself in Florida.

    But he didn't. Bergfors is now playing on a league minimum, one-year $575,000 contract with Nashville. Bergfors is on his fourth team in essentially two full seasons at the ripe age of 24.

    While the return on Bergfors for New Jersey was Kovalchuk, the pick itself still stands as one that bombed out halfway through a rookie season that looked promising.

     

    On a positive note: F Mattias Tedenby, selected 24th overall in 2008, is settling into the NHL game after a solid rookie outing of 22 points in 58 games.

New York Islanders: Rick DiPietro

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    This is probably the most publicized and biggest no-brainer on the list. Rick DiPietro was the No. 1 overall pick in 2000.

    What have those 10 years yielded for the Islanders? Four majority starting seasons—only one of which is worth mentioning—and a contract so huge and ridiculous that it's nearly impossible to move.

    Of course it's not like the Isles have had super strong teams around him over the years.

    DiPietro has received several rather embarrassing injuries. These include: tweaking a hip in an all-star skills competition, a bum knee and a broken face courtesy of a punch by Pittsburgh backup goalie Brent Johnson, and most recently a concussion via puck in the mask in practice.

    Not only does this hurt in the most obvious sense, but in a little more subtle of a stab, the Islanders traded away all-star goalie Roberto Luongo because they were so sold on DiPietro (go, Mike Milbury!).

    It's okay New York, you'll only have to deal with that $4.5 mil cap hit until 2021. No worries.

     

    On a positive note: F Josh Bailey, at 22, is already a three-year vet in the league. The 2008, ninth overall pick has developed well on an Islanders team that hasn't had much success of late.

New York Rangers: Al Montoya

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    Montoya was a victim of a low-risk, high-reward pick delivering on the highest of predictions possible. I am of course talking about seventh round score in 2000, Henrik Lundqvist.

    Here is my problem with this pick. In 2004 Montoya was selected sixth overall. In 2005 Lundqvist was starting in the NHL. From 2003-2005, he was killing it in the Swedish elite league.

    Why even blow a No. 6 pick on a goalie when you have Lundqvist coming over after the lockout? Do you use a sixth pick for a backup? I don't think so. Someone in N.Y. didn't think Lundqvist would pan out apparently. Someone messed up when they used the pick on Montoya.

    Not to say Montoya isn't a decent tender. He played three pretty solid seasons with the Rangers affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack until making way to Phoenix via trade. It's good that Montoya is finding opportunities on Long Island.

     

    On a positive note: D Marc Staal has delivered on some fine lineage. Since his 12th overall selection in 2005, has been a great two-way defenseman for the Rangers. 

Ottawa Senators: Jakub Klepiš

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    In 2002, the Senators had the 16th pick and decided to go overseas to the Czech Republic by selecting Jakub Kelpiš.

    Klepiš, a center, never even suited up a game for Ottawa and attended just one training camp for the organization. 

    Being drafted in 2002, he was traded in 2003 to the Sabres for Vaclav Varada. Looking back, this might be one of the worst trades Ottawa has ever made. It's not like Klepiš at all turned into a superstar. In fact, he flopped.

    But dealing your 16th pick before he even gets a chance to put a toe into the NHL for the underwhelming Vaclav Varada? Why? It's fortunate Klepiš turned bust, could you imagine if he hadn't, given the return on the trade?

    There were also a lot of forwards behind Klepiš that Ottawa had a shot at including Boyd Gordon, Sean Bergenheim and Daniel Paille.

     

    On a positive note: D Erik Karlsson was drafted in 2008 at 15th and is already an all-star defenseman with a lot of years in front of him.

Philadelphia Flyers: Steve Downie

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    For the most part the FLyers have drafted well. Very well. It was hard to find a real bad pick.

    Steve Downie, drafted 2005 at No. 29 by Philly, is not a bad player. A controversial player, yes, but not a bad one.

    We all know Philadelphia has a reputation as bullies and tough guys. Their drafting proves it. But Downie was a little too much to handle.

    The season after being drafted, Downie was suspended by the OHL for fighting teammate Akim Aliu and was told to seek counciling. He was also involved in one of the longest suspensions in NHL history at 20 games with this dirty hit on Dean McAmmond

    In 2009 Philly grew tired of things like this, and shipped him to Tampa Bay.

