The NHL Draft offers teams the opportunity to replenish their prospect base with seven rounds of picks, but not all teams are as successful in doing so. Look no further than the Edmonton Oilers, which were gifted first overall picks in four of six years, but couldn't develop a winning program due to an awful scouting brass that failed to find any mid- to late-round gems in the draft. They got Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl first and third overall respectively, but beyond that the team has hardly developed any of its own prospects. Still, at least they, for the most part, made good on their first-round picks - not all teams can say that.
Missing on a first-round pick can significantly set your franchise back. There's truly nothing worse than drafting a player and looking back five years later to see that same player out of the league, while the player drafted one spot later has become an All-Star. Regardless of which team you follow, chances are you've done this already, going back as far as the seventh round to see which players your team could have selected instead of the first-round bum they took. You can forgive a General Manager for missing out on a player when 29 others did as well, but these draft busts in the past five years are a little too awful to forget so easily.
15 Sonny Milano
The Columbus Blue Jackets thought they had drafted one of the next big American stars when they selected Sonny Milano with the 16th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, but the native of Massapequa, New York has been anything but. The standout with the United States National Development Team Program (USNDTP) joined the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL in 2014-15 and recorded 68 points in 50 games and has since had relative success in the AHL; in 2016-17, he had 47 points in 63 games with the Cleveland Monsters.
Yet, when given the chance to make an impact at the NHL level this season, Milano struggled. He had 13 points in 31 games and his defensive play was deemed to be a liability, which resulted in him being sent back to the AHL. The Blue Jackets undoubtedly wish they had drafted Robby Fabbri or David Pastrnak.
14 Julien Gauthier
It's hard to really label a player a bust if he was only taken in the previous year's draft, but we feel comfortable making that claim about right winger Julien Gauthier, who was selected 21st overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. For starters, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound player wasn't much of a scorer in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), which is the worst of the three leagues that compete in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). He barely recorded over a point-per-game, which sounds decent, but the most elite players in that league are capable of much higher outputs.
In his first professional season, Gauthier has nine goals and four assists in 46 games with Carolina's American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Charlotte. He might be a solid fourth-line checking winger given his size, but that appears to be his ceiling. If the Hurricanes opted for skill over size, they would have selected Alex DeBrincat, who has been a breakout rookie with the Blackhawks this year.
13 Alex Nylander
Again, it might be a little early to suggest a 2016 first-round pick is a bust, but things seem to be headed that way for Alex Nylander, especially given he was expected to be just as - if not more - effective than his brother William, who has become a star in Toronto with the Maple Leafs. The younger Nylander was taken eighth overall by the Buffalo Sabres after a 75-point season with the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and an impressive showing in the World Junior Hockey Championships.
Nylander was capable of going back to junior for another year and it appears that's what he should have done. He had a relatively productive season in the AHL instead with 28 points in 65 games - not bad for an 18 year old - but only has 13 points in 31 games this season. Instead of taking a step forward, his development seems to have stalled. Can anything go right for the Sabres?
12 Samuel Morin
Nobody is expecting Samuel Morin to produce 40 points and play top-pairing minutes in the NHL, but it would at least be nice if he could secure a spot in the league; instead, the 22 year old former 11th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft is still finding his way in the NHL. Morin is in his third season in the AHL with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and has eight goals through 165 games. He has also played in three NHL games, but has been passed over on the Flyers depth chart by Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim, both of whom were drafted after Morin.
What makes things worse is that Max Domi, who would look great as a Flyer, was taken by the Arizona Coyotes with the 12th overall pick. If the team was adamant about taking a defenseman, they could have been better off with Josh Morrisey, Ryan Pulock, Nikita Zadorov, Mirco Mueller, or Shea Theodore, who were all taken after Morin.
11 Sam Bennett
We should give the Calgary Flames a little credit as Sam Bennett is at least still playing in the league and is a solid third-line center at this point in his career. However, the 21 year old was taken fourth overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and, as such, should be playing in a top-six role; in fact, that looked to be the case for his career after an 18-goal and 18-assist rookie season, but Bennett's production dropped to 13 goals in 2016-17 and he now has only eight goals in 60 games this year.
Luckily for the Flames, they hit on Sean Monahan the year prior and Johnny Gaudreau has developed into a star despite being a fourth-round draft pick. Had that not been the case, fans might be a little more upset that the team wasted a fourth overall pick on the kid who couldn't do a pull-up at the combine.
10 Curtis Lazar
You might think a 23 year old having already played 225 games in the NHL is impressive and perhaps even think he has had a successful career. Yet, it's hard to feel that way about Curtis Lazar, who produced 76 points in his final season of junior hockey with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL) and was a star with the Canadian World Junior team.
The 17th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft recorded a combined 35 points in his first two seasons (143 games) and looked to still have some untapped potential. However, he was dealt by the Ottawa Senators in 2016-17 after producing only one assist in 33 games during the 2016-17 season. He has only two goals this year and, after a decent start to his career, has only 11 points in his last 82 games.
9 Zachary Senyshyn
The Boston Bruins had three consecutive picks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and, while they appear to have hit on one of those picks (Jake DeBrusk), it seems unlikely the other two reach their expected ceilings. General Manager Don Sweeney has actually done a decent job at accumulating talent, but his first draft with the team didn't inspire much confidence. With the 15th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, he opted to take winger Zachary Senyshyn, who had only 45 points in 66 games with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL.
Those aren't at all impressive numbers for a draft-eligible junior so it should be no surprise that he has only 18 points in his first professional season with the Providence Bruins of the AHL. The worst part is Senyshyn was projected to be a second-round pick, while the player taken after him, Mathew Barzal, has 62 points in 63 games with the New York Islanders this season and is already a star in the league.
