The NHL draft is always considered a bit of a lottery. Some sure fire top prospects crash and burn at the NHL level on a yearly basis. Likewise, players no one thought of on draft night have gone on to be huge stars. This list is dedicated to that first group. The players everyone was excited about being stars on their favorite franchise for years to come. Sadly, these players would crash and burn, some of which would never even make it to the NHL. Others have carved out careers that just aren’t worthy of their draft spot.
There have been eight NHL drafts that were considered for this list. For obvious reasons no one from the 2017 or 2016 draft appears in this list as it is a bit too soon for a bust label. There is a eclectic mix for all positions but it is funny how many times certain teams appear on this list. The Islanders, Maple leafs, Avalanche, and Coyotes all have multiple entries on this list.
So let’s enjoy this trip down memory lane and sadness alley as we take a look at the 20 biggest NHL Draft busts since 2010. As always be sure to leave comments in the comment section below.
20. Haydn Fleury – 7th Overall, 2014 – Carolina Hurricanes
Haydn Fleury was the 7th overall pick from the 2014 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes. Fleury was a stud defenseman for the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL but thus far has been slow to develop into a bonafide NHL defenseman. He finally made his NHL debut this season with the Carolina Hurricanes in a bottom pairing role averaging 16 minutes a night. Defensemen are notoriously slow to develop but for a top 10 pick the Hurricanes had to have been expecting more.
Of everyone on this list Fleury has the best chance to play himself off it eventually if he continues to develop his game. With the Hurricanes continuing to face a long playoff drought, they’ll surely hope he can develop and bring them a steady blue line presence.
19. Derrick Pouliot – 8th Overall, 2012 – Pittsburgh Penguins
The curse of 2012 seems to have claimed a lot of players on this list. The most frustrating of them might just be defenseman Derrick Pouliot. Pouliot was solid everywhere he played except in the NHL. As a defenseman Pouliot put up 70 points in 114 career games in the AHL but he could never crack an elite Pittsburgh Penguins team even when their defense was decimated by injuries. The Penguins finally gave up on Pouliot by sending him to Vancouver in exchange for Andrey Pedan and a 4th round pick. In Vancouver it has been more of the same despite playing a bigger role on one of the worst teams in the NHL. There’ll be less pressure on him, but it’s never a good sign when the team that drafted you gives up on you just a few years into your career.
18. Valeri Nichushkin – 10th Overall, 2013 – Dallas Stars
Valeri Nichushkin was a highly touted forward heading in to the 2013 NHL draft. The Dallas Stars were happy to select him at 10th overall. He made his debut during the 2013-14 NHL season and had a solid but unspectacular rookie season. He scored 14 goals and added 20 assists in 79 games. Since then it has been all downhill for the enigmatic Russian. He spent most of the next season in the minors and couldn’t bounce back in his next season.
Now he is playing in the KHL with very little sign of ever coming back to the NHL. Valeri has 23 goals and 41 assists in 166 career NHL games and due to his fractured relationship with the Stars that might be all he ends up with.
17. Ryan Murray – 2nd Overall, 2012 – Columbus Blue Jackets
Expectations are high when you are the 2nd overall pick in your draft year. Thus far, Ryan Murray has wilted under that pressure. The Columbus Blue Jackets made Murray the 2nd pick in the infamously bad 2012 NHL draft. So far in his career Murray has greatly underwhelmed as he is nothing but a bottom pairing defenseman. He has had minimal production in a largely insulated role on the Blue Jackets. There’s a reason the Blue Jackets felt the need to trade Ryan Johansen (besides contractual issues) to land Seth Jones. Murray wasn’t meeting expectations, so they needed another young horse to hitch their wagon to.
16. Stuart Percy – 25th Overall, 2011 – Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple leafs really struck out in the 2011 NHL Draft. Their second pick in the draft was Stuart Percy at #25 overall. Percy had a solid Junior career but just could not make it work in the NHL. He would only get in to 12 games with the Leafs over 2 seasons adding just 3 assists. A free agent signing with the Penguins didn’t help him any either as he again just struggled in the AHL.
He signed a PTO with the Buffalo Sabres and currently is playing for their AHL franchise. Thus far this season he has added 3 goals and 17 assists in 29 games so he may have a chance to play himself off this list in the future. For right now however he is one of the biggest busts since 2010.
15. Brett Connolly – 6th Overall, 2010 – Tampa Bay Lightning
Brett Connolly was highly touted heading in to the 2010 NHL draft. The Tampa Bay Lightning were happy to select him 6th overall in the draft. He played like an elite scorer in the AHL, scoring 52 goals and adding 68 assists in just 137 games over 2 seasons. Those skills did not translate to NHL success. His best season In the NHL was during the 2015-16 NHL season with just 25 points in 71 games.