    Did I also mention that Downie would be suspended for another 20 games for slashing an AHL linesman with his skate after a suspect call? Even Broad Street didn't want to deal with that kind of bully.

     

    On a positive note: F Claude Giroux, need I say more? 22nd overall in '06, he is the new star in Philly

Phoenix Coyotes: Kyle Turris

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    Maybe I am going out on a limb here, but I will say Kyle Turris, the third overall pick in 2007, was a huge mistake.

    Yes, worse then Blake Wheeler, worse then Jakub Koreis, worse then Freddy Sjostrom and worse then Krys Kolanos.

    Since becoming an RFA at the end of last season, Turris has been a headache. There are multiple reasons I feel bad for Phoenix.

    Turris has recently claimed that his non-signing in Phoenix is not about the money but more about the opportunity. Which makes you wonder...he was slotted to start the year as the No. 1 center in Phoenix, what more opportunity do you want?

    Turris has blatantly showed no loyalty or respect to the Coyotes. He seems like a spoiled kid who doesn't want to be where he is. Instead of making the best of his young career in Phoenix, he's kicking and screaming.

    What's also a shame is that Turris has done nothing but struggle and play an enigmatic game since his inception to the NHL.

     

    On a positive note: 17th overall pick in 2005, F Martin Hanzal has stepped in as the team's No. 1 center and alternate captain. Hanzal, a big and gritty two way forward, looks more capable each season.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Angelo Esposito

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    First of all, Angelo Esposito is not related to Phil or Tony.

    Anyway, Esposito was selected 20th overall by the Pens in 2007 after putting up some amazing junior numbers. At one time he looked like the first overall pick.

    Esposito's numbers, however, would slide nearly 30 points in his next season in the QMJHL and the allure started to fade.

    Nevertheless Pittsburgh took a calculated risk and selected the young forward at 20. The downward trend continued and would include knee injuries.

    Esposito would be dealt to Atlanta in the Hossa trade and has now landed in Florida where he still struggles to make it at the AHL level.

    Pitt wanted to roll the dice and instead of getting future NHLers Pacioretty, Blum, Backlund or Perron, they got everything people were afraid of with Esposito.

     

    On a positive note: The Pens won a cup behind first round selections, Staal, Crosby, Malkin and Fleury. 'Nuff said. 

San Jose Sharks: Steve Bernier

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    This was one of the toughest decisions I have had so far. Why?

    Because of the bad picks that San Jose have made (Ty Wishart, for example), they traded away for names like Dan Boyle.

    Even the Setoguchi draft, which now might look a bit weak, netted them Brent Burns.

    Steve Bernier was, however, a loss on all fronts. The Sharks selected him in 2003 with the 16th overall pick. In fact, they traded a second round, fourth round and the 22nd overall pick to move up six spots to make sure they got him.

    Bernier was less than convincing, playing less then three full seasons with the Sharks and averaging 27 points per season.

    He was traded to Buffalo in 2008 at the deadline along with a first round pick (which turned out to be Tyler Ennis) for Brian Campbell. Ouch.

     

    On a positive note: F Logan Couture was selected ninth in 2007 and has solidified himself in an elite Sharks top-6 

St. Louis Blues: Marek Schwarz

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    Marek Schwarz, the Czech native, was the top ranked European goaltender going into the 2004 NHL entry draft.

    It was no surprise when he was taken 17th overall by the St. Louis Blues. Schwarz had been playing full time as a 17-year-old in the SM-Liga of the Czech Republic.

    Unfortunately when Schwarz moved over to North America in 2006-2007 full time, he made an unimpressive impact at the St. Louis affiliate Peoria Rivermen of the AHL.

    Schwarz would return to Europe and the SM-Liga to play with TPS in 2009. While he is still listed as a St. Louis Blues prospect, it looks unlikely that he will ever return to the United States, let alone the NHL.

