Every year, TSN Insider Bob McKenzie reveals his NHL Draft rankings to fans and pundits across the hockey world.
Despite an over 30-year tenure evaluating young talent, reporting trade rumors, and offering analysis, McKenzie does not come up with his prospect rankings himself. He talks to a collection of talent scouts and front office executives, whose opinions form the consensus list that McKenzie releases each year.
That being said, McKenzie offers his own take, and routinely appears on TSN ahead of each draft to count down that year's top 10 prospects. In some instances, he was right on the money. Other times, he missed the mark, and overhyped a player's chances of success in the NHL. For every pick he nailed (Connor McDavid, Oliver Ekman-Larson, Filip Forsberg) there was a dud (Brandon Gormley, Nail Yakupov, Cam Barker).
To McKenzie's credit, it is never easy predicting how a young player will fare in the NHL. Plus, despite some of his mis-calls, McKenzie remains the foremost source for all breaking news in the hockey world.
Here are eight of Mckenzie's biggest draft mistakes, and seven of his more unflattering moments.
15 Mistake - Ryan Murphy
The Carolina Hurricanes made a strong late-season push for a playoff spot this year, but came up empty. The ‘Canes may look to move some pieces this offseason as they look to bolster their roster and return to postseason action. Ryan Murphy had already been subject to trade rumors as far back as November, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.
Bob McKenzie ranked the right-handed defenseman eighth overall on his 2011 draft rankings. Murphy ranked just ahead of forward Mika Zibanejad and defenseman Jonas Brodin.
McKenzie described Murphy as “a one-dimensional offensive dynamo” at the time. Murphy has not shown that offensive spark so far in his five NHL seasons. Since being taken eighth overall, he scored just six goals and 37 points in 151 career games.
Murphy has not played more than 48 games in any one season, and went goalless in 27 games in 2016-17. The Hurricanes are still waiting for Murphy to live up to pre-draft expectations.
14 Bang On - Victor Hedman
McKenzie ranked the hulking 6-foot-6 defenseman second overall in 2009, just behind John Tavares. The Swedish defenseman got off to a slow start in his first three NHL seasons, scoring just 12 goals total. Fortunately, he broke out during the 2013-2014 season, scoring 13 goals and 55 points.
Hedman registered double-digit goal seasons the next two years, during which Tampa Bay played deep into the playoffs. Hedman scored 14 points in 26 playoff games as the Lightning reached the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. He scored another 14 points in 17 playoff games in 2016, and became the franchise leader in playoff games played.
Hedman is a workhorse on the blueline as well, averaging nearly 24 and a half minutes of ice time in 2016-17. He also set a career-high with 72 points. McKenzie was right on in saying Hedman would be a top player coming out of the 2009 draft.
13 Mistake - Brandon Gormley
Gormley landed at number four on Bob McKenzie’s 2010 draft rankings. Yet, the 25-year-old defenseman is on his fourth NHL team. In fact, Gormley has spent the past two seasons in the AHL. The Coyotes took Gormley with the 13th pick in the 2010 draft, ahead of Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Hayes, and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Gormley got his first taste in NHL action in March of 2014, going scoreless in five games for the Coyotes. The Coyotes traded Gormley to the Avalanche in 2015, where he made the 2015-16 roster. Unfortunately, he was placed on waivers in January 2016, and returned to the AHL. Gormley signed in New Jersey, but never played a game with the big club. He was traded to Ottawa at the 2017 trade deadline, and was promptly sent to the Senators’ AHL affiliate in Binghamton.
Gormley has played 58 games at the NHL level thus far in his career. He has just two goals and five points. If the Coyotes wanted a defenseman, they could’ve taken Alex Petrovic or Justin Faulk.
12 Bang On - Alex Galchenyuk
The young Canadiens' center had a down year in 2016-17. His 44 points were a drop from 56 in 2015-2016. Yet, keep in mind he battled a lower body injury that limited him to 61 games this season.
McKenzie had Galchenyuk ranked fifth overall on his 2012 draft rankings, behind the likes of Nail Yakupov and Filip Forsberg, but ahead of Matt Dumba, Teuvo Teravainen, Jacob Trouba, Olli Maatta. Many thought it was a very risky pick for Montreal, considering Galchenyuk missed out on his last junior season due to a torn ACL.
The Habs took Galchenyuk third overall in 2012, and by 2014, he had emerged as a top forward for the team. In 2014-15, he scored 20 goals and 46 points, and followed up with 30 goals and 56 points in 2015-16.
11 Mistake - A.J. Thelen
McKenzie's 2004 draft rankings missed the mark on a number of fronts. McKenzie ranked goaltender Al Montoya in the top 10, and ranked defenseman A.J. Thelen eighth overall. McKenzie put the Michigan State alum ahead of future defensive studs Andrej Meszaros and Mike Green.