He has bounced around the league but seems to have settled in Washington. Only time will tell how long he will be a fringe player in the NHL however. You don’t expect a fringe player to be drafted 6th overall. He may carve out a decent career for himself, but odds are he’ll never meet initial draft expectations.
14. Ilya Samsonov – 22nd Overall, 2015 – Washington Capitals
The 3rd goalie to make an appearance on this list, he is also the most recent pick to appear. Ilya Samsonov was selected with the 22nd pick in the 2015 NHL draft by the Washington Capitals. The pick was a bit of a head scratcher as the Caps have Braden Holtby in his prime, but I digress. It is a shame when a team wastes a first round pick on someone that never even plays a game in the AHL let alone the NHL.
Samsonov has been playing in his home country in the KHL. He currently has a winning record this season, but it has also been statistically the worst of his pro career. It remains to be seen if Samsanov will make the jump to the NHL but if he does he could play his way off this list in the future.
13. Quinton Howden – 25th Overall, 2010 – Florida Panthers
Quinton Howden was the 25th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Florida Panthers. Like most on this list he light up the scoreboards in Junior but just couldn’t get it done in the pro ranks. Signs of him being a bust began early as he struggled right out of the gate in the AHL. It didn’t get much better as he achieved a lackluster 99 points in 207 AHL Games.
His NHL tenure was even worse, not scoring his first point until the 2013-14 NHL season. He got numerous chances to break through but never could, ending his NHL career with just 17 points in 97 games. Howden made the jump overseas this year, signing in the KHL with Dinamo Minsk. We’ll see if he ever makes his way back.
12. Henrik Samuelsson – 27th Overall, 2012 – Arizona Coyotes
The 2nd star of the Edmonton Oil Kings to appear on this list, Samuelsson seemed to have all the tools to be a great power forward in the NHL. Samuelsson was selected at #27 in the infamously bad 2012 NHL draft by the Coyotes. His game never transitioned to even the AHL level as he struggled to just 55 points in 136 career AHL games for four different franchises. Despite his struggles he did make three appearances for the Coyotes (because how could they get any worse). Even then he scored no points in his short stint and was sent back down. Now Samuelsson is playing down in the ECHL for the Idaho Steelheads where he has 29 points in 33 games this season. He is proving that maybe he is just a career minor leaguer, which you don’t want out of a first round pick.
11. Mark Visentin – 27th Overall, 2010 –
Who didn’t see a star when Visentin starred for Team Canada at the World Juniors? He is a cautionary tale on taking a goalie in the first round. The Coyotes selected Visentin 27th overall in the 2010 NHL draft. He was a complete bust at not only the NHL level but also in the AHL. He played 89 games in the AHL and struggled to just 33 wins. He finally made his NHL debut for the Coyotes on April 12th, 2014 in a losing effort against the Colorado Avalanche. That would be his one and only NHL game as he now plies his trade in Austria for Szekesfehervar Alba Volan HC (say that 3 times fast).
10. Zach Phillips – 28th Overall, 2011 – Minnesota Wild
Here is a perfect example of how junior success doesn’t always transition to NHL stardom. Zach Phillips lit up the QMJHL as a youth. Phillips ended his junior career with 219 points in 192 games with the Saint John’s Sea Dogs. The Minnesota Wild thought they had drafted a good young scorer to help their anemic scoring but boy were they wrong. Phillips struggled in the AHL, being traded twice as teams didn’t want to give up on the promise he showed in Junior.
In the end Phillips would never make it to the NHL and is currently playing overseas. He was a low first round pick (28th overall) but you still expect better. At the very least, you’re hoping a late first rounder can be an occasional contributor for your farm system.
9. Joey Hishon – 17th Overall, 2010 – Colorado Avalanche
When you were drafted in 2010 and only got in to 13 career games it is safe to say you were made for this list. Joey Hishon was selected 17th overall by the Colorado Avalanche back in 2010. Another player that lit it up in the junior ranks, he must have had the Avalanche excited about his potential. Hishon had decent numbers in the AHL as well with 109 points in 174 games with the Lake Erie Monsters and San Antonio Rampage. His NHL career however left a lot to be desired with just 2 career points. Hishon is now playing overseas joining Lulea HF over in Sweden where he still isn’t putting up any impressive numbers.
8. Brandon Gormley – 13th Overall, 2010 – Arizona Coyotes
Yet another player from the 2010 NHL draft makes an appearance on this list. Brandon Gormley was the 13th overall selection of the Coyotes. When you see so many Coyotes on this list, you get an idea as to why they’ve been so bad most of this decade. Unlike some on this list, Gormley would get some action in the NHL getting into 58 games where he tallied a disappointing 5 points in 58 games. The AHL wasn’t much better as he was bounced around the league struggling to just 97 points in 240 games.
Even Brandon Gormley could see the writing on the wall and made the jump overseas this year, signing with Mora IK over in Sweden. Sadly because the NHL isn’t going to the Olympics, we could see Gormley suit up for Team Canada in the 2018 games.
