Everyone makes mistakes, and the general managers of NHL are no different. When the NHL Entry Draft comes along every year, there are bound to be some players they regret choosing over others. They may not notice it right away, but regrets are bound to creep up.
This list will display not only the biggest draft bust that every NHL team has made, but what player they should've chosen instead. The one team I am not including in this list is the Vegas Golden Knights. With this being their first year as a team, it would a little hard to say if anyone on their team is truly a bust, especially with how well they played this season.
Some entries will seem a little out of place. For example, the Winnipeg Jets may have their biggest draft bust be from when the team was the Atlanta Thrashers, or the entry for the Arizona Coyotes may be from when the team was known as the Phoenix Coyotes.
Since the inception of the NHL Draft in 1963, there have been many picks that teams wish they could take back and exchange for a different player. The scope of each team would've been vastly different, and this list will show the biggest mistakes that they could've made into draft steals. With each entry, you will get a sense as to how one player can change the scope of an entire team.
30 Anaheim Ducks - Stanislav Chistov (5th overall, 2001)
Stanislav Chistov was the biggest draft bust for the Anaheim Ducks for a number of reasons. Before being selected fifth overall in 2001, there was a lot of hope hanging over the Russian. Having a career high of 30 points happening only in his rookie season, Chistov lasted five seasons in the NHL before moving on to the KHL, where he still plays today.
Draft Instead: Mikko Koivu
Anaheim would’ve been better off choosing Mikko Koivu. Selected just after Chistov by Minnesota, Koivu went on to have a career that has built him into a franchise player. He has played every season with the Wild since he was drafted. Being named the captain in 2009, he has led his team to the playoffs for the last six seasons.
The way the dynamic of the Ducks would have changed if that had selected Koivu over Chistov is something that we can only imagine, but it’s clear that it would’ve ended up far better.
29 Arizona Coyotes - Peter Mueller (8th overall, 2006)
The Arizona Coyotes wish they could take back selecting Peter Mueller when using their first round, eighth overall pick in the 2006 draft. A point-per-game player, he may have had a promising start, but fell victim to the sophomore slump and never truly recovered. He moved on to play in Europe after the 2012-13 lockout season.
Draft Instead: Michael Frolik
The player the Coyotes should’ve chosen was Michael Frolik. Playing in every season since being drafted in the NHL, he is already a Stanley Cup champion, winning it with Chicago in 2013. The numbers he puts up may not be those of a franchise player, but he has been consistent each season, currently playing for the Calgary Flames.
Not that Mueller wouldn’t have panned out into a great player, but the promise of someone who was once a point-per-game player turned him into a bust. Frolik on the other hand, has been there whenever his team, regardless of where he’s playing, needs him.
28 Boston Bruins - Gord Kluzak (1st overall, 1982)
Gord Kluzak finished third overall out of all prospects before the 1982 draft, but the GM of the Boston Bruins, Harry Sinden, saw enough in him to select him first overall. Fighting injuries the majority of his playing career, he was racking up numbers that were disappointing.
Draft Instead: Scott Stevens
If the Bruins wanted a player that would change their franchise for the better, they should’ve selected Scott Stevens. In the 22 seasons he played in the NHL, he never had a negative plus/minus. Stevens was also the youngest player to reach 1,500 games and more recently, was named one of the “100 greatest hockey players of all time.”
Stevens had a hall of fame career, something that Kluzak will only broadcast about. The Bruins would’ve had a much better pay off if they had taken a closer look at the prospect list. Selecting Stevens would’ve been a steal, where Kluzak was indeed a bust.
27 Buffalo Sabres - Shawn Anderson (5th overall, 1986)
The Buffalo Sabres had a pretty good track record when selecting in the top five at the draft. In 1986, choosing Shawn Anderson fifth overall changed that slightly. Playing only 299 games in eight seasons is something that teams don’t particularly look in for a top five draft pick, even eight seasons later. He went on to play in Germany in 1996 until retiring in 2004.
Draft Instead: Brian Leetch
Buffalo’s track record would’ve stayed in tact if they had selected Brian Leetch, who was chosen ninth overall. In 18 seasons in the NHL, Leetch was a consistent force on the ice. Slightly under being a point-per-game player, he was regarded be former teammate Mark Messier as the “greatest Ranger of all time.”