The Wild selected Thelen 12th overall in the 2004 draft. He bounced around the WHL, AHL, and ECHL, but never played an NHL game. By the 2010-11 season, Thelen retired. His physical play resulted in numerous injuries and concussions. He was just 25 years old.
To add insult to injury, Drew Stafford was taken with the very next pick. Granted, perhaps McKenzie would have been proven right had Thelen stayed healthy. However even before his injury troubles, Thelen didn't seem he was on his way to a good career.
10 Bang On - Oliver Ekman-Larsson
It’s not often that a defenseman leads his team in scoring for a season, much less consecutive seasons. Yet, that is exactly what Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman – Larsson did in back-to-back seasons from 2013-2015. McKenzie ranked the Swedish blueliner eighth overall in his 2009 pre-draft rankings, just behind Brayden Schenn and Jared Cowen and ahead of Dmitri Kulikov and Nazem Kadri.
“If he pushes into the top five, no one should be surprised,” McKenzie said of Ekman-Larsson’s draft stock. The puck-moving defenseman went sixth overall to the Coyotes, and has proven crucial to the team’s core.
In 2016, he set an NHL record for defensemen with eight game-winning goals. In 2016-17, his production dropped to its lowest output since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
However, it was revealed Ekman-Larsson had played with a heavy heart for most of the season, as his mother battled cancer. Tragically, she passed away towards the end of the season, and Ekman-Larsson took a leave of absence from the team. Ekman-Larsson’s perseverance to play most of the season was admirable, but reminds us that hockey is just a game. He is a stud whose career is on the upswing, which assuredly makes his mother proud.
9 Mistake - Lauri Tukonen
If a first-round draft pick plays just five career NHL games, most would call him a bust. Such was the case with Finnish forward Lauri Tukonen. McKenzie had Tukonen as high as number five overall in his 2004 pre-draft rankings.
The Kings took Tukonen with the 11th overall pick that year, sandwiched between fellow first-round busts Boris Valabik and A.J. Thelen. Tukonen didn’t earn his first NHL call-up until February of 2007, and went scoreless in a four-game stint.
He played one game for the Kings during the 2007-08 season before an offseason trade to the Dallas Stars. He returned to his native Finland for the 2008-09 season, and played there for the next seven seasons. Just goes to show you that even the best of the best could make mistakes.
8 Bang On - Jack Eichel
The 2015 NHL Draft yielded several notable first round picks. The top 10 alone included Connor McDavid (#1), Mitch Marner (#4), Ivan Provorov (#7), and Zach Werenski (#8). The Buffalo Sabres took Boston University center Jack Eichel with the second overall pick. McKenzie ranked the Hobey Baker winner in the same spot in his final pre-draft rankings, just behind McDavid. He also went so far as to say that Eichel was the second best prospect he'd seen since Sidney Crosby (behind McDavid).
Marner had a stellar rookie campaign this past season, but understandably plays in Auston Matthews’ shadow. Eichel, meanwhile, has emerged as Buffalo’s franchise star, scoring 24 goals and 56 points en route to making the NHL All-Rookie Team.
Eichel suffered an untimely ankle injury at the start of the 2016-17 season that limited him to 61 games this season. Despite that, he matched his goal total from the 2015-16 season, and topped his previous point total by one point. If Eichel continues his upward trajectory, he will be a consistent 70-80 point center.
7 Mistake - Al Montoya
The New York Rangers selected Henrik Lundqvist late in the 2000 draft, but in 2004, they still were unsure when the young Swede would join the team. Thus, they drafted highly-touted goalie prospect Al Montoya with the sixth overall pick in that year's draft. Perhaps they took after McKenzie's pre-draft ranking, which had Montoya even higher at number four.
Montoya signed an entry-level contract with the Rangers in 2005, the same year Lundqvist made his NHL debut. Soon enough, Lundqvist's stardom rendered Montoya expendable. The Rangers traded him to Arizona in 2008. Montoya was then dealt to the Islanders in 2011. He bounced around between Winnipeg and Florida before joining the Canadiens as the team's backup to Carey Price.
Through it all, Montoya has never started more than 26 NHL games during any one season. Montoya has a career record of 63-46 as of the end of the 2016-17 season. Who were the other two goalies taken in the first round? Devan Dubnyk and Cory Schneider.
6 Bang On - John Tavares
John Tavares may have been the safe pick as the number-one prospect ahead of the 2009 draft, but that doesn’t make McKenzie’s analysis of the London Knights’ star any less prescient. McKenzie and the rest of TSN’s staff praised Tavares for his strength, hand/eye coordination, and quick release, and compared him to the likes of Brett Hull and Mike Bossy.
Sure enough, Tavares is the face of the Islanders’ franchise, and one of the stars of the NHL. He recorded back-to-back 30+ goal seasons from 2014-2016, and scored at least 24 goals in every one of his eight NHL seasons. Most notably, Tavares notched 11 points in 11 playoff games for the Islanders in 2016. He scored the series-clinching goal in double overtime of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to eliminate the Florida Panthers from the postseason.
