Being a top draft pick in the NHL comes with a lot of pressure. As an 18 year old, you're expected to come in and help the team that drafted you as soon as possible. There's even more pressure to live up to what's expected of you in your NHL career, especially if you're one of the first picks of the draft. That was the case for the guys on this list, except they never reached their full potential.
Many of us have made the mistake of automatically labelling certain players as superstars based on their stats in junior, thinking that would automatically transfer into the NHL. The following list certainly proves, that's not the case. There are several occasions where top picks have underachieved in the NHL.
The question then becomes, what happens when the player isn't even good enough to be an NHL player? A lot of these guys actually weren't. Some went to play overseas, others simply struggled due to injury, some even retired and went out and got a regular job. It's pretty scary how quickly things can change. One day you're drafted by an NHL with the opportunity to live your dream, next you find yourself looking for a regular job.
This list will go over 15 players who were expected to be the next big thing when they were drafted, but simply didn't work out for whatever reason. You'll find out where they went after their NHL careers and where they are today. Let's take a look at where these 15 would-be NHL superstars are now.
15 Alexandre Volchkov
The Washington Capitals selected forward Alexandre Volchkov fourth overall in the 1996 Entry Draft, hoping that he would turn out to be a pure sniper in the NHL once he came up from the OHL. Volchkov put up impressive numbers in his two-year stay in junior, with 145 points in 103 games playing for the Barrie Colts, including scoring 65 goals. All signs were pointing towards Volchkov potentially becoming a superstar forward in the NHL.
However, Volchkov never came close to the player he was projected to be. He recorded zero points in his entire three-game NHL career for Washington, and spent most of his pro career in the AHL. His career in North America would last a mere four years as he returned to Russia and found himself playing hockey in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan for the rest of his career.
Volchkov retired from play in 2010 and is 39-years-old, residing in Russia. If his career went in the direction that many had expected, he might still be playing today.
14 Brian Lawton
Brian Lawton is surely one of the worst players to get drafted first overall in NHL history. The New Jersey native was drafted first overall by the Minnesota North Stars in 1983. Before his draft year, he played U.S junior hockey and represented his country at the World Junior Championships. Lawton is the first U.S-born player to go first overall in the NHL draft.
Unfortunately, Lawton didn't represent that honour very well, as his career was very underwhelming. He played in just 483 games in the NHL and was a member of six different teams. Lawton admitted that the constant change of teams during his career factored in on his performance and it was something he didn't enjoy.
Lawton never played a full season in the NHL and never scored more than 44 points in a season. He retired in 1993 and currently works as an on-air analyst for the NHL Network.
13 Alexander Svitov
Alexander Svitov was drafted third overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2001. Svitov showed promise in his junior days where he played in Russia, however was never able to transfer that to the NHL level. He made his debut with the Lightning in 2002-03, where he recorded eight points in 63 games. Svitov was traded shortly after in 2004 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Darryl Sydor.
Svitov's career-high numbers came during his last season in the NHL in 2006-07, where he posted 18 points in 76 games. Following his final season, he signed a three-year deal with Avangard Omsk. The Russian is still playing in the KHL to this day at 34-years of age, as a member of Kazan Ak-Bars.
12 Angelo Esposito
The Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Angelo Esposito 20th overall in the 2007 NHL draft, and at the time many people thought that the Penguins stole an absolute gem from the draft. Hailing from Montreal, Esposito put up remarkable numbers in the QMJHL, including a 98 point season in 57 games during his first year of junior. He corralled nearly 300 points in four seasons of junior before making the switch to the pros.
One of the things Esposito struggled with during his attempt to make the NHL was his size. He was underweight for someone who was 6-feet-tall and it resulted in him not playing a single game in the NHL. He had been traded three times in his career, which resulted in him playing for three different AHL teams before signing a contract with a Finnish hockey club, the Lahti Pelicans, after the 2011-12 season. Esposito is only 28-years-old, and is playing for České Budějovice Motor of the Czech 2nd league.
11 Nikita Filatov
Another mysterious case of a Russian player getting drafted high and turning out to be a bust is Nikita Filatov. Filatov was drafted sixth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008, and was expected to be the best sniper in the draft besides Steven Stamkos. Instead, he only appeared in 53 career NHL games.
Filatov's NHL career consisted of a lot of controversy, starting between the Blue Jackets and his former KHL team CSKA Moscow who demanded compensation after Filatov signed a deal with Columbus. The Russian also got into some controversy with former coach Ken Hitchkock after he was a healthy scratch for most of the games to start the 2009-10 season, and was unhappy with is role on the team.
For the rest of his short NHL career, Filatov was cycling between the NHL and AHL with the Blue Jackets and the Ottawa Senators who he was traded to in June of 2011. Filatov would later sign a contract with his home team CSKA Moscow and return to the KHL. The 27-year-old is currently a member of the Tolyatti Lada of the KHL.
10 Daniel Tkaczuk
Daniel Tkaczuk was picked 6th overall by the Calgary Flames in the 1997 NHL draft. Tkaczuk's junior career was nothing short of exceptional. He put up an astounding 334 points in the OHL while playing for the Barrie Colts, including a career-high 105 points in 58 games as a 19-year-old. The Toronto native also represented his home country at the World Junior Championships in 1999, where he won a silver medal and led Canada in scoring.
Unfortunately, Tkaczuk's NHL career lasted just 19 games, due to the suffering of a severe concussion which he never fully recovered from. He spent the large majority of his four-year career in North America in the AHL. Tkaczuk later tried his luck in Europe, signing for Lukko Rauma of the SM-liiga in Finland for the 2003-04 season. The rest of Tkaczuk's career took place in Europe, playing for teams in Germany, Italy and England. He would also return to North America to play in the ECHL and AHL for a short period of time, but would not see much action.
Tkaczuk's career certainly did not pan out the way he or many had projected it to. Recently, Tkaczuk has worked as an assistant coach since his retirement in 2011, and just accepted a job as an assistant coach for the St.Louis Blues.
9 Andrei Zyuzin
Along with Alexandre Volchkov, Andrei Zyuzin was another bust to come out of the 1996 NHL Draft. He was a second overall pick of the San Jose Sharks in 1996. Zyuzin lasted just two seasons with the Sharks, scoring 17 points in 81 games. The Russian forward would go on to play for five other teams in his NHL career and couldn't last more than three seasons on any team.
Zyuzin's career always had him on the move as he was switching between different teams and leagues constantly. He never put up more than 20 points in a season, and never hit double digits in goal scoring. Those stats are grossly underwhelming for a second overall pick. Today, Zyuzin plays hockey in Ukraine for the Bilyi Bars of the Ukrainian Hockey Championship.
8 Jason Bonsignore
Jason Bonsignore was a highly regarded prospect at the time after he put up some impressive numbers in junior, which included 62 points in 41 games during his draft year. However, his career never ended up like many had hoped.
The Edmonton Oilers' fourth overall pick in 1994 played in just 21 games in two seasons for the Oilers and was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 1997-98 season while he was playing for Edmonton's AHL team. His career changed paths once again when he was unsigned by the Lightning in 1999 and later signed with the Maple Leafs. After failing to make the Leafs, he was assigned to their AHL team in St John's, where he suffered a season-ending ankle injury mid-season. Bonsignore later asked for a release and would step away from the game until 2002. His career would come to an end in 2008 after he decided to retire from hockey after his last season in the ECHL.
During retirement, Bonsignore ran the Rochester Red Wings travel hockey program and was the head coach of two of their AAA teams. In January of 2016, he made a return to playing hockey with the Hamilton Steelhawks of a senior hockey league in Ontario.
7 Dave Chyzowski
Dave Chyzowski was drafted second overall in the 1989 draft by the New York Islanders after he put up 104 points in 68 games for the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL. However, he only played in 126 games for the Islanders between 1989 and 1995, scoring 31 points. He also appeared in eight games for the Chicago Blackhawks, scoring zero points.
The majority of Chyzowski's career saw him playing in the AHL and IHL, where he seemed to belong. He later went overseas to play in Germany and Austria between 2000-2007. Drafting Chyzowski is surely one of the Islanders' biggest regrets, especially given that they overlooked guys like Bill Guerin, Stu Barnes and Bobby Holik. Nonetheless, the Islanders probably have a couple of even bigger regrets on this list.
Chyzowski retired in 2007 and decided to take the position of Marketing Coordinator for his former junior team the Kamloops Blazers.
6 Scott Scissons
Scott Scissons was another huge mistake made by the Islanders organization after they drafted him sixth overall in the 1990 draft. His junior career is what shot him up the rankings, putting up 86 and 87 points respectively in his two junior seasons prior to his draft year. After scoring a combined 70 goals in those two seasons, the Islanders had hopes that he'd develop into a top scorer in the NHL. That was clearly not the case.
Scissons suffered through some injury trouble starting from discectomy at 18 and wrist injuries that would prevent him from making Canada's World Junior hockey team two years in a row. He played in two regular season games and one playoff game for the Islanders, scoring no points. However, he did average just over a point per game in the AHL.
Scissons' hockey career would last just five years after retiring at age 22, which he was advised to do by a team doctor after attempting to try out for the Dallas Stars. In doing so, he returned to his hometown of Saskatoon where he would get a degree in commerce and began working for his family's business, which he still does today.