Looking back, if they knew what kind of player that Leetch would turn out to be, the Sabres should’ve chosen him over Anderson.
26 Calgary Flames - Brent Krahn (9th overall, 2000)
Calgary watched the New York Islanders choose Rick DiPietro as the first overall pick in 200o and decided to choose a goaltender themselves in the first round. They selected Brent Krahn, who came to the Flames with high praise. However, his only NHL game came almost a decade after being drafted.
Draft Instead: Henrik Lundqvist
It is a shame that Calgary went with this goalie, when they could’ve landed one of the best netminders of our generation, King Henrik. Of course, hindsight is definitely 20/20, as many teams would have drafted the talented goalie sooner than the 205th spot the Rangers drafted him at.
Lundqvist's combined 431 wins would have definitely helped out the Flames during the 2000s and beyond. Rather than choosing Krahn, the Flames should've looked for a King.
25 Carolina Hurricanes - Jeff Heerema (11th overall, 1998)
Selected by the Carolina Hurricanes 11th overall in 1998, Jeff Heerema was very productive in both the juniors and the AHL. The production unfortunately didn’t join him in the NHL, and he went overseas after spending the majority of nine seasons in the minors. Nearly a point-per-game player outside of the NHL, Heerema finished his career in the British Hockey League five seasons later.
Draft Instead: Alex Tanguay
Alex Tanguay was selected in the draft right after Heerema by Colorado and would’ve been a far better choice for Carolina. Scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 2001 for the Avalanche is just one of the great moments of the former player’s career. Playing in over 1,000 games, he was consistent and considered a force not to be reckoned with on the ice.
It was a long shot for the Hurricanes to bank on Heerema. The investment would’ve paid off far better with Tanguay.
24 Chicago Blackhawks - Cam Barker (3rd overall, 2004)
For Chicago Blackhawks fans, this one will hurt a bit. Cam Barker, a highly-ranked defenseman going into the draft, was selected third overall by the Hawks in 2004. His career started off promising, but quickly fell to numbers below average. His lackluster play caused him to be traded in order the Hawks to win the Stanley Cup in 2010.
Draft Instead: Blake Wheeler
Blake Wheeler was the name that should’ve been called by Chicago, and not by Phoenix two picks later. Though he chose to go to college after being drafted, he proved that he was ready for the NHL when he debuted for Boston in 2009. Wheeler is currently the captain of the Winnipeg Jets and continues to improve his game each season.
Barker was a chance that the Blackhawks could’ve avoided. With Wheeler currently in leading his team to the second round of the playoffs, it’s proof that he would’ve been the better option.
23 Colorado Avalanche - Vaclav Nedorost (14th overall, 2000)
Colorado hasn’t made too many mistakes at the draft during their 21-year history but selecting Vaclav Nedorost 14th overall in 2000 was a bust they could've avoided. Only playing hockey in North Amercia for three years, the hype that the European scouts gave him never came to fruition. He quickly moved on to Europe where he still plays today.
Draft Instead: Justin Williams
Justin Williams would’ve been a far better option, and he was selected 28th by Phliadephia. Gained the nickname “Mr. Game 7,” Williams shares a record with Glenn Anderson for more goals in game 7 of the playoffs. A three-time Stanley Cup champion, he won the Conn Smythe trophy in 2014 while playing for Los Angeles.
The landscape of the Avalanche would’ve been vastly different, and for the better, if they had selected Williams, a player who is still lacing up his skates in the NHL 18 years later.
22 Columbus Blue Jackets - Gilbert Brule (6th overall, 2005)
Gilbert Brule was shaped up to be a great choice for the Columbus Blue Jackets when selected sixth overall in 2005. His poor performance on the ice in his rookie season was rumored to be the reason behind the firing of the team’s general manager. His NHL career spanned only nine seasons, split between three teams, before moving on to Europe.
