Professional hockey players truly get to experience a wonderful life by the amount they are paid per season. Any player on an NHL roster is guaranteed at a minimum about $1 million dollar per season to partake in their childhood dream. Needless to say these athletes are able to live fairly easy lives when it comes to their finances, especially the game’s top players. Yet, what about the players who dedicated their lives to the sport and were simply not good enough to make it? That is where being a professional hockey player has its challenges because many of these individuals skip college as they are expected to play hockey at the highest level of play. Where can they go from there?
With all that said, in this article, we will be looking at fifteen NHL busts who now have to spend their lives working 9 to 5 jobs to sustain a living. Although these players were very talented at the sport, they simply were not good enough to compete with the game’s bests, such as Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. It is important to note that this list will consist of former first round picks solely and from draft classes during the 2000s. It is truly shocking to see that some of these players are still in their mid to late twenties and very well could still have been in their primes in the NHL if they stayed in the league. Nonetheless, one cannot change the past, so they need to focus on their professional lives outside of hockey.
Here are the 15 NHL busts who now are forced to work normal jobs like the rest of us.
15 Petteri Nokelainen
Petteri Nokelainen was drafted 16th overall by the New York Islanders in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and that came as a bit of a surprise. Nokelainen was ranked 10th out of all the European skaters in that draft, so he was projected to go as a second round pick rather than a first. Nonetheless, the Islanders thought it was smart to take a chance on him, but that was a mistake.
Nokelainen would play a measly fifteen games for the New York Islanders before being traded to the Boston Bruins. Nokelainen would play a few seasons with the Bruins before being a journeyman in the NHL for a handful of years. From there, no teams wanted him anymore and he played in Europe until 2016. Nokelainen simply did not produce at the level of a true first rounder and that is why he is no longer a professional hockey player.
14 Ryan O’Marra
When the New York Islanders drafted Ryan O’Marra with the 15th overall selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, many people believed that he would one day end up being a top centre for them. Yet, O’Marra would actually never play a single game for the New York Islanders because he was part of the deal that brought Ryan Smyth to the Islanders from the Edmonton Oilers.
The Edmonton Oilers also had high hopes on Ryan O’Marra because they thought that he would fit perfectly down the middle for them because of how weak their centre core was. Yet, O’Marra failed to live up to expectations and never could find a permanent spot on the team. O’Marra would continue his hockey career in the AHL and Europe before finally giving up in 2016. On last check he worked in the financial industry in Canada.
13 Jiri Tlusty
Jiri Tlusty was drafted 13th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. From the players on this list, Tlusty probably had the best NHL career, but he should have accomplished far more than he did. As a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was unpopular in the dressing room and was very immature, which hurt his development immensely.
Tlusty had two fairly good seasons in the NHL when he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, but from there, his true colors came out once again. Tlusty’s inability to play the game defensively and consistency as a one dimensional player ultimately led him out of the NHL prematurely. Now that he is no longer playing hockey, he very well should be working a full time job to sustain his party lifestyle.
12 Nick Petrecki
The San Jose Sharks made a pretty intriguing selection when they drafted Nick Petrecki 28th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. From the start, Petrecki was not thought of as a top prospect selection and it is truly surprising that he was picked where he was. Petrecki never seemed to shock the prospect pool and there better choices available ahead of him.
The San Jose Sharks openly stated that they chose Petrecki because they wanted to add an element of toughness to their backend. Although that is a fair statement and a real need, the Sharks definitely should not have tried that in the first round. As a result of this, Petrecki never became a reliable NHL player. In fact, he only played in one NHL game ever. At one point he was even arrested for assault. Tough break!
11 Hugh Jessiman
Hugh Jessiman was drafted 12th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. The Chicago Blackhawks during this period were one of the worst teams in the league and thought that drafting Jessiman would help bolster their roster. At the time, Jessiman was coming off a very stellar rookie season at Dartmouth College and had a huge upswing.
Jessiman went through a sophomore slump his second year of college and that ultimately displayed his true potential. Jessiman’s last season in college was even worse and that was a big warning sign for the Blackhawks. After years of trying to help him develop in the AHL, Jessiman never could make the jump to the NHL and became a career AHL journeyman. Now, he is off the ice.
10 A.J. Thelen
A.J. Thelen’s dream came true when he was drafted by his home state’s team, the Minnesota Wild. The Minnesota Wild had high hopes that Thelen would develop into a franchise type defenseman for them and be their first superstar on the back end. Thelen had a pretty solid collegiate career at Michigan State University, but everything quickly changed for the worst.
Thelen consistently got injured during the development stage of his hockey career and never seemed to be able to recover from them fully. He experienced a lot of concussions and back injuries and it truly hindered him from reaching his full ability. After years of battling for a spot in the ECHL, Thelen retired at the young age of 25 and now is working to sustain a living.
9 Ryan Parent
Ryan Parent was drafted 18th overall by the Nashville Predators in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and many people thought this was a smart move. Parent was expected to blossom into a solid top-4 defenseman because of his strong defensive style of play. Parent would never actually end up suiting for the Predators because he was a main piece traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for Peter Forsberg.
