In all sports, the entry draft is where a franchise can begin again. Hope can spring eternal. A new page can be turned. No matter which cliche is picked, the theme is the same. The draft is a chance for bad teams to become good and good teams to become better.
In the NHL, there are seven rounds in the draft. Most teams have seven chances to find a franchise player, or at least a competent third-liner. Sadly, the majority of the players chosen don't get much of a chance in the big league. Due to the highly competitive nature of other players and the large amount of players who want a spot, even the most highly-touted players can be on a short leash. That's what this article is about.
For every great pick, there's a bust. For every Sidney Crosby, there's a Rick DiPietro or Patrik Stefan. In fact, there's probably more players that didn't turn into All-Stars than players who did. To be fair, even with the advances in scouting and analytics, there's still a large chance taken on a player in the first ten picks. Sure, Connor McDavid looks like a stud, but let's get to the 15 recent top 10 NHL Draft picks who already look like duds.
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15 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
This entry could be considered a bit of a stretch, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was supposed to be a superstar. He simply hasn't panned out the way it was planned. He had a solid rookie campaign and finished in second place for the Calder trophy. But after that, there hasn't been much improvement. In 313 NHL games, he's accumulated 222 points. Now that's nothing to sneeze at, but those aren't superstar numbers. He's never amassed more than 56 points in a season. He's only been an All-Star once in his career and he's obviously never been to the playoffs. Much of this can be attributed to him playing with a sub-par Oilers team that has been in a constant state of change. Perhaps a trade could wake up Nugent-Hopkins and turn him into a star. He has been linked to the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche lately, both of which would be a large change and a large improvement.
14 Sean Couturier
Last season, if Sean Couturier didn't miss 19 games, he likely would have reached a career high for goals and points. Regardless, Couturier matched his career high in points with 39. That's solid work and he probably would have been around 50 points for the year if he had been playing the whole time. Couturier is a solid player, but I don't think that he's performing like a eighth overall draft pick should. He's very close to exploding through his ceiling and setting a new one, and this might be the year that he does. One way to improve would be to get better at the faceoff dot. He's been below 50% in each season that he's been in the NHL. However, his Corsi rating shot up almost four points from the 2014-2015 season. This is a guy that the Flyers like and a lot of general managers would want on their team. If he can increase his speed, then he can increase his offensive production and become a better overall player.
13 Elias Lindholm
After a rough start to the season, Elias Lindholm improved his play and finished with the same amount of points he did in the 2014-2015 season. The only problem with that is that he only scored 39 points. He hasn't seemed to improve that much since he's been at the NHL level. His +/- rating has the same for the last two seasons (-23). That's much too low for a team that had 86 points last year. His finishing ability simply wasn't good this past season and that's quite concerning.
He's playing with good players and getting power play time as well. My best guess is that he was overly tentative because he didn't want to make mistakes. He probably tightened up and didn't take the chances that he's known for. Next season, he has to loosen up or else he's never going to improve and the whole team is going to suffer, not just him.
12 Jonas Brodin
Jonas Brodin is one of many players that seems to have regressed recently. He'll probably never score 10 goals and 40 assists, but I don't think it's unfathomable to wish that he could get 25 points in a season. In the 2014 and 2015 season, Brodin had 19 and 17 points respectively. In the 2016 season, he only tallied seven points and was a -4. A solid season in 2014/15 was quickly quelled by Brodin crashing back to earth in 2015/16. His Corsi rating dropped by nearly six points, which was his worst rating by far. It seemed that Brodin got beat a lot more often in the 2016 season in individual battles. His decision making also seemed like it got worse as well. To be fair, that's something that can be fixed and improved upon, but better sooner than later for Wild fans. At least he showed up in the playoffs, which was a nice surprise, scoring three points in six games.
11 Ryan Strome
In my NHL 14 Be a GM mode, Ryan Strome has evolved into a 90 overall rating, as the number one center on my team, and has averaged 25 goals and 45 assists over the last three seasons. I bet the real Ryan Strome wishes he was putting up that kind of production. What happened last year? Strome only put up eight goals and 20 assists in 71 games. He bounced back with decent play in the NHL playoffs, but that wasn't enough. This showing was quite disheartening, especially after a 2014-2015 year where he had 50 points in 81 games, as he was looking to improve on that. What a regression for him. Maybe he's looking to go somewhere else? His entry level contract ended in July and he has yet to sign a new contract as an RFA. Regardless of where he goes, Strome is going to have to step up in the faceoff circle and increase his offensive production.
10 Adam Larsson
Again, Adam Larsson is another player who could be a bit of a stretch on this list, but I'm going to throw him on here. In his first full season last year, Larsson contributed three goals and 15 assists to the New Jersey Devils. Eh. There's not much there. Now, Larsson has a chance to re-create himself after being traded to the Edmonton Oliers for Taylor Hall. Larsson will be the number one defensemen there, which is a huge responsibility since he won't have much help defensively on the team. Arguably, Larsson isn't even a top pairing defenseman at this point in his career and he's going to be thrown into the fire for 25 minutes each night. There's a chance that Larsson could feast with the extra minutes and the extra motivation that comes with it, but there's an equally huge chance that he could struggle with the extra minutes and lack of help. This is a turning point in his career and I'm excited to see how he does.
9 Michael Dal Colle
This is the first player on our list that hasn't made an appearance in an NHL game. However, that doesn't exempt him from this list. If you look at Dal Colle's statistics from the OHL, they're not bad. However, just about everybody who's anybody can put up 100 points in the OHL, and Dal Colle wasn't able to do that. Also, in the last 34 years of the NHL draft, only four players taken in the top five have failed to make their national World Junior team. Guess who's one of them? If you guessed Michael Dal Colle, you'd be correct. The other three didn't do much of anything in the NHL. I'm not the biggest believer in superstitions and coincidences like this, but that's a pretty large sample size. Overall, he's been very underwhelming and very unlike a top five NHL draft pick. He's going to have to turn his play around this season before he transitions from "dud" to "bust."
8 Jacob Trouba
Though Jacob Trouba has a ton of experience for such a young player, he's had plenty of trouble so far in his NHL career. The first problem that shoots to the front is his giveaways. They've decrease each season, but they're still much too high. His most recent mark was 65 and, even though he's playing 22 minutes per game, that number is much too high for a #9 overall draft pick. The second issue I've seen with Trouba is his conditioning. There were too many times last season where he looked tired on the ice and gave up too often on 50-50 pucks. That's a big problem, especially for a guy who should be in the prime of his life. He's only 21, so stamina shouldn't be an issue. His poor conditioning led to scoring chances for other teams and that's something that coaches won't tolerate for long. Hopefully this off-season, he's been working hard to improve in this area. Trouba's a decent player, but this is a sizable problem.
7 Derrick Pouliot
This is a make-or-break year for Derrick Pouliot, as he seems to be on the outside looking in. The Penguins defensive lineup is mostly set and Pouliot isn't in it. He's struggled in parts of two seasons in the NHL, and part of that could be that he simply hasn't had that much time to adjust to a faster, tougher, game. He's been a beast in the AHL, but that play hasn't leaked through into his NHL tenure. Pouliot seems to be the type of defenseman that can play even-strength, the penalty kill, and the power play quite well in the AHL, so this season has to be the one where he shows that in the NHL. His Corsi rating is actually quite strong, but let's keep in mind that it was only for a small portion of the season. Hopefully this year, Pouliot goes the way of progression and not regression.
6 Darnell Nurse
So many players on this list have very, very good hockey qualities. However, the same players often have some very, very bad hockey qualities. Darnell Nurse continues this trend. He had a very up and down rookie year and was thrown into the fire quickly with Oscar Klefbom's injury. It's only natural that a rookie will struggle when given a ton of ice time early int heir career. He's shown flashes of brilliance mixed with flashes of head-scratching mediocrity. The problem is that I don't know if this season is going to be any better. Nurse's problems run deeper than quick fixes. His positioning was one of his biggest issues, and that's one that takes time off the ice and on the ice to fix. If there aren't on-ice results quickly, then there could be some real problems.
5 Griffin Reinhart
Hmmm, is anybody seeing a trend of a single team featuring predominantly throughout this article? Could it possibly be that the Edmonton Oilers are a dumpster fire of an organization? That seems to be a fairly agreed-upon consensus. So, let's take a look at a guy that Edmonton traded for. Griffin Reinhart is only 22 years old, so at least he's got potential and can be coached to improve.
In his first season with the Oilers, Reinhart played in 29 games. He had one assist, was a -6, and had six takeaways against 26 giveaways. Ouch. He's a defenseman. The point of defending is to take the puck away from the other team. If Reinhart can improve his skating, he can improve his overall play, but that's a big first step.
4 Matt Dumba
While we've seen a consistent improvement offensively from Matt Dumba, it's his defensive skills that leave so much to be desired. In all three years that he's been in the NHL, Dumba's giveaways have vastly outnumbered his takeaways. This past season, he had 13 takeaways against 44 giveaways. That simply can't happen anymore. No matter how much he may evolve offensively, having a defensive liability suiting up as a defenseman is a head-scratching maneuver. His Corsi rating decreased substantially this past year as well. He might be decent on the power play, but during 5-on-5, Dumba has became a liability for the team.
He just signed a new contract for the Wild, so Dumba will be with them for two more years. These will be the most crucial years of his playing career and, if Dumba can't improve his puck control, I don't think he'll be in a Wild jersey for much longer.
3 Slater Koekkoek
In addition to having a name that's hard to spell (and I'm not even going to try and pronounce it), Slater Koekkoek doesn't have a lot of ice time to his name. He's spent most of his hockey career in the minor leagues where he looks to be at least competent. But, in his two forays into the NHL, Koekkoek has been less than impressive. His awareness has been a big issue, which is at least something that can be worked on. However, that's something that takes time. It rarely happens overnight and can take seasons of time to improve. Even though he's only 22, Koekkoek doesn't have a ton of time before he's relegated to playing on the third pairing for 10 years. This season will likely be the one that determines if the Lightning want to move forward with him or not. Koekkoek has a lot of great attributes and it's time for him to show them this season.
2 Jake Virtanen
Drafted right behind Michael Dal Colle was Jake Virtanen. Virtanen has the gritty style of play that so many people like, but also has a decent scoring touch as well. He can likely develop into a strong player, but he took some ugly penalties and his decision-making needs to be questioned. Dumb penalties simply won't be tolerated. If Jonathan Toews takes a dumb penalty, it's the exception, and not the rule. If Jake Virtanen takes a dumb penalty, it's unlikely that his play afterward will make up for it. Once again, I've noticed a theme in many of these entries. These young players need to tune their decision-making skills. Many of them aren't very far away from becoming strong hockey players and this is one of the most important skills that will change everything. There aren't many sixth overall picks who continuously make incredibly dumb mistakes and, for Vancouver's sake, hopefully Virtanen continues that trend.
1 Nail Yakupov
Yeesh. What happened to the "Yak?" It hasn't been a pretty start to his NHL career. He had a decent rookie year and finished in the top five for Calder voting. He had some potential, but he's crashed and burned ever since. He had less points in his second season (24) than his first (31), despite playing in 15 more games. His third season showed an increase in points, but his +/- dropped to a horrific -35. Last year was horrendous as his points dropped to the lowest in his four years in the NHL. Honestly, none of his seasons have been particularly good. Across the board, his stats are rough, even for an Edmonton Oiler. In each year, he's had more giveaways than takeaways. He's even had more giveaways than blocks. Perhaps a trade would give Yakupov a shot in the arm. He's been the subject of trade rumors this offseason, but no organization is going to give the Oilers what they want for a former first overall pick.
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