5 Pavel Brendl
Pavel Brendl's junior career was outstanding, and he led many to believe that he would easily become an elite player in the NHL immediately. He put up north of 100 points in both his rookie and sophomore junior seasons with the Calgary Hitmen, however would never play a game for the team that drafted him fourth overall in 1999, the New York Rangers. Brendl reported to the Rangers training camp out of shape and refused to follow the coach's tactics. He was criticized for his laziness and unwillingness to learn a two-dimensional game.
After being involved in a trade to the Philadelphia Flyers, Brendl was given a second chance in 2001. He wouldn't last long, however, and was traded to Carolina over two years later. Following a short stint with the Hurricanes, some time in Europe, and returning to North America once again with the Phoenix Coyotes organization, Brendl permanently went to play in Europe in 2006, signing with Mora IK of the Swedish Elite League.
Since then, Brendl has bounced around in leagues all over Europe and is currently a member of the HKM Zvolen in the Slovak Extraliga.
4 Nail Yakupov
Nail Yakupov is the latest NHLer to have superstar potential, but turn out to be a complete bust. In 2012, the Russian forward was drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers and was certain to become an elite winger in no time. He scored 49 goals in 65 games for the Sarnia Sting in his rookie OHL season, including 101 points. Yakupov followed that up with 69 points in 42 games in his second season of junior.
During the shortened 2012-13 season, Yakupov put up 31 points in 48 games for the Oilers, which was fairly decent for a rookie. However, Yakupov's game would struggle greatly in the following seasons, including a horrible minus-33 and minus-35 in his second and third seasons which placed him at the bottom of the league in that category.
Yakupov's time in Edmonton would shortly come to an end after he was traded to the St. Louis Blues in October of 2016, however only appearing in 40 games for the Blues that season. At the moment, the 23-year-old is barely considered an NHL-calibre player, and recently signed a one-year, $875,000 contract with the Colorado Avalanche on July 4. It will be interesting to see just how much longer his career lasts.
3 Rick DiPietro
The New York Islanders have three players on this list and that's not something to be proud of. The worst of them might be Rick DiPietro. DiPietro became the first goaltender to ever be selected first overall in the NHL Entry Draft when he was drafted in 2000. Perhaps the biggest issue with DiPietro was the unrealistic expectations the Islanders had of their goaltender and signed him to a historic 15-year contract worth $67.5 million in 2006, after posting average numbers for a goaltender. It was another decision that would soon be regretted.
After performing as expected in the season following his new contract, a string of injuries began to occur for DiPietro starting with a concussion in 2007. Injuries to the goaltender's hip, knees, and other parts of the body would eventually ruin his career and force him to finally retire in 2014.
DiPietro's lucrative contract was bought out in the summer of 2013, and the Islanders will owe him $1.5 million per year until the year 2029. Today, DiPietro is a NY sports talk show host on ESPN 98.7 FM and co-hosts the "Hahn & Humpty show" with Alan Hahn.
2 Patrik Stefan
Patrik Stefan is widely known as one of the biggest draft busts in NHL history. After being drafted 1st overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999, Stefan would go on to play for the Thrashers for just six seasons and putting only 177 points. Stefan put up over a point per game in his draft year while playing for the Long Beach Ice Dogs in the IHL.
Stefan was traded to the Dallas Stars in June of 2006, where he would go on to make his most notable memory, however not a positive one. Besides the fact that Stefan was already known for being a bust at the time, on January 4th, 2007, during a game against the Edmonton Oilers, Stefan found a way to make matters worse for himself by missing an empty net goal on a breakaway. The Oilers would come back the other way to tie the game with two seconds left. Luckily, however, Dallas would go on to win the game in a shootout.
That still doesn't change the fact that Stefan has been apart of perhaps the biggest fail in NHL history, in regards to his entire career and that miss. The 36-year-old retired in 2007 after suffering a serious hip injury while playing for Bern SC in the Swiss-A league. Stefan currently works as a player agent in Laguna Beach, California, and a coach at Orange County Ice Palace.
1 Alexandre Daigle
Along with Patrik Stefan, Alexandre Daigle is equally as regarded as one of the biggest NHL draft busts ever, if not the biggest. There seemed to have been lots more hype, though, leading up to Daigle's draft. The draft was being held in Daigle's home province of Quebec and you can assure yourself that everyone there was excited to see the next French-Canadian superstar get drafted. Except, Daigle turned out to be a huge disappointment.
Daigle's stats weren't actually as bad as many of the guys on this list. He put up 51 points in his rookie season, which is pretty solid for a rookie. However, that's as good as it would get for the Montreal native, and he would never live up to the superstar/franchise status that every one had already given him since he'd been drafted.
The French-Canadian would go on to play for six teams in his NHL career, in which he tallied 327 points in 616 games. Since retiring from hockey in 2010, Daigle has worked in the movie industry, and currently runs studios for MTL Grandé.
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