Parent would end up playing a handful of seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he never became the player he was supposed to be. Because of this, he found himself as a member of the Vancouver Canucks, but he still could not find his game. Parent spent the rest of his hockey career in the AHL and still has hope to play again, but it is very unlikely and he will most likely need to work elsewhere.
8 Brian Lee
Brian Lee was supposed to be the saving grace for the Ottawa Senators when they drafted him 9th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Lee was a college standout when he played at the University of North Dakota because he not only was very sound defensively, but he also had the ability to rack up points. This would not carry over to the NHL.
The Senators gave Lee many chances to prove that he could develop into a top defenseman for them, but he simply never progressed. The Senators did not want to give up on him too quickly because he was their top draft choice and prospect, but eventually they had to and sent him to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Lee tried to continue his career in America, but by 2013, it no longer could happen.
7 Mark Mitera
Mark who? Mark Mitera was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft with the 19th overall selection. This selection was by far one of the strangest in the history of the NHL Draft because, in his draft year, Mitera was an average collegiate hockey player that had no business being drafted in the first round. The Ducks chose him most likely because of his size.
At the time of his draft year, Mitera failed to score a single goal at the collegiate level as well. That should have been a pretty significant indicator because defensive defensemen still normally can put up decent points before they hit the professional level. Without much surprise, Mitera failed to make it to the NHL and was a below average player in the AHL. It’s safe to say he is working 9 to 5 now.
6 Patrick White
During the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, the Vancouver Canucks selected Patrick White with the 25th overall selection. It is pretty easy to imagine the majority of hockey fans have never even heard of him. White was a very dangerous pick made by the Canucks because (at the time of the draft) he did not even play a college game yet. Without much surprise, the choice was a bad one because White was not even a good college player.
With that, White never even played a game in the AHL. Instead, he battled his way through many second level European leagues and did spend a year in the KHL. Even his KHL career was horrible because he did not register a single point in 26 games. Today, White is without a doubt working a regular job because he clearly did not make a large income as a professional hockey player.
5 Logan MacMillian
The Anaheim Ducks struck out again when they drafted Logan MacMillan with the 19th overall selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. At the time of his draft year, MacMillan was an average QMJHL player and had no right to go in the first round like he did. Yet, the Ducks believed that MacMillan was a diamond in the rough and thought that he would be able to surprise a lot of people.
Yet, Logan MacMillan turned out to be an even greater bust than what many expected. MacMillan’s skill dropped immensely in juniors and that saw him get shipped out of Anaheim’s system to Calgary. As a member of the Flame’s organization, MacMillan was a below average AHL player and also had stints in the ECHL. After that, MacMillan played hockey in Europe and today is absolutely nothing in the hockey world.
4 Cody Hodgson
The Vancouver Canucks thought they found their future Henrik Sedin when they drafted Cody Hodgson with the tenth overall selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Hodgson was a spectacular player in juniors and this was one of the rare picks that made a lot of sense. Hodgson actually had moderate success during his first season with the Canucks.
Yet, during the beginning of his career, the Canucks decided to trade him for him another top prospect at the time, Zack Kassian. After two solid seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, his skill dropped off dramatically and he found himself being an absolute bust. Hodgson would try to continue his career with the Nashville Predators, but he simply did not have the skill level of an NHL player anymore. Today, Hodgson definitely needs to work 9 to 5 to stay afloat.
3 Jared Cowen
The Ottawa Senators, again, thought they found their potential franchise defenseman when they drafted Jared Cowen with the ninth overall selection of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Cowen was one of the top players in all of junior hockey and was expected to bolster the Senators’ defensive core immensely. Cowen actually started off his career fairly well.
The main issue with Jared Cowen developing into a solid NHL player was that he was far too injury prone. Due to this, Cowen’s skills dropped off pretty dramatically as his career progressed with the Senators and he ultimately became a bust. The Senators traded Cowen two seasons ago to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he never ended up playing a game for them and now is without a hockey job.
2 Scott Glennie
The Dallas Stars drafted Scott Glennie with the eighth overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and they thought they found their franchise player in the process. Glennie was a very talented player in juniors because he not only had the ability to rack up a lot of points, but he also played a very physical game. The Stars thought they had something special.
Glennie continued to be a spectacular player until the end of his junior career and even showed signs of progression in his first year in the AHL. Yet, as time passed on, Glennie began to see a sudden decline in skill and as a result, found himself getting lower and lower on the Stars’ depth chart. Glennie would end up only playing one NHL game during his career and that makes him a mega bust.
1 Louis Leblanc
The Montreal Canadiens selected French Canadian centre, Louis Leblanc, with the 18th overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. This seemed like the perfect homecoming for LeBlanc because he had the chance to play for his childhood team. Leblanc would make the Canadiens NHL squad during the 2011-12 season and showed signs that he would develop into a good player with more development in the minors.
Yet, everything quickly turned for the worst with Leblanc and his point totals in the AHL dropped off dramatically. Leblanc would never make an impact at the NHL level again while only playing for the team for eight more games for the Canadiens two seasons later. The Canadiens then gave up on Leblanc and traded him to the Ducks. After playing another year in the AHL and a few games in Europe, Leblanc retired and now is attending classes at Harvard University while an assistant coach for their team.