Junior hockey is extremely popular in Canada and it is easy to understand why. These are the leagues where some of the best NHL players begin their hockey careers and as a result of this make true names for themselves. I mean players like Bobby Orr and Sidney Crosby are just a fraction of the franchise players that ended up coming from this beautiful youth league. Although junior hockey helps the NHL bring in some of the best talent in the world, it also is a league that does not guarantee success. Some of the greatest players in junior hockey end up becoming nothing in the NHL because they are either too one dimensional or they cannot handle the immense pressure of the big league. This is far more common than one may think.
With that said, in this article, we will be looking at fifteen junior hockey superstars who completely dropped in skill once they made it to the NHL. These players were all high first round picks who were expected to become legitimate stars in the NHL, yet completely failed at doing so. These moments show just how inaccurate scouting can be. Not all first round picks end up being as amazing as they are expected to be, just like how late rounders are falsely assumed to be terrible picks. The NHL is a league that requires much more than just skill and that is completely different from the juniors. One dimensional players can be absolute superstars in juniors, but once they make it to the NHL, they end up being nothing.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the fifteen former stars!
15 Curtis Lazar
The Ottawa Senators drafted Curtis Lazar with the 17th overall selection in the 2013 NHL draft and many saw it as one of the best potential steals. Lazar had come a spectacular year in juniors and was praised for his leadership and physicality.
Lazar was expected to become a huge part of the Senators and many saw him as a top-6 forward.
Curtis Lazar showed some promise in his first season with the Ottawa Senators, but he quickly fell off from there. Lazar saw his stats drop dramatically over the next two seasons and due to this was traded to the Calgary Flames while he still had some value. This season, Lazar has yet to score a single goal with the Flames and is likely going to be without a job soon.
14 Ryan Strome
Ryan Strome was one of the top offensive prospects available in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and as a result of this, was selected by the New York Islanders 5th overall. Strome was an absolute superstar in juniors and many saw him as a great centre behind John Tavares for many years to come. However, things rapidly changed for Strome.
Although Ryan Strome had a very solid season in with the Islanders early in his career, his offensive stats quickly dropped and he saw himself getting limited playing time. The Islanders smartly moved him to the Edmonton Oilers for Jordan Eberle and this was a clear win for them, Strome still is struggling and is only showing more and more that he is a bust.
13 Jake Virtanen
The Vancouver Canucks thought they found their superstar power forward of the future when they drafted Jake Virtanen 6th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Many thought that Virtanen was actually going to fall into the Top 5, so this was seen as a potential steal for Vancouver. Virtanen had come off an elite season with the Calgary Hitmen. Jake Virtanen left a positive impact on the Vancouver Canucks and quickly made the team.
However, his play had massive holes and he soon found himself in the AHL.
This past season saw him have an absolutely abysmal season with Utica and showed that he is a bust. Virtanen is trying to show the league that he can become a star, but his time in running out.
12 Sam Bennett
The Calgary Flames thought they were extremely lucky when they were able to snag Sam Bennett with the 4th overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Bennett was expected to be the number one pick for months, but shockingly dropped and the Flames thought they found their next superstar. Yet, this is far from the case today.
Although Sam Bennett is still a member of the Calgary Flames, he is nowhere as talented as he was expected to be. He is currently playing top-9 minutes and is putting up average numbers at best. Bennett was an absolute superstar in juniors and arguably the best offensive player in his draft year. Today, Bennett is struggling immensely to replicate this to the NHL.
11 Dylan Strome
Just like his brother Ryan, Dylan Strome had an absolutely amazing junior career and many expected him to be a franchise type player. Dylan was drafted 3rd overall by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and was expected to make the team right from the draft. He was scoring at extremely high rates in juniors so it made sense.
Since his draft year, Dylan Strome has only shown signs of depletion in his skill and it is likely that he will go down as a major bust soon.
Strome today still cannot find a spot on an atrocious Coyotes’ squad and that is saying something. Arizona is currently the worst team in the Western Conference and even the entire NHL.
10 Duncan Siemens
The Colorado Avalanche drafted Duncan Siemens 11th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and it made a lot of sense at the time. Siemens had just come off a great year in juniors and was easily one of the best defensive defenseman available. Siemens was a leader on the Saskatoon Blades and ended up getting a lot of praise for that.
Many expected Duncan Siemens to become a top-4 defenseman for the Colorado Avalanche, but as of 2018, he is still barely even an NHL player.
He still finds himself getting called down to the minors and it is shocking that he is even still in their system. Siemens has been an under average player in the AHL and absolutely abysmal in the NHL.
9 Lawson Crouse
Lawson Crouse was drafted by the Florida Panthers at 11th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Crouse was expected to be picked far earlier, but he surprisingly fell off a bit. The Panthers were extremely excited to bring in a potential franchise power forward and rightfully so. He was expected to be a top notch NHL player and eventual superstar.
