Every June, each NHL franchise makes changes that help shape their futures. The NHL Draft is an event that fans of every team look forward to, especially those who are fans of the team who gets the first overall pick.
With each team scouting prospects throughout the season, it is always exciting to see which players climb up the ranks for the top spot. For some teams, the players they choose in the draft end up being franchise players who help the team become playoff contenders.
However, there are some picks who look promising in the prior to the draft, but don't live up to the hype once they sign a contract with the team that drafted them. We call these players "draft busts." Looking back on when these players were drafted, it is interesting to see which other players teams could have chosen instead.
With this list, you will see 18 of the biggest draft busts from Canadian teams in the NHL. In the case of the Winnipeg Jets, one entry in this list is from the Atlanta Thrashers, where the current Jets relocated from.
Some entries in this list may be speculated upon opinion, but when you look at the numbers the players produced, what the team that chose them expected, and who they could've chosen instead, it can be seen more clearly.
Though hockey is a team sport, there are certain roles that each player is expected to play. These players did not play their role in the way the owners, general managers and coaches hoped they would. Here are the 18 biggest NHL Draft busts from Canadian teams.
18 Cody Hodgson - 10th overall in 2008, Vancouver Canucks
While he was ranked ninth in North American scouting heading into the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Cody Hodgson was the leader the Vancouver Canucks were hoping for, selecting him in the first round, 10th overall.
Hodgson was expected to get a spot on the Canucks' roster for the 2008-09 season, signing an entry-level contract on October 5, 2008. The next day, however, he was sent back to his OHL team, the Brampton Battalion. Injuries plagued Hodgson playing at 100 per cent and being able to land a spot on the main roster of the Canucks for the next two season, not making his NHL debut until February 1, 2011. His yo-yoed between the Canucks' AHL affiliate, Manitoba Moose and the NHL for the rest of the season, gaining two points in eight games for the Canucks.
Hodgson made the Canucks roster for the 2011-12 season and was performing well. However, with minutes left before the trade deadline on February 27, 2012, Hodgson was dealt to the Buffalo Sabres. He spent three years of the six his contract was for with Buffalo before being put on unconditional waivers, allowing him to be a free agent after the 2014-15 season.
Signing a one-year deal with the Nashville Predators, Hodgson managed to only tally eight points in 39 games. He retired when the season was over, and signed on to join the Predators' youth program Little Preds Learn to Play, helping teach children the fundamentals of hockey.
17 Nail Yakupov - 1st overall in 2012, Edmonton Oilers
Nail Yakupov may not seem like a draft bust to some, but being the third first overall pick in a row for the Edmonton Oilers, he was the wrong choice.
This is not doubting his skills as a player at all. However, going into the draft, the Oilers scouts had voted in favor of selecting Ryan Murray, a defenceman who would help the team more than yet another a forward. Regardless of what the scouts thought, it was Yakupov's name that was called at the podium.
It may not have been the worst first overall draft pick that the Oilers have chosen, but the resentment and what could have been is what makes Yakupov a highly rated draft bust, regardless of recording 119 points over 252 games in his four years with the Oilers. The numbers he produced were not those of what one would expect over a first overall draft pick, especially after Oilers had preceded Yakupov by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall as first overall draft picks in the two previous drafts.
Yakupov is currently playing for the Colorado Avalanche, who picked him off the Free Agency following one season with St. Louis Blues.
16 David Fischer - 20th overall in 2006, Montreal Canadiens
Selected just two picks before the current captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, Claude Giroux, David Fischer will go down as the worst first round pick in Montreal Canadiens history.
In 2006, Fischer was regarded as one of the Canadiens top prospects, with the organization depending on him for his size and the scouting report that stated he made the players around him better. After the draft however, he did not receive a contract from the Habs, and went to play college hockey at the University of Minnesota for four years. In fact, he progressively got worse, and the highest level he would reach in North America, aside from two games for the AHL's Houston Aeros where he did not tally any points in the 2011-12 season, was the ECHL. He moved overseas for the beginning of the 2012-13 season and he currently plays in the Austrian Hockey League (EBEL) for the EC KAC.
Seeing as how the Habs could've grabbed an elite center like Giroux, picking Fischer was undoubtedly a major draft bust.
15 Alexandre Daigle - 1st overal in 1993, Ottawa Senators
There would be no rookie salary cap until Alexandre Daigle was drafted by the Ottawa Senators first overall in 1993. While he may have been scouted by many teams throughout the season before the Draft, it was Ottawa that got him, hoping he would be the superstar they'd always wanted. Sadly, that was far from the case.