8 Jakub Zboril
Senyshyn wasn't the only bust the Bruins drafted in 2015. The first of its three consecutive picks was Czech defenseman Jakub Zboril, who appeared to be a decent prospect and was actually expected to be taken in the first round, unlike Senyshyn. However, it's a particularly egregious pick given who was drafted five spots later by the Ottawa Senators.
Zboril played for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL and recorded 33 points in his draft year. His teammate, Thomas Chabot, produced 41 points and was clearly the more dynamic player, yet he went five picks later. Chabot quickly developed into one of the best-skating blueline prospects in the world and has proven himself at the NHL level with 15 points in 40 games. Zboril, meanwhile, doesn't appear to be close to making his NHL debut.
7 Kerby Rychel
Having good genes doesn't always translate to success at the NHL level - just ask Kerby Rychel, the son of former tough guy and veteran of 406 NHL games Warren Rychel. Kerby was selected 19th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft following an impressive 87-point season with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. He continued to produce at the OHL level and has since been an effective AHL player, but hasn't had the opportunity to succeed in the NHL.
He produced 52 points in 73 games with the Toronto Marlies last season after the Jackets dealt him to the Maple Leafs, but has only 28 points in 52 games this season and has been passed over on the depth chart by several Maple Leafs prospects. He'll be 24 years old by the start of next season and his window to play in the NHL is quickly closing.
6 Josh Ho-Sang
Ask Josh Ho-Sang if he should be in the NHL right now and he'll tell you without breaking a smile that he's the best player in the world. The 22 year old native of Toronto oozes confidence, but that hasn't been able to translate at the pro level. The 28th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft looked good in 21 games with the New York Islanders last season, but was demoted back to Bridgeport of the AHL following 22 games this season, primarily due to poor defensive play and an apparent poor attitude - he has a history of missing practice.
Through 29 games in the AHL, Ho-Sang has only 16 points, which is rather uninspiring for a player who believes he belongs in the NHL. Give the Islanders credit to drafting based on skill, but they would probably prefer Adrian Kempe, who was taken by the Los Angeles Kings one pick after Ho-Sang.
5 Emile Poirier
The Calgary Flames make some strange selections. The team drafted Sam Bennett fourth overall, which earned some criticism at the time and hasn't necessarily aged well. In 2013, the team selected Montreal native Emile Poirer with the 22nd overall pick after he produced a 70-point season with the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL. He recorded 87 points the following season, suggesting he might become a point-producing player in the NHL, but there have been many QMJHL stars to not amount to anything as professionals.
Count Poirier in that group, despite the fact he produced an impressive 42 points in 55 games during his rookie season with the Adirondack Flames of the AHL. For whatever reason, his point total dropped to 29 points in 60 games the following season and, now in his fourth AHL season, he has only 18 points in 45 games.
4 Olli Juolevi
Again, we need to preface by stating it might be a little too early to label Olli Juolevi a bust after only being drafted less than two years ago, but it's clear expectations were high for the Finnish defenseman and he has failed to meet them. The Vancouver Canucks drafted Juolevi fifth overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft after he produced 42 points on a stacked London Knights OHL team that won the CHL's Memorial Cup. A fifth overall pick should, at the very least, have a path laid out to competing in the NHL by this point, but instead of continuing to develop in North America, Juolevi returned to Finland, where he has 17 points in 33 games for TPS Turku.
The Canucks needed defense, but there's a reason you take the best player available and don't draft based on need. Matthew Tkachuk, a teammate of Juolevi, was selected with the sixth overall pick, and he now has 91 points in 134 NHL games. Meanwhile, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who was drafted ninth overall, is establishing himself as one of the best young blueliners in the league.
3 Conner Bleackley
A lot of the players listed as busts on this list are at least living out their dream, playing fourth-line minutes in the NHL or producing at a decent rate in the AHL. Conner Bleackley's post-draft experience has been much different. The High River, Alberta native was selected 23rd overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, but wasn't signed to a contract after two mediocre seasons with Red Deer of the WHL and was put back into the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, where he lasted until the fifth round before being taken by the St. Louis Blues.
Few first-round picks go unsigned, so that should give you an idea of how bad Bleackley was to not receive an offer. The Avalanche were right to let him go, however, as the 22 year old is now playing for the Tulsa Oilers of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), were he has 36 points in 39 games.
2 Lawson Crouse
Give Lawson Crouse credit for having a sense of humor about potentially being a NHL Draft bust. The 11th overall pick of the Florida Panthers in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft was traded to the Arizona Coyotes in 2016 and produced 12 points in 75 games with the team in 2016-17. He had one goal in 11 games this season before being sent back to Tucson of the AHL. It isn't looking great for his career prospects and one fan on Twitter noticed as much: Kung Fun Canuck tweeted "Everyone likes to make fun of Boston and Edmonton for [not drafting Barzal] but nobody ever gives Florida enough crap for taking Lawson Crouse at #10."
He didn't even tag Crouse, but the Coyotes prospect kindly corrected him by replying "*11." We need more personality in the NHL, so here's hoping he can remove that bust status and turn his career around.
1 Michael Dal Colle
One player that probably won't be turning his career around any time soon is Michael Dal Colle. In fact, he can probably thank Barzal for allowing Islanders fans to forget about how awful he has been since being selected fifth overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Generally speaking, you expect a fifth overall pick to, at the very least, be a solid second-line player, but Dal Colle has only played in four NHL games to date and has yet to register a point.
The OHL standout hasn't even really found his way in the AHL yet. He recorded 41 points as a rookie, but his offensive pace his dropped slightly this year with only 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 43 games. The two picks after him - Jake Virtanen and Haydyn Fleury - haven't really been productive NHLers, but the next two picks - William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers - would look great in an Islanders jersey.