Draft Instead: Anze Kopitar
Anze Kopitar was chosen only five spots after Brule and would’ve been the better option for Columbus. He led the Kings to two Stanley Cups in the last six years. A four-time NHL All Star, Kopitar is the first Slovenian to play in the NHL and has become the face of Kings’ franchise.
Not only would it have been better for the office of the Blue Jackets, but selecting Kopitar would’ve given them a franchise player that they were looking for in Brule.
21 Dallas Stars - Ric Jackman (5th overall, 1996)
Ric Jackman played well in the minors, proved himself for Dallas to select him fifth overall in 1996. His two seasons with the Stars saw less than stellar numbers and he was traded to Boston. Eventually, he became a Stanley Cup champion with Anaheim in 2007, but for Dallas, he was their biggest bust.
Draft Instead: Daniel Briere
Daniel Briere was also a member of the 1996 draft class and would’ve been a better choice for Dallas. The two-time NHL All Star played in the league for 18 seasons. His remarkable skill has led him to landing a management position within the Philadelphia Flyers organization.
He may have reached the biggest prize in the NHL, but Jackman was a player that Dallas could’ve faired better picking a player that lived up to the hype the minors gave him, much like Briere.
20 Detroit Red Wings - Brent Fedyk (8th overall, 1985)
Brent Fedyk may have had a career that spanned 12 seasons, but even with the numbers he had put up throughout his career, he still is considered the biggest draft bust in Detroit Red Wings history. Selected eight overall in 1985, he would never reach more than 59 points in a season.
Draft Instead: Joe Nieuwendyk
Joe Nieuwendyk would’ve been a better selection. Being chosen in the second round, the Hall of Famer would’ve been a steal at the time. Winning the Stanley Cup with three different teams, Nienwendyk was nearly a point-per-game player throughout his 20 seasons in the NHL.
It is not just numbers that make a player, but the growth they show with every season. Where Fedyk had spurts of great moments, Nieuwendyk was more consistent, something that teams hope for after the draft.
19 Edmonton Oilers - Jason Bosignore (4th overall, 1994)
Selected fourth overall, Jason Bosignore is by far the biggest draft bust in Edmonton’s history of the franchise. Over eight seasons in the NHL, the number of games he played didn’t equal a full season and his career wasn’t anywhere close to what most expect out of a top five draft pick.
Draft Instead: Daniel Alfredsson
With the 133rd pick, Ottawa selected the face of their franchise and the greatest captain they ever had, Daniel Alfredsson. In 17 seasons with the Sens (and 1 weird year in Detroit), the Swede tallied 1157 points, with 444 of them being goals.
Looking back, the legacy that Alfredsson left on the Sens would’ve been a lot better in Edmonton than the blemish that Bosignore left on the Oilers.
18 Florida Panthers - Rostislav Olesz (7th overall, 2004)
Spending a year in the minors after being drafted seventh overall in 2004, helped in the short term, but it didn't stop Rostislav Olesz from becoming a draft bust for the Florida Panthers. His promising start didn’t grow into what anyone expected, declining greatly after his second season.
Draft Instead: Kris Versteeg
The better choice would’ve been Kris Versteeg. A two-time Stanley Cup champion, Versteeg grew into a great player after being named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team in 2009. He may have had bad seasons, he has always been there for the big moments.
Versteeg’s help to win two Cups in Chicago is something that Florida would’ve benefited from far better that Olesz lackluster numbers. Versteeg may not be a franchise player, but his help in the locker room goes a long way.
17 Los Angeles Kings - Aki Berg (3rd overall, 1995)
Selected third overall in 1995, Aki Berg was envisioned to be the new franchise player for the Los Angeles Kings. His career fell into something that everyone never expected or hoped. In nine seasons, he didn’t even tally 100 points in the NHL before moving on to Europe.
Draft Instead: Shane Doan
Shane Doan, a player who quickly became the face of the Coyotes, should’ve been selected instead. A two-time NHL All Star, Doan was also honored with the Mark Messier Leadership award in 2012. His leadership is just the cherry on top as to why the Kings should’ve chose him.
The Kings were lucky, getting to chose third overall in the draft. They should’ve been a little more cautious with their pick. Doan would’ve given them, and the city of Los Angeles, the great player they deserved.