He spent four full seasons with the Senators before being traded to the Flyers mid-way through the 1997-98 season. By that time, he had proven that he could not live up the contract that the organization had invested in him. He had played for four other NHL clubs before moving overseas. His NHL career ended with numbers that were well under what was expected of a first overall draft pick, recording 327 points in 616 games. His four and half seasons with the Senators saw him tally 172 points in 301 games.
His international career was far better, with 166 points in 164 games, retiring after four seasons with the National League in 2010. Currently he works in Montreal as part of the cinematography department of a movie production crew.
14 Rico Fata - 6th overall in 1998, Calgary Flames
Being selected in the first round, especially the top 10, of any draft, is derived having a solid junior career that builds the players up as great prospects. That was the scenario for the Calgary Flames when, in 1998, they chose Rico Fata 6th overall. He was highly regarded on the prospect list and being chosen in the top 10 came as no surprise. How his career unfolded after that, however, was very disappointing.
Fata's first contract with the Flames last only three years, where he only managed to suit up for 27 NHL games throughout that time, tallying one assist. His greatest season was 2003-04 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, his third NHL team, recording 37 points in 73 games.
Fata left the NHL part-way through the 2006-07 season, retiring from hockey in 2014. Considering the players who selected after him in the draft, including Simon Gagne and Alex Tanguay, Fata deserves to be called a draft bust.
13 Tyler Biggs - 22nd overall in 2011, Toronto Maple Leafs
What if the Leafs didn't trade for one of their first round picks and a second round pick at the 2011 Entry Draft? Well, the second round pick they gave to the Ducks ended up being John Gibson. With that trade, the Leafs received the 2nd overall pick and selected Tyler Biggs.
Biggs was complete bust, especially since the Leafs gave up their chance to grab a goalie like Gibson. His playing didn't help matters either, as he never made it to the NHL at all. After spending his first season following the draft playing for Miami University in Ohio, Biggs moved on to the Oshawa Generals of the OHL for the 2012-13 season. He made his debut with the Marlies during that season, playing four regular season and one playoff game for the AHL team. His greatest season was 2013-14 season with the Marlies, where he rallied nine points in 57 games.
Part of the Phil Kessel trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Biggs moved to the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins, but quickly moved down to the ECHL, where he still plays today for the Kalamazoo Wings. Considering what the Leafs could've had, Tyler Biggs was definitely a draft bust.
12 Patrik Stefan - 1st overall in 1999, Winnipeg Jets
Though he was technically drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers, the franchise moved up to Winnipeg in 2011. Over a decade for the relocation, Patrik Stefan was selected first overall at the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Stefan is regarded as the biggest draft bust in the history of the NHL, which is saying a lot after being selected as the top pick.
He was a prospect that turned heads in 1999, and many teams wanted him at the time. However, his play following the draft proved to be a disappointment. He finished his NHL career with 188 points in 455 games. Numbers like Stefan's have not been duplicated until Nail Yakupov over a decade later. The final 11 points of his NHL career came with his only season with the Dallas Stars. Stefan made the moved to Europe after Dallas refused to re-sign him before the 2007-08 season. He retired in October 2007, after only playing three games, needing surgery on his hip.
Currently a player agent in Metro Detroit, Stefan is also a youth hockey coach for Little Caesars Hockey.
11 Marc-Antoine Pouliot - 22nd overall in 2003, Edmonton Oilers
The class of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft is regarded as arguably the deepest class ever, even beating out the class of 1979. Aside from a few mistakes and slip-ups, every team in the franchise selected players who would become one who helped shape the team for the better on June 21, 2003 in Nashville.
One of the few mistakes made that day was in the first round by the Edmonton Oilers. Not only because of who they chose, but the move they made just before they made their pick. Originally, the Oilers were slated to pick 17th overall, but made a deal with the New Jersey Devils for the 22nd pick and the 68th pick for their first round pick. Who did the Devils chose at #17? Zach Parise.
This led to the Oilers choosing Marc-Antoine Pouliot as the 22nd pick in the first round. They thought that this was a smart move at the time, but Pouliot didn't make his NHL debut until March 30, 2006, almost three full seasons after he was drafted. He was the only player selected between no. 17 and 29 who didn't play over 200 NHL games to date, leaving the NHL following the 2011-12 season, where he only played 13 games with the Phoenix Coyotes, his third NHL team.
Pouliot currently plays for HC Fribourg-Gotteron of the National League in Switzerland.