Tavares’ future with the Islanders remains uncertain, as he is signed through the 2017-18 season. “John Tavares in a perfect world would love to stay with the New York Islanders,” Mckenzie said in March 2017. However, he added that it would be wise of the Islanders to agree to a contract extension before July 1 of this year. Let’s see if that prediction is just as prophetic as the one he made before the 2009 draft.
5 Mistake - Gilbert Brule
The Columbus Blue Jackets figured they were getting a star in the making when they selected Gilbert Brule with the sixth overall pick in the 2005 draft. They had taken Rick Nash just three years earlier at number one, and he was already paying dividends.
McKenzie admitted Brule’s stock had fallen somewhat ahead of the 2005 draft. Still, McKenzie had the Vancouver Giants’ star ranked fairly high. He put Brule ahead of Marc Staal, Andrew Cogliano, and Carey Price. His ranking seemed well-founded at the time.
Brule earned the WHL’s Rookie of the Year Honors after the 2002-03 season, and scored 87 points during the 2003-04 season. He was also named the 2006 Memorial Cup MVP.
However, Brule’s NHL career was marred by injury and inconsistency.
Brule scored 12 goals and 32 points in his first three seasons with Columbus. The Jackets traded him to the Oilers in 2008, who then dealt him to the Coyotes in 2011. Brule left the NHL after the 2013-14 season, having scored 43 goals and 95 points in 299 NHL games. His defensive effort couldn’t make up for his offensive inefficiency either, as evidenced by his career minus-39 rating.
4 Bang On - Filip Forsberg
Filip Forsberg just finished up his fifth year in the NHL, and has already emerged as the Predators’ top forward. McKenzie ranked the Swedish forward third overall ahead of the 2012 draft, and was validated right off the bat.
Forsberg scored 26 goals and 63 points in his first full 82-game season in 2014-2015. The following season, he tied the Predators’ franchise scoring record with 33 goals and 64 points. He topped 30 goals again this past season.
It makes one wonder what the Washington Capitals were thinking when they traded Forsberg for Martin Erat and Michael Latta in 2013.
He fell to 11th overall in the 2012 draft, yet his level of play has surpassed that of 2012 top pick Nail Yakupov. The Predators have got to be thrilled with the speed at which the 22-year-old has developed. McKenzie was right on the money with this pick, and could’ve ranked Forsberg even higher.
3 Mistake - Cam Barker
The 2004 draft makes another appearance on this list. McKenzie topped his Al Montoya blunder by overhyping the play of defenseman Cam Barker. He ranked the WHL star third overall in his pre-draft rankings, behind Russian snipers Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.
Coming off a near point-per-game season with the Medicine Hat Tigers, Barker was a consensus top five pick. It's not as if McKenzie was alone in his praise of the defenseman.
The Blackhawks took Barker third overall, hoping he could anchor the blue line and quarterback the power play for years to come.
Unfortunately, that dream never came to fruition. Barker first earned consistent playing time during the 2006-07 season, appearing in 35 games. He had a decent run with the 'Hawks from 2007-2010, scoring 72 points in 164 games, but it would not last.
Chicago traded Barker to Minnesota in 2010, where he spent one season. He then signed with the Oilers and Canucks before leaving the NHL for Russia in 2013.
For a defenseman who was expected to be a franchise cornerstone, Barker never found the right fit in the NHL.
2 Bang On - Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid is arguably the most exciting young player in the NHL today. The top pick in the 2015 draft just wrapped up his first 100-point season this year, and won the Art Ross Trophy.
McDavid was the consensus number one pick as far back as 2014. McKenzie had McDavid at number one in both his midseason and end-of-season draft rankings. He praised the star center for his speed, agility, and leadership. TSN projected him as the most promising number-one pick since Sidney Crosby in 2005.
Sure enough, McDavid has lived up to the hype. He won the NHL Rookie of the Year after the 2015-16 season, despite playing just 45 games due to a clavicle injury. He improved this past season, notching a 30-goal, 100-point campaign, winning the Art Ross Trophy and leading the Oilers to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
The sky is the limit for McDavid, and McKenzie knew that from the start.
1 Mistake - Nail Yakupov
McKenzie got it right with McDavid, but he missed the mark on another Oilers’ number one pick: Nail Yakupov. The OHL forward scored 170 points in 107 games for the Sarnia Sting before entering the 2012 draft.
It wasn’t too surprising, then, that Yakupov was the consensus top pick that year. Unfortunately, his NHL career hasn’t been as prolific as his OHL tenure. He scored just 50 goals and 111 points in four seasons in Edmonton, and couldn’t find chemistry with a revolving door of linemates. He argued with coaches, battled injuries, and never scored more than 33 points in any of his four seasons in Edmonton.
The Oilers traded Yakupov to the St. Louis Blues in October 2016, but the young forward’s struggles continued. He scored three goals and nine points in 40 games in 2016-17. That puts his career totals at 53 goals and 120 points in 292 NHL games.
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