16 Minnesota Wild - James Sheppard (9th overall, 2006)
Minnesota picked James Sheppard ninth overall in 2006 after he dominated as a junior. His nine-season playing career, split between the NHL and the minors, brought play that was well below average. His less-than-stellar totals in the big league were the mina reason he is considered a bust.
Draft Instead: Brian Little
Brian Little would’ve been a far better choice, a steal, in fact. Staying with the same franchise since being drafted, moving with Atlanta when they relocated to Winnipeg. Now enjoying the 2018 playoffs, he is clearly a player that Minnesota needed at the time.
Minnesota was looking for a superstar; someone to take them to the next level of their game. They didn’t find it in Sheppard, but they would’ve had a better chance finding it in Little.
15 Montreal Canadiens - Doug Wickenheiser (1st overall, 1980)
The draft bust that surrounds Doug Wickenheiser is one that hurts Montreal fans. Drafted first overall in 1980, he didn’t help matters with the way he performed on the ice. The bust may be more about what the fans expected, but the office of the Canadiens was kicking themselves too.
Draft Instead: Denis Savard
The better choice would’ve been Denis Savard. The Hall of Famer went third overall to Chicago and went on to participate in nine All-Star games. His number was retired in 1998, and he remains an ambassador for the Hawks. He proved himself every time he laced up his skates.
Savard’s legacy is well-known, and not just to Hawks fans. Being French-Canadian himself, he would’ve fit in perfectly in Montreal to begin his career. Though he did play there for a short time eventually, his name should’ve been called instead of Wickenheiser’s.
14 Nashville Predators - Brian Finley (6th overall, 1999)
Brian Finley was known for letting in the occasional soft goal in the minors. Even with that, Nashville selected him sixth overall in 1999. His reputation came with him to the NHL and didn’t get much play time due to the under-development of his game, suiting for only four games in eight seasons.
Draft Instead: Nick Boynton
Rather than a goalie, selecting a defenseman like Nick Boynton would’ve been the better choice. His play grew and brought him accolades that made him a great player. A former All-Star, Stanley Cup champion and All-Rookie team player, Boynton would’ve been a steal for Nashville.
With the very limited play that Finley had in the NHL, it was not an investment that was very beneficial for the Predators. Boynton should’ve walked up sixth, instead of 21st.
13 New Jersey Devils - Mattias Tedenby (24th overall, 2008)
While they made have selected Adam Henrique in the third round, the made a slight mis-step when selecting Mattias Tedenby 24th overall in 2008. The four seasons that Tedenby was in the NHL, he barely developed his game enough to play much outside of the minors. He was a choice New Jersey wishes they could’ve taken back and changed.
Draft Instead: Roman Josi
They should’ve changed it by selecting Roman Josi. The defenseman has made a name for himself while playing for the Predators, and is currently enjoying a deep playoff run. With 239 points to his credit in just 6 seasons, he's a powerhouse defensemen.
The Devils may have lucked out in 2008 picking Henrique, but they could’ve doubled that luck by choosing Josi over Tedenby.
12 New York Islanders - Dave Chyzowski (2nd overall, 1989)
Selected second overall, Dave Chyzowski was a choice that the Islanders wish that could’ve thought out different. He was regarded as a lazy player and his style of play never adapted to play in the NHL well. As horrid as his numbers were, they were the best to come out of any of the players the Isles picked in the 1989 draft.
Draft Instead: Nicklas Lidstrom
Missing out on several big names, the Islanders should’ve chosen Nicklas Lidstrom, arguably the greatest defenseman to ever play the game. The Swedish sensation spent 20 seasons in Detroit, and quickly became a household name despite being selected 53rd overall.
When choosing in the top five of the draft, teams are looking for a franchise player. The Islanders would’ve found that in Lidstrom, more than they did in Chyzowski.
11 New York Rangers - Bobby Sanguinetti (21st overall, 2006)
Bobby Sanguinetti struggled to find his way in the NHL, but it never really worked out for him. After being selected 21st overall in the 2006 entry draft, he spent four seasons in the Rangers organization, only suiting up for five NHL games during that time.