10 Brian Lee - 9th overall in 2005, Ottawa Senators
When you think of the 2005 NHL Draft, it is automatic that your brain would go to Sidney Crosby. What about the players who were picked after him? The Ottawa Senators had the ninth pick at that draft, and who did they choose? They chose defenceman Brian Lee.
They missed a huge opportunity with Lee. Though he had a great playoff run in 2007, he failed to make get through training camp the following season. Sadly, Lee had managed to grab every trophy that you can in junior hockey, as well as being one of the rare players who represented the United States in the World Juniors while still in high school. He gave the Senators high hopes when they chose him in the draft over star caliber players like Anze Kopitar or Marc Staal.
Lee retired from professional hockey, but the bitter taste that the former Mr. Hockey of Minnesota left in the mouth of the Ottawa Senators will never be forgotten. He is currently in his second season as an assistant coach for the Concordia Cobbers Women’s hockey team.
9 Luke Schenn - 5th overall in 2008, Toronto Maple Leafs
Luke Schenn was a great prospect for the Toronto Maple Leafs. His style of play was just almost a decade too late. He's a big defenceman who needed time to grow with the game whose speed exceeded the big rookie's skills in 2008. Nevertheless, the Leafs selected him fifth overall.
It's not saying that he wasn't worthy of being selected fifth in the Draft, but putting him on the main roster right away was a poor decision by the Leafs. Schenn's first season with the Leafs was decent, tallying two goals and 12 assists in the 70 games he played. There were higher expectations for Schenn heading into his sophomore season, but the head coach kept him out of the line-up for four games.
After two more seasons with the Leafs, Schenn was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for James van Riemsdyk. He currently is in his last season of his two-year deal with the Arizona Coyotes.
What makes Luke Schenn a draft bust is the Leafs' organization to bank on him being the new face of the franchise, just to trade him off four years later.
8 Andrei Kostitsyn - 10th overall in 2003, Montreal Canadiens
As stated in an previous entry, the 2003 Entry Draft was the deepest class in history. Just mention the name Andrei Kostitsyn to any Montreal Canadiens fan, and they will dwell on what could have been if the Habs had chosen differently in the draft.
It wasn't that Kostitsyn was a disaster when he laced up his skates, but after the 2007-08 season, his first full season with the Canadiens, he had reached his career high of 53 points in 78 games. He was offered a three-year contract extension following that season, and his play began to drop dramatically. He recorded 143 points in 267 with the Canadiens before being traded to the Nashville Predators at the deadline to finish off the 2011-12 season. That was Kostitsyn's final season playing in the NHL, moving on to the Kontinental Hockey League for the start of the 2012-13 season.
Currently, the man who has been dubbed "AK-46" plays for HC Kunlun Red Star of the KHL in Russia.
7 Lukas Sutter - 39th overall in 2012 - Winnipeg Jets
Lukas Sutter had everything going for him leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Being a member of the legendary Sutter family, many were excited to see how his professional hockey career would unfold. Surprisingly, he did not live up to the legacy his family paved for him.
Selected 39th overall by the Winnipeg Jets, Sutter never played a game in the NHL. The season following the draft, he played for Saskatoon Blades, and no improvement was shown. He was playing nowhere near the prospect he was assumed to be. The Jets did not offer this second-generation hockey player to an entry-level contract.
After being traded to the Red Deer Rebels and needing shoulder surgery, Sutter re-entered the draft and be selected 200th overall by the New York Islanders in June of 2014. He split the season following that draft between the Islanders' AHL and ECHL affiliate teams.
It is believed that Sutter is retired from professional hockey as of the beginning of the 2017-2018 season.
6 Rob Schremp - 25th overall in 2004, Edmonton Oilers
From being named rookie of the year at 16 years old after his first season in the OHL, Rob Schremp was arguably the biggest draft bust for the Edmonton Oilers. Nail Yakupov being the only player rivaling that spot.
Though he was selected 25th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Schremp returned to the OHL to play one more season with London Knights. He exceeded expectations, recording 174 points in just 57 games that season. When he was finished with his junior career, he was a mainstay in the AHL, only playing seven games with the Oilers in three years, tallying three assists.
Schremp was picked up off waivers on twice after he wrapped up his time with the Oilers, once by the Islanders and then again by the Thrashers, before finally moving on to play overseas for the start of the 2011-12 season. He still plays in Europe today, currently signed to the Numberg Ice Tigers in Germany.