Yet, just one year later, the Panthers decided to move Lawson Crouse to the Arizona Coyotes. Crouse would make the Coyotes the next season, but quickly showed that he was nothing more than a fourth liner. This season Crouse has spent the majority of the year in the AHL and if things do not change quickly, that may be where he ends up staying for a long time.
8 Derrick Pouliot
Derrick Pouliot was picked by the Pittsburgh Penguins 8th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and was the major piece of the Jordan Staal trade to Carolina. Pouliot was expected to become the Penguins’ top offensive defenseman and when looking at what he did during his junior career, this was not an unfair assumption by the squad.
Yet, it was extremely shocking that Derrick Pouliot simply could not become the superstar in the NHL that he was in juniors. He never had the ability to crack the Penguins’ roster as a full timer and as a result of this, was finally traded this past offseason to the Vancouver Canucks. The Penguins struck out with this pick, but it is hard to blame them.
7 Jamie Oleksiak
The Dallas Stars made a pretty significant decision when they elected to draft Jamie Oleksiak 14th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Oleksiak had come off an amazing junior career and was expected to become a franchise defenseman for the Stars for many years. Due to his huge size, Oleksiak had a lot of value and potential to become something great.
Yet, Jamie Oleksiak never had the chance to solidify himself as a permanent defender for the Dallas Stars and that ultimately made him become a major bust. After being one of the best players in all of juniors, he soon realized his lack of speed would simply never make him a star. Today, he is on the Pittsburgh Penguins and is not making much of an impact.
6 Griffin Reinhart
Griffin Reinhart was expected to become the top defender on the New York Islanders when they drafted 4th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Reinhart had come off a spectacular career in juniors and due to his size, was seen as a future shutdown defenseman with immense skill. However, as time passed, everything quickly changed for the worst.
Griffin Reinhart began to show alarming signs with his career with the way he played in the AHL. Although he eventually would land call ups to the NHL, he never could find a direct spot with the team and ended up traded to the Oilers. Although he ended up being a bust for the Islanders, they did land Mathew Barzal as part of the deal. Reinhart today is still in the AHL.
5 Sam Reinhart
Sam Reinhart, Griffin’s brother, was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres 2nd overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and was seen as a potential savior for the club. He had just come off a spectacular career in juniors and his offensive potential was extremely high. Reinhart quickly made the team with the Sabres and even had a fairly decent start.
Although Reinhart was solid at the beginning of his career, it became apparent that he was not going to become a superstar in the NHL. Today he is struggling to be a top-6 forward and has been the subject to trade rumors because of it. Reinhart is now looking like a bust for the Sabres and for them, they really did not need this to happen.
4 Anthony DeAngelo
Anthony DeAngelo was deemed as the best offensive defenseman in his draft class and was picked 19th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning because of that. DeAngelo would have been drafted far earlier if he did not display massive behavioural problems, but the Lightning decided to take a chance on him. I mean, he was a great talent in juniors.
Since being drafted, DeAngelo has already been traded twice and it is likely that he will be again any time soon. Besides being an absolute locker room killer, DeAngelo has yet to blossom into the star that many thought he would become. He currently is battling for a spot on the New York Rangers, but has been sent down numerous times to the AHL.
3 Michael Dal Colle
It was not hard for the New York Islanders to select winger Michael Dal Colle with the 5th overall selection of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Dal Colle was an absolute beast in juniors and many thought he could have made it in the top 3 of that draft. When the Islanders picked him, they saw him as a future franchise type player for the club and rightfully so.
Yet, Dal Colle’s success in juniors quickly turned and he saw a dramatic drop in his stats. Dal Colle is a very strange player to observe because there truly is no way to pinpoint what has gone wrong. He was expected to be so much than he is now and is an AHL regular. He has played for a handful of games with the Isles, but has done virtually nothing.
2 Ryan Murphy
With the 12th overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Carolina Hurricanes selected Ryan Murphy. This made a lot of sense for the Hurricanes because they needed an offensive defenseman who had success on all ends of the ice. Murphy was a superstar in juniors and one of the top defenders in the entire prospect pool.
Yet, Ryan Murphy never could carry his vast success in juniors to the NHL and still barely is ever in the league. After a handful of seasons trying to develop with the Hurricanes, he found himself let go by the club. Today, he is currently spending time with the Minnesota Wild’s system, but mainly plays with their club in Iowa. This is probably the biggest bust on this list.
1 Nail Yakupov
The Edmonton Oilers were extremely lucky to have the 1st overall pick for the third straight year in 2012. Yet, they screwed up immensely when they picked Nail Yakupov with that selection. Realistically, it is hard to blame Edmonton for picking him because he was easily the top player in juniors at the time because of his pure goal scoring ability and effective passing.
Nail Yakupov started his NHL career with a lot of confidence and as a result of this, took the nHL by storm and has a great rookie year. However, his play would quickly become far worse over the next few seasons and he was no longer a scoring threat. He was eventually traded to the St. Louis Blues where he also was terrible. This season he is currently playing with the Colorado Avalanche and is lackluster at best.