Draft Instead: Claude Giroux
The Rangers missed on selecting Claude Giroux, who was chosen with the next pick by the Flyers. His play has improved each season, and the five-time NHL All-Star helped lead his team to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010. A household name, Giroux has played in big games both in the NHL and internationally since being drafted.
Choosing Giroux would’ve made the 2006 draft a lot better for Broadway. Looking back, the choice they made was indeed a bust, and what could’ve been makes it that much worse.
10 Ottawa Senators - Alexandre Daigle (1st overall, 1993)
As a first overall selection, Alexandre Daigle left a dark legacy on the Ottawa Senators organization. He was framed as a superstar, but his numbers didn't live up to the hype and his name was followed by a dark cloud his entire career. He played 10 seasons in the NHL, but contrary to his belief, the guy who went number two fared far better.
Draft Instead: Chris Pronger
Chris Pronger, the man selected second overall, was the one that Daigle said no one would remember. Instead, he was the one that now finds himself in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The first defenseman to the win the Hart Trophy in 2000 since Bobby Orr did it in 1972, Pronger made sure he played to prove his selection in the draft.
Pronger should’ve been selected first in 1993, and it would’ve allowed Ottawa to avoid the darkness that followed Daigle.
9 Philadelphia Flyers - Steve Smith (16th overall, 1981)
The Flyers made many mistakes during the entry drafts of the 1980s, but selecting Steve Smith 16th overall in 1981 takes the cake as the biggest draft bust in the history of the franchise.Playing the majority of his North American hockey career in the minors, Smith managed to play eight games in the NHL before skipped the Atlantic Ocean to play in Europe in 1989.
Draft Instead: Chris Chelios
Chris Chelios would've made a better choice for the Flyers. The Hockey Hall of Famer was one of the longest tenured players in NHL history. A three-time Stanley Cup champion, Chelios was also honored with the Norris trophy for the league’s best defenseman three times in his career.
There were 25 draft picks between Smith and Chelios, so there was a large chance that the Flyers easily could've stolen Chelios, given the superstar they hoped Smith would've turned out to be.
8 Pittsburgh Penguins - Craig Hillier (23rd overall, 1996)
Leading up to the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins were wanting to find a young up and coming goaltender to replace the aging Tom Barrasso. They selected Craig Hillier of the OHL's Ottawa 67's as the 23rd overall pick. He never played a game in the NHL, spending his pro career for the Syracuse Crunch.
Draft Instead: Zdeno Chara
The Penguins could’ve and should’ve strayed away from looking for a goaltender when Zdeno Chara was still available. This defensive style of play would’ve been a huge asset to the Penguins, as it has been for every team he’s played for. Chara has been the captain for the Boston Bruins since 2006.
Tom Barrasso could’ve played a lot longer with Chara guarding him leading the blue line in the Steel City.
7 San Jose Sharks - Teemu Riihijarvi (12th overall, 1995)
Do you remember the word Teemu Riihijarvi? It wouldn't be a shock if you didn't because the only way you would is by remember the failures and mistakes that the San Jose Sharks made at the NHL Entry Draft. The Finnish winger never played a game on this side of the Atlantic, despite being selected 12th overall.
Draft Instead: Marc Savard
Marc Savard waited until the fourth round for the Rangers to pick him. He may have had injuries plague his playing career, but he still managed to become a two-time All-Star. Savard is most known for helping the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011, before leaving the game for good due to a concussion.
The Sharks needed a player that would come play in the NHL at some point. Even if he career was cut short, Savard gave everything he had every time he laced up his skates on an in NHL rink.
6 St. Louis Blues - Marek Schwarz (17th overall, 2004)
The St. Louis Blues were looking to a goaltender to potentially replace Dominik Hasek. Selecting Marek Schwarz 17th overall, they thought they had found it. Playing in six NHL games over three seasons, he quickly found himself going back to Europe, where he still plays today.
Draft Instead: David Krejci
David Krejci would’ve helped the Blues the way he has helped the Bruins. He led the league in playoff points in 2011 and 2013. The first of those years, Krejci helped Boston win the Stanley Cup and continues to be a driving force on the team as an alternate captain.