5 Dan Woodley - 7th 0verall in 1986, Vancouver Canucks
In 1986, the Vancouver Canucks selected Dan Woodley 7th overall and was a giant disappointment for the franchise. Comparing Woodley to the other picks in his draft class, he was the only one selected in the first 15 picks to suit up for less than 20 NHL games.
Woodley was a very promising prospect, helping the team he was drafted from, the Portland Winterhawks, make it to the finals of the 1986 Memorial Cup. More than that, he tallied 66 points in first IHL season. Fast forward to the draft, Woodley was selected by the Canucks before players who would become superstars: Brian Leetch and Scott Young. Both of those players would go on to play in more than 1,000 NHL games. Compare that to Woodley's five games, this pick was definitely a draft bust.
The Canucks didn't see any improvement in Woodley and in 1988, they traded him Montreal for Jose Charbonneau. That move didn't help the team much though, as Charbonneau only recorded 16 points over three seasons. He is currently a hockey coach and a teacher at Regis Jesuit.
4 Brent Krahn - 9th overall in 2000 - Calgary Flames
At the 2000 Entry Draft, the Calgary Flames felt the need to draft a goaltender after watching Rick DiPietro being selected first overall by the New York Islanders. They had the ninth pick, and they chose Brent Krahn.
Since 2000, Krahn's lone game in the NHL has him ranked as the second worst first round draft pick. The Flames thought they had found a great last line of defense for their team when they selected Krahn, especially after racking up great numbers as a junior.
With only one game in the NHL, Krahn spent the majority of his professional hockey career in the AHL, playing for the Quad City Flames, Lowell Lock Monsters, Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights and the San Antonio Rampage.
Krahn announced his retirement after he was deemed ineligible to play for the Texas Stars in the 2011 AHL Playoffs. He now works a 9 to 5 job for a Canadian corporation, Pembina Pipeline, who operates storage and transportation infrastructure.
3 Mathieu Chouinard - 15th, 1998 and 46th, 2000 - Ottawa Senators
You know the saying, "fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me?" That sums up the situation surrounding the Ottawa Senators and goalie Mathieu Chouinard.
The Senators were looking for a goaltender to help shape their team, and banked on their first round pick to make that happen. Chouinard never signed a deal with the Senators, and continued to play for his QMJHL team, the Shawinagin Cataractes. He played four season with the club, having a record of 104-60-13.
Since he was not signed to an entry-level contract, Chouinard re-entered the draft in 2000. He may have been hoping for a different start with a different NHL, the Senators selected him once again, this time 45th overall. He signed an entry-level contract with the hockey club, but never played in the NHL during that time.
When his contract with Ottawa was up, Chouinard signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings in July 2003. He managed to get three minutes of NHL ice-time throughout the entire season. He retired two seasons later in 2006 after playing two seasons in the AHL, only recording one game in his final season. He is currently the head coach of the St-Laurent Patriotes.
2 Jeff Ware - 15th overall in 1995, Toronto Maple Leafs
Jeff Ware was a decision that we're sure the Toronto Maple Leafs wish they could take back. Drafted 15th overall, Ware had a relatively decent junior career, tallying 13 points and 86 penalty minutes for the Oshawa Generals in his draft year. He added two points in the OHL playoffs that year as well.
Following the draft, the defenceman split his time between the OHL and the St. John's Maple Leafs of the AHL before finally being called up to Toronto during the 1996-97 season. He played 13 games for the Leafs, but didn't record any points. The Leafs took a chance on Ware for another two games the following season, but no points came out of him then either. He still remained quite decent in the minors, so it was frustrating for the Leafs organization to see Ware under-perform when called up.
The same situation played out when Ware began playing for the Florida Panthers in 1998, with six games and no points throughout the season. Ware continued to play in the AHL until retiring in 2002 after receiving five knee surgeries.
Once retired, Ware obtained a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto and a Masters of Business Administration from New York City's Columbia University.
1 Brent Bilodeau - 17th overall in 1991, Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens could've had better luck choosing anyone in the first round of the 1991 Entry Draft other than who they ended up selecting, Brent Bilodeau.
One of the main things that makes Bilodeau a draft bust is that he is the only player drafted in the first round of his draft class that didn't play a single NHL game. He was suited to fit the style of play the Canadiens showed at the time, but never reached a higher level than the AHL.
Before retiring from playing hockey in 2005, Bilodeau had 16 seasons of hockey under his belt, which he didn't begin until two seasons after being drafted. He played four seasons in the AHL and six seasons each in the IHL and the ECHL, retiring as a member of the ECHL's Johnstown Chiefs.
Bilodeau is currently the assistant coach of the Western Hockey League's Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Washington.