7. Tyler Biggs – 22nd Overall, 2011 – Toronto Maple Leafs
The other draft failure of the Toronto Maple leafs from the 2011 NHL draft. Biggs was selected at #22 overall and has NEVER made an NHL appearance. Not only that but he struggled to even make a minor impact in the AHL. He played in 119 games in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and scored a shockingly bad 17 points (11 goals and 6 assists) he has performed slightly better in the ECHL, but is that really what you expect from your 1st round pick? Biggs is looking like a career low-level minor league player as he currently plays for the Kalamazoo Wings in the ECHL. Thankfully, the Leafs seem to have figured things out in drafting and developing players.
6. Jack Campbell – 11th Overall, 2010 – Dallas Stars
It is players like Jack Campbell that scare teams away from goaltenders in the first round. Campbell had a solid junior career that led the Dallas Stars to selecting him 11th overall in 2010. Campbell is a clear definition of a draft bust. He got into one game with the Dallas Stars, a losing effort during the 2013-14 NHL season. A trade to the Kings didn’t help much as he only made a relief appearance last season. The former first round pick was traded for a 7th rounder which is just depressing. He has struggled in the AHL as well, only really having success as a ECHL goalie (19 wins in 27 games)
5. Griffin Reinhart – 4th Overall, 2012 – New York Islanders
Man does this one sting as an Oilers fan. Griffin Reinhart was selected 4th overall by the New York Islanders in the infamously bad 2012 NHL draft. Reinhart was a star for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL but struggled in transitioning to the NHL game due to his slow foot speed. He played 143 games in the AHL collecting 53 points. The Edmonton Oilers made a deal with the Islanders giving up a first and 2nd round pick in the very deep 2015 NHL draft for Reinhart and it backfired spectacularly.
Now on his 3rd team with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights he is still struggling to get into an NHL lineup. The Islanders are happy they ended up getting Matthew Barzal for the bust of a pick but the Oilers have to be kicking themselves.
4. Mikhail Grigorenko – 12th Overall, 2012 – Buffalo Sabres
The 2012 draft was really just a colossal disappointment. That year makes another appearance on this list with 12th overall selection Mikhail Grigorenko. Grigorenko had success at every level he played at until he reached the NHL. He had big numbers in junior and even chipped in 40 points in 52 games in the AHL. Buffalo and later Colorado gave him every opportunity to succeed in the NHL. He got in to 217 games in his NHL career and was only able to tally 22 goals and 42 assists.
It is hard to pinpoint where things went wrong for Grigorenko but he returned home this offseason signing with CKSA Moscow in the KHL. So far this season he has 13 goals and 7 assists in 37 games. I think it is doubtful he ever returns to the NHL unless the KHL folds.
3. Duncan Siemens – 11th Overall, 2011 – Colorado Avalanche
Duncan Siemens was the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft by the Colorado Avalanche. It has been six years since Siemens was drafted and he is still struggling to make the roster of one of the worst teams in recent history. Last year was a train wreck of a season for the Avalanche and they still only trusted Siemens to play in three games. The truly sad part is, he has not achieved anything of note in the AHL either.
When you can’t crack a team as bad as the Avalanche it is a sign to maybe pack it in and go play overseas. Thus far this season Siemens has 1 goal and 5 assists in 28 games in the AHL. He has played one game in the NHL this season where he was a minus-2 before being sent back down.
2. Michael Dal Colle – 5th Overall, 2014 – New York Islanders
When you are a top 5 pick and have never made an appearance in the NHL, it is a safe bet you will find yourself on a few lists such as this. This is the case with 2014 #5 overall pick Michael Dal Colle. The New York Islanders saw a star in Dal Colle. Colle had 316 points as a player in the OHL and looked to have all the tools to be an elite player in the NHL. 3 years later and the team is still waiting to see him succeed in the AHL. Thus far he has 57 points in 107 games over 3 AHL seasons. For an Islanders team that lacks secondary scoring it is draft misses like this that are the reason. Michael Dal Colle is the only player selected in the top 20 from the 2014 draft to never play an NHL game. That is a pretty sad and dubious tag to wear.
1. Nail Yakupov – 1st Overall, 2012 – Edmonton Oilers
Fail for Nail that was the slogan heading in to the 2012 NHL draft. Instead Nail just failed. The 1st overall pick of the Edmonton Oilers in the 2012 NHL draft, Yakupov was crushed under the expectations of being the top pick. The instability in the coaching department in Edmonton certainty didn’t help matters. Yakupov set his career high in goals during his rookie year with 17 in just 48 games. It was all downhill from there. Yakupov is now on his third team, signing with the Colorado Avalanche before the 2017-18 season. He is having a bit of a bounce back season, considering the incredibly low standards he’s now set.
The numbers just don’t match up with being the #1 overall pick and that is why Nail Yakupov is the biggest draft bust since 2010.
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