Krejci was selected in the third round, so it would’ve been a steal that the Blues could’ve used to help their franchise move to bigger plateaus.
5 Tampa Bay Lightning - Andy Rogers (30th overall, 2004)
After winning the Stanley Cup in 2004, Tampa Bay struggled to focus on drafting solid players just weeks after. Of course, winning the Cup meant their first pick of the draft was 30th overall. With that pick, they chose Andy Rogers. The defenseman tried all he could to develop, but in five seasons, never made it out of the AHL.
Draft Instead: Alex Goligoski
Alex Goligoski is a defenseman that Tampa could’ve had better luck with. Helping the Penguins win the Cup in 2009, was just one highlight of his career. He has had stellar moments throughout his career, which he now enjoys as an alternate captain for Arizona.
Several defensemen were called after Rogers at the 2004 draft, but Goligoski would’ve had been the best option. He would’ve worn the Lightening jersey with pride, something that Rogers didn’t have a chance to do.
4 Toronto Maple Leafs - Tyler Biggs (22nd overall, 2011)
The Toronto Maple Leafs have a record for not seeing if their best draft picks reach their full potential before giving up on them and trading them away. It’s hard to say if Tyler Biggs, who they chose 22nd overall in 2011 was a complete bust, but he certain was for Toronto. They traded him to Pittsburgh after only two seasons with the Marlies.
Draft Instead: Nikita Kucherov
Nikita Kucherov, who Tampa chose with the 58th pick, should’ve been picked by the Leafs instead. He has grown into a phenomenal winger who helped Tampa dominate this past season, totalling 100 points in the process. The promise that he showed before the draft continues to show today.
Biggs being named a bust is not entirely his own fault. Perhaps the Leafs wouldn’t have given up on Kucherov as quickly as they did Biggs.
3 Vancouver Canucks - Patrick White (25th overall, 2007)
Patrick White was the first of the six players not only selected by Vancouver in the 2007 draft, but who never play a single game in the NHL. White is the biggest bust because he was drafted in the first round. After graduating college and never inking a pro contract, he made his way overseas until retiring in 2017.
Draft Instead: Jamie Benn
Jamie Benn was chosen in the fifth round, but he should’ve been chosen in the first. This center who was quickly shaping into a franchise player, helped put the Dallas Stars back in contention for the Stanley Cup. As the captain, he has led his team to heights they didn’t think possible.
If we knew then what we know now, Benn would’ve been easily chosen in the first round, perhaps in place of White.
2 Washington Capitals - Darren Veitch (5th overall, 1980)
Darren Veitch's fate in becoming a draft bust was not based on who he was, but more on what he wasn't. The top five picks of the 1980 NHL Entry Draft were riddled with defenders. High expectations were put on Veitch, and he failed to live up to them, being selected fifth. His last NHL game was played in 1990-91. He continued in the minors until finally retiring in 1999.
Draft Instead: Paul Coffey
Paul Coffey was the sixth pick at the 1980 draft. With four Stanley Cup rings, Coffey still hold many NHL records for defensemen, and was selected to play at the All-Star game 14 times. A legendary career the Capitals would’ve been lucky to start off.
In the eyes of Washington Capitals fans, the player that they chose fifth, would never measure up to who the Edmonton Oilers chose sixth, Paul Coffey.
1 Winnipeg Jets - Patrik Stefan (1st overall, 1999)
Before the Jets resurfaced in the NHL, Patrik Stefan was selected first overall in the 1999 draft by the franchise. As a member of the Atlanta Thrashers, Stefan is regarded as arguably the biggest draft bust in the history of the franchise. His biggest moment in the NHL happened when he missed an open net against the Edmonton Oilers, tripping and falling on the ice.
Draft Instead: Martin Havlat
Martin Havlat, selected 26th overall by the Ottawa Senators, would've been a better choice. He retired in 2015, after spending 14 seasons in the NHL and making his mark with every team he played for. Though injuries plagued some of his career, he was a great leader in any locker room he stepped into.
The Jets, then the Atlanta Thrashers, should’ve chosen Havlat. Not only for his play, but also for the leadership role he grew into.