The Biggest Draft Day Busts in NHL History
Ahh, the day has come. The day where NHL team scouts have the chance to prove that the years of studying, watching hours of hockey and breaking down individual skills of a teenager was all worth it. We call it draft day, but NHL franchise’s call it the day to change their team by relying on 18 year olds to lead them to the Stanley Cup.
This top 10 list is based purely on players who did not live up to the hype on which they carried from years before being drafted highly. Some were completely useless in the NHL and some teams got suckered into drafting them when they had some many others to choose from (yes, it is easy to say it now).
Typically, teams hope that their first round draft pick or picks are players that can play in the league for a good 15 years with great success. When your team has the honour to have a top 10 pick, you think of franchise players to help build a team around.
Unfortunately for the following players, they were picked by teams with ear to ear grins that quickly turned into that “what the hell happened” look. What makes it worse is when the players picked after your bust become consistent NHL all-stars.
And now, we will not keep you waiting...
#10 – Greg Joly – 1st overall by the Washington Capitals in 1974
Joly did play nine seasons in the NHL accumulating an incredible 97 points during that time. His best scoring season was in his sophomore year where he tallied a record breaking eight goals (sarcastic voice). He was traded the next season to the Red Wings but did no better.
Here we have a #1 pick whose best season was 27 points in nine years.
Players chosen after him: Clark Gillies (4th), Mario Tremblay (12th)
#9 – Dave Czyzowski – 2nd overall by the New York Islanders in 1989
This was the first of two consecutive first round flops for the Islanders (the other is coming soon). Czyzowski was a bloomer is his junior years, even scoring over 50 goals in a season. Well, needless to say, his NHL career was everything but goals.
He only played in 126 games in the big league and only managed 31 points.
Players chosen after Czyzowski: Bill Guerin (5th), Bobby Holik (10th), Olaf Kolzig (19th)
#8 – Alex Stojanov – 7th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 1991
Stojanov was certainly not known for his great hands, crazy speed or finishing skills but throwing fists and bringing a high energy to games instead. He only spent 107 games in the big show, scoring seven points but earning over 200 penalty minutes.
Actually, this terrible draft pick ended up being the best thing to happen to the province of British Columbia. For some reason the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Stojanov for Markus Naslund who became the life of Vancouver.
Players chosen after Stojanov: Brian Rolston (11th), Alexei Kovalev (15th), and funny enough Markus Naslund (16th)
#7 – Rico Fata – 6th overall by the Calgary Flames in 1998
This kid has expectations to not be an all-star but to be a go-to guy as a secondary scorer for the Flames. In his 208 junior regular season games before being drafted, he did score 188 points. The second he put on a professional jersey though, it just did not fit right.
Fata would spend a season with a pro team, do badly and get sent down to the minors where he would blow up the stats. He was waived by three NHL teams on which he would get signed again after putting up points in the farm league. Finally, after only 230 games and 63 points in the NHL, Washington waived him for the fourth time and final time in his career.
Players chosen after Fata: Nik Antropov (10th), Alex Tanguay (12th), Simon Gagne (22nd)
#6 – Jason Bonsignore – 4th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 1994
Edmonton had two picks in the first round (4 th and 6 th) and made a wise selection picking Ryan Smyth with their second choice. Their first choice was definitely not as special as Bonsignore only played 21 games in four seasons with the Oiler organization.
To Edmonton’s defence, of the three picks before, only Ed Jovanovski has had a productive career, while Oleg Tverdovsky and Radek Bonk could easily be on this list. At least the Oilers got to use Bonsignore in a trade to acquire Roman Hamrlik and Mike Comrie. Other than that, he was quite the flop.
He even had a stint where he played for 13 different teams in 13 years in four different leagues.
Players chosen after Bonsignore: Jeff O’Neill (5th), Jeff Friesen (11th), Matthias Ohlund (12th)
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#5 – Patrick Stefan – 1st overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999
The Atlanta Thrashers were given a NHL team in 1997 and with their first selection in the franchise’s history in 1999, they picked Stefan. With all do respect though, the 99’ first round draft may be one of the worst in history. Either way, Atlanta got a real shock after putting the team on this guy’s back.
Stefan was supposed to be a solid 70-80 point contributor throughout his career but only broke the 40 point barrier twice in seven NHL seasons. The one season he did not spend in Atlanta was with the Dallas Stars as a part time water boy.
Today, he is out and about in Switzerland playing for a European team.
Players chosen after him: Daniel Sedin (2nd), Henrik Sedin (3rd), Henrik Zetterberg (210th)
#4 – Scott Scissons – 6th overall by the New York Islanders in 1990
Here we have the second consecutive flop for New York. The sad thing for the Islanders is that the five picks before Scissons (Owen Nolan, Petr Nedved, Keith Primeau, Mike Ricci and Jaromir Jagr) all accomplished great NHL careers.
He only played two games in the NHL and spent his entire hockey life playing with random semi-pro teams. Then in 1995, a shoulder injury put an end to a hockey career going nowhere anyway.
Player chosen after him: Derian Hatcher (8th), Keith Tkachuk (19th), Martin Brodeur (20th)
#3 – Alexander Svitov – 3rd overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2001
Finally the Lightning draft the power house center that they needed in Svitov who is 6’ 3’’ and 240 pounds. His first season was two years later where he played in 63 games scoring a mere eight points. So, the following year the Lightning traded away Svitov to the Blue Jackets for Darryl Sydor.
After a very short stint in Columbus, Svitov headed back to Russia to play in the Russian Super League. Here the Lightning thought they had a monster to control a game and ended up with a second tier defenseman in Sydor.
Players chosen after Svitov: Mike Komisarek (7th), Pascal Leclaire (8th), Derek Roy (32nd)
#2 – Alexander Daigle – 1st overall pick by the Ottawa Senators in 1993
The Ottawa Senators finished dead last in the league during their inaugural season. Hoping to change that, they drafted the highly rated player who every team wanted. There were close to a half dozen trade offers with most of them being serious ones. Rumours even escalated to where players like Peter Forsberg and Owen Nolan (in his prime) were involved, while others were willing to give two draft picks. Ottawa rejected anything that come their way.
He was supposed to be so good that no one would remember anyone drafted after him. Fool’s gold at its finest.
Daigle never ever lived up to his potential though he did have two 50 point seasons in his five years in the Canadian capital. After being traded three times, he decided to spend two years in Hollywood to try an acting career. Once that completed failed, he had a half a season stint with the Penguins until Minnesota gave him a last chance.
His last day in the NHL was March 6 th, 2006, 13 years after being drafted. Daigle, like many others who have failed in North America, is currently playing somewhere in Europe for some second hand team.
The 1993 draft was a year of great players and Ottawa simply missed the boat.
Players chosen after Daigle: Chris Pronger (2nd), Paul Kariya (4th), Saku Koivu (21st) to name a few.
And my winner for the biggest draft day flop/bust in NHL history goes to…
#1 – Brian Lawton – 1st overall by the Minnesota North Stars in 1983
Lawton was the first American born 1st overall pick in a NHL draft and had loads of pressure on him because of it. He was supposed to perform in the same category as Gordie Howe and the futuristic Wayne Gretzky. The Stars gave him five seasons with his best performance being only 44 points which is not even close to his expectations.
The New York Rangers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, Boston Bruins and San Jose all gave Lawton a chance that all failed. Scoring 266 points in 483 NHL games is not all that bad for an average Joe but very bad for a 1st overall pick.
His style did change when he entered NHL arenas. He looked scared to go in the corners and intimidated to play the sport the way he grew up.
The key reason that he is the biggest draft day bust is simple; the 1983 class was exceptional and he was not.
Players chosen after Lawton include Sylvain Turgeon (2), Pat LaFontaine (3), Steve Yzerman (4), Tom Barrasso (5), John MacLean (6), Russ Courtnall (7), Andrew McBain (8), Cam Neely (9); all had much better careers than Lawton, even McBain in the long run.
The Biggest Draft Day Busts/Flops in NHL History Honorable Mention:
Steve Kelly (6th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 1995)
Bryan Fogarty (9th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1987)
Pavel Brendl (4th overall by the New York Rangers in 1999)
Glen Williams (4th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in 1976)
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
Find all of Kevin's Best of the NHL articles here at Pro Hockey Fans!
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