     

    On a positive note: F T.J. Oshie was selected 24th overall in 2005. The gritty forward has battled through injuries but still projects as a 50+ point center.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Alexandr Svitov

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    I knew exactly what name I was looking for when I hit the Tampa Bay slide. It it was undoubtedly Alex Svitov.

    In 2001, three Russian skaters were drafted in the top five. Ilya Kovalchuk at No. 1 overall, Alex Svitov at third and the aforementioned fifth overall pick, Stan Chistov.

    Svitov suffered a similar fate to fellow Russian top-five selection Stan Chistov.

    For a long time people were thinking Kovalchuk and Svitov would go one and two. But the Sens decided on top North American prospect Jason Spezza (bullet dodged). Svitov was considered a slam dunk nonetheless.

    Unfortunately Svitov wasn't a slam dunk at all, he was an air ball. Svitov played 74 games with the Lightning over two years netting just four goals.

    Growing impatient with his non-development, Tampa shipped him off to Columbus for Daryl Sydor in 2004. The Russian native would eventually return to his homeland in '06 and stay there. 

    So much for a top-5 pick.

     

    On a positive note: D Victor Hedman is sometimes forgotten as the second overall pick of 2009. But the young defensemen plays wise beyond his years and is a key fixture on the Tampa blue line. 

Toronto Maple Leafs: Tuukka Rask

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    If you are a Maple Leafs fan, you know that first round picks are not something you normally get excited about.

    Over the years the Maple Leafs have made several picks, none of which have made significant impacts with the team. Boyes, Coliacovo, Steen, Rask, Tlusty...

    But for worst pick, I have to go with Tuukka Rask in 2005. My one huge gripe with this pick is that the selection was extreme mismanagement of a pick.

    Rask was never really given a shot. He was selected in 2005, but in 2004 the Maple Leafs had drafted top junior goaltender and team Canada goalie Justin Pogge.

    To take this a step further, the Maple Leafs traded Rask just year later in 2006 for Andrew Raycroft because they had deemed Justin Pogge their future goaltender. Pogge is now on his fourth professional team.

    Why even draft Rask in '05 if in '06 you will trade him? Because in '04 you already drafted your goalie of the future? Hardly makes any sense.

     

    On a positive note: F Nazem Kadri, the seventh overall in 2009, is now having his time to shine on a rebuilding Toronto team that needs more quality forwards. 

Vancouver Canucks: Michael Grabner

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    Grabner has to be a frustrating one for Canucks fans. He was a good pick at 14th overall in 2006. But the management of Grabner was less the stellar.

    The Austrian native had decent AHL numbers for the Manitoba Moose. He played three seasons with the team but received limited call ups to Vancouver.

    He would be traded along with Steve Bernier and the 25th overall pick (Quinton Howden) for Keith Ballard and Viktor Oreskovich in 2010. He was only three years removed from his professional debut.

    Grabner would go on to have a 30+ goal season for the Islanders when he was claimed off waivers from Florida.

    Grabner is off to a slow start this season, but it still has to be considered a missed opportunity by the Nucks for all intents and purposes.

     

    On a positive note: G Cory Schneider, selected 26th overall in 2004, has developed into quite a goalie. Depending on what Canucks fans you talk to, he could be the starter for the defending President's trophy team. Regardless, he has given Vancouver a formidable one-two tandem in net. 

Washington Capitals: Sasha Pokuluk and Joe Finley

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    The Capitals have drafted very well over the last decade and they have seen the evidence of that in the last several seasons. But 2005 was just a real anomaly for George McPhee and crew.

    If you have never heard of those two players in the headline, I don't blame you. Sasha Pokuluk and Joe Finley were a couple of strong D-men college boys selected at 14th and 27th, respectively.

    Neither player would go anywhere north of the ECHL. More recently though, the University of North Dakota grad, Finley, made the cut at the Sabres camp and is currently playing his first rookie season in the AHL with Rochester.

    Pokuluk, a Cornell Big Red man, is refining his craft in the DEL with the DEG Metro Stars. Enjoy Germany. It just goes to show you nothing good can ever come from an athlete named Sasha.

     

    On a positive note: F Marcus Johannson was the 24th pick of 2009. At the young age of 21, he showed great hands and a nose for the net by putting up 33 points in 78 career games.