Playing in the NHL is a dream come true for every hockey player. Former Calgary Flames superstar Theoren Fleury said it best: “Millions of kids around the world playing hockey with around 700 jobs available.”
So making the NHL is definitely something else, but being a superstar is also something else. Just because you make it to the pros, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have a great career. The majority of NHLers aren’t going to put up superstar numbers and plenty of them will never make much of an impact.
Then again, just to simply say you suited up in the NHL is an accomplishment of its own. But for some NHL fans, they don’t care if you made it if you’re not doing much.
We thought we would take a look at every American team’s worst player, after counting down the three worst players of each NHL Canadian team. Here are our rankings for the worst players playing in the United States.
23. Andrej Sustr, Tampa Bay Lightning
With Steven Stamkos injured, the pre-season Stanley Cup favorites have failed to garner much consistency and see themselves out of the playoff picture right now. The Lightning need all of their players to step up, but a number of them aren’t doing a whole lot to help. Take the case of Andrej Sustr, for example.
He’s a team-worst minus-eight so far this season. The Lightning are giving up too many goals despite a Norris Trophy-caliber season from superstar Victor Hedman. Ben Bishop has struggled as well. But without much help from other defencemen, the Lightning are struggling to see results.
22. Sonny Milano, Columbus Blue Jackets
Sonny Milano was taken 16th-overall by the Blue Jackets in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. It’s only his second season in the NHL, but he’s struggling to produce much. Head coach John Tortorella has Columbus surging to the top of the standings, maximizing the talents of his roster. But for the skilled left winger in Milano, it’s been a struggle working in Torts’ system so far.
He’s played in just two games this season and failed to score a point, with a minus-one rating. He played in just three games last season and registered one assist. The Blue Jackets have so much forward depth, and it’s not going to be easy for Milano to outwork them down the stretch.
21. Matt Beleskey, Boston Bruins
Matt Beleskey had a breakout year with the Anaheim Ducks in 2014-15, scoring 22 goals and 32 points. Before that, he hadn’t scored more than 11 goals in a season. It was enough for the Boston Bruins to hand Beleskey to a five-year deal worth $19 million. The Bruins needed his speed and goal-scoring abilities after missing the playoffs in 2015. Instead, they’re stuck with a disastrous contract.
After scoring 15 goals and 37 points last season, Beleskey has just two goals and five points this season with a horrid minus-six rating. He’s on pace for just six goals and 15 points despite playing on a team that features the likes of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and David Backes.
20. Dmitry Kulikov, Buffalo Sabres
The Florida Panthers drafted Kulikov with the 14th-overall pick in 2009. They thought they had themselves a flashy defenceman who could move the puck yet also protect his own end of the ice. Well, Dmitry Kulikov never scored more than 28 points in a season and posted a negative rating in five of his seven seasons with Florida.
Kulikov was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in the offseason, but he’s gotten even worse since joining them. In 17 games, Kulikov has zero points and is posting a woeful minus-eight rating. He’s getting 22:28 time on ice per night but hasn’t been able to find his footing on a Sabres team that is loaded with talent. Buffalo once again finds themselves near the bottom of the league standings. Kulikov’s inability to make an impact is a reason why.
19. Andrew Ladd, New York Islanders
Andrew Ladd won Stanley Cups with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. He was the Winnipeg Jets captain for a few years and became a reliable two-way player. His gritty style and ability to score 25-plus goals a season made him an underrated commodity. But then he signed a deal with the New York Islanders which has become a huge disaster.
The Islanders signed him to a seven-year deal worth $38.5 million even though he’s 31 years of age and isn’t exactly a superstar. Well, GM Garth Snow’s plan of signing Ladd certainly wasn’t to have him do more harm than good.
Ladd has just four goals and seven points with a terrible minus-11 rating. He had scored at least 20 goals in each of the last five 82-game regular seasons. This is one messy contract the Islanders aren’t getting out.
18. Lars Eller, Washington Capitals
Lars Eller was a solid second/third liner with the Montreal Canadiens who came over from the Jaroslav Halak trade in 2010. But the Habs wanted more grit, so they traded him to the Washington Capitals for a pair of second-round selections and then flipped them to the Chicago Blackhawks for Andrew Shaw.
Though Shaw has found a nice home with the Canadiens, Eller must be reminiscing on his days wearing the rouge et bleu. Despite playing on the defending Presidents’ Trophy winners, Eller is struggling big time. He has just two goals and two assists with a minus-five rating on a team that puts so much emphasis on defence.
17. Sergey Kalinin, New Jersey Devils
The Devils had a great start to the season and found themselves in the playoff picture. It’s been a tailspin since, as nobody has really stepped up to steer the ship. Take the case of Sergey Kalinin, who has struggled to find himself in the NHL. Last season, he had just eight goals and 15 points with a minus-nine rating.
2016-17 hasn’t been any friendler. Actually, it’s been worse for Kalinin. He has just one goal and one assist in 25 games and is posting a terrible minus-11 rating. Keep in mind this is a New Jersey team that’s known for playing great defensively and keeping their opponents out of their own zone. Clearly, the system isn’t working for Kalinin, who has become a major liability for New Jersey.
16. Phil Di Giuseppe, Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes took Phil Di Giuseppe with the 38th pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He didn’t make it to the NHL until last season so you have to figure patience among the Hurricanes organization is slowly running out. Di Giuseppe, a 6-foot, 200-pound left winger, had seven goals and 10 assists last season with a zero plus/minus rating. He hasn’t been able to do much of anything in 2016-17.
Di Giuseppe has played in 18 games this season and has just one goal and one assist with a horrendous minus-nine rating. That’s tied for second worst on the team and only trails Justin Faulk (minus-11). Di Giuseppe definitely has the makings to be a star in the NHL, but he just hasn’t put it all together. Time’s running out for him to show what he’s worth.
15. Jonathan Ericsson, Detroit Red Wings
General Manager Ken Holland was once a man everyone trusted. Every move he made and every step he took, it seemed like it was going to be gold. But over the years, a lot of his moves have been criticized. Take the action, for example, of handing Jonathan Ericsson a six-year deal worth $25.5 million. Ericsson is simply a fourth defenseman at best on a mediocre team.
Eriksson has never shown that many flashes, and he’s a huge liability in his own end. He hasn’t scored more than 15 points in a season and has just six assists in 2016-17 with a plus-two rating. The Red Wings playoff streak appears to be over at this point. Ericsson’s inability to live up to the money is definitely one of the reasons for that.
14. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars
Kari Lehtonen stood out on the Atlanta Thrashers in his four seasons there – including a 34-win season in 2006-07. He showed promise with the Dallas Stars, registering 34 wins in 2010-11 and 32 wins in 2011-12. Lehtonen also had 33 wins in 2013-14 and 34 wins in 2014-15. But he was a disappointment for much of 2015-16.
He posted a 25-10-2 record with a ghastly 2.76 goals against average and .906 save percentage. He was awful in the postseason and was a reason the Stars went home early. This season, he’s 6-10-3 with a 2.92 goals against average and .894 save percentage. That is like, really bad.
There was a time when Lehtonen was one of the more underrated goalies in the NHL, but now he’s an overpaid, past-his-prime netminder. The Stars have underachieved in 2016-17 because of his inability to find consistency.
13. Josh Jooris, New York Rangers
The Rangers are enjoying a resurgent season after many thought their Stanley Cup window was closed. Michael Grabner has found new life, Rick Nash has found his old form and Jimmy Vesey is crushing the NHL earlier than everyone expected. That being said, there always has to be a weak link on a good team. For the Rangers, that man would have to be Josh Jooris.
This man has just 17 goals and 40 points in 135 NHL games, and his tenure with the Rangers hasn’t been great to begin with. He has just one goal and one assist in 12 games with a plus-one rating. He’s only playing 8:36 a game and is having troubles making a name for himself. But Jooris is a fourth-line centre, and expectations aren’t that high for him at this point.
12. Carl Gunnarsson, St. Louis Blues
The Blues have one of the most complete teams in the NHL – ranging from Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk to Vladimir Tarasenko, Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Jaden Schwartz and Jake Allen. But as usual, every great team has a number of players that…well, don’t strike all that much fear into their opponents. Take the case with veteran blueliner Carl Gunnarsson.
Despite the cool last name, his play on the ice isn’t exactly “cool.” Gunnarsson isn’t known for his offence, scoring just 20 goals and 109 points in 463 career games. Gunnarsson has just two assists this season with a minus-four rating. This is a far cry from the plus-seven rating he put up with the Blues in 2015-16.
11. Michal Neuvirth, Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers score a lot of goals…and give up a lot of goals. They’re allowing 2.91 goals per game, and it’s not because of number one goalie Steve Mason. He’s 13-9-4 with a 2.68 goals against average, .908 save percentage. But on the other hand, yeah backup Michal Neuvirth isn’t exactly doing his job.
Neuvirth, who was once a stud with the Washington Capitals, has gone just 4-2 with a terrible 3.54 goals against average and, wait for it, .859 save percentage. Neuvirth simply isn’t doing his job as a backup and is giving up way too many goals. Really, how is your save percentage .859? I understand if you started one game all year and got pulled, but wow!
10. Brenden Dillon, San Jose Sharks
It’s hard for 99 percent of NHL defencemen to stand out when Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns (the Norris Trophy favorite) are on your team. The San Jose Sharks are blessed with great defencemen, but bottom-pairing blueliner Brenden Dillon doesn’t give them a whole lot to be excited about.
He does have size (6-3, 225 pounds) but hasn’t used it too much in the NHL level. He’s posting a minus-three on a Sharks team known for protecting its own waters pretty well. Dillon hasn’t scored more than 17 points in a season and has just two assists this season. Now if I can make myself clear, Dillon’s not all that bad. He’s just one of the least impact players on a star-studded Sharks team. Moving on.
9. Jared Boll, Anaheim Ducks
Jared Boll plays on a star-studded Anaheim Ducks team that was won the Pacific Division four years in a row. With Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Sami Vatanen, Ryan Kesler, Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler all leading the way, there really isn’t a lot of room for the bottom-six forwards to make a name for themselves.
Well, take the case with Jared Boll, who is as tough and gritty as a bull (see what I did there), but doesn’t contribute much on the ice. He has just one assist in 22 games with an awful minus-four rating. Boll hasn’t scored more than 14 points in a season. This is already his tenth NHL season.
With a minus-53 rating throughout his career, it’s safe to say Boll’s not doing a whole lot to help the team. He’s only averaging 6:09 of ice time per game, and that number doesn’t figure to go up any time soon.
8. Nick Schmaltz, Chicago Blackhawks
Nick Schmaltz was taken 20th-overall by the Blackhawks in 2014. Though there’s still plenty of time to turn it around, he hasn’t exactly stood out much. In 2016-17, he’s scored just one goal and three assists in 26 games. Schmaltz has a porous minus-three rating on the Western Conference’s top team. That’s a sign that he’s not exactly standing out all that much.
Schmaltz isn’t going to have many opportunities to stand out, either. The Blackhawks already have Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson on defence. The Blackhawks have a plus-17 goal differential, yet Schmaltz’ stats are far from decent right now. He certainly does have the right players and head coach to work with in order to establish himself as a top-end defender. But as of right now, Schmaltz is the weak link on the Blackhawks.
7. Darcy Kuemper, Minnesota Wild
Minnesota is the NHL’s toughest team to score on, allowing just 1.87 goals per game. Devan Dubnyk is the early frontrunner to win the Vezina Trophy. He leads the league with a 1.55 goals against average and .948 save percentage. So what is there to complain about the goaltending? It’s clearly lights out, right?
Correction: Dubnyk is lights out. But as for backup Darcy Kuemper? It’s not that pretty. He’s 3-2-1 with an awful 2.97 goals against average and .907 save percentage. Yeah, he’s giving up nearly 1.5 more goals per game than Dubnyk. And this is on a Wild team that always plays incredible shutdown defence. We can only imagine how much worse the stats would be if Kuemper was on any other NHL team.
6. Marek Mazanec, Nashville Predators
Speaking of teams that play great defence, welcome the Nashville Predators. Pekka Rinne is always in the running for the Vezina Trophy, but backup Marek Mazanec hasn’t exactly been filling in nicely. To be fair, expectations were never high for him; he was drafted 179th-overall by Nashville in 2012.
Mazanec has a porous 8-13-4 career with a 2.98 goals against average and .895 save percentage. But if those numbers weren’t pretty, it gets worse. In 2016-17 alone, he is 0-2 with a 4.73 (!) goals against average and .839 save percentage. Granted, the Predators haven’t played up to early season expecations, but Mazanec is a professional and has to be better than that.
Well, he did allow five goals in one game to the Chicago Blackhawks earlier in the season. Given how he’s only had four starts, maybe we shouldn’t judge him too harshly on one bad game. But for now, he’s on the list.
5. Brian Dumoulin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Brian Dumoulin was a Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season. That sounds great on a resume, but it doesn’t mean he’s going to be a superstar. I had previously listed him as the worst member of the Penguins 2016 Stanley Cup-winning team. Then again, I’m sure many would be a bad player on a champion than a good player on a bad team.
Dumoulin played well defensively in the regular season last year, with a plus-11 rating. This season, he is a minus-six. Dumoulin also hasn’t scored a regular season goal since Dec. 12, 2014. That’s right, it’s been over two years since Dumoulin has scored a goal on a stacked Penguins team.
4. Connor Murphy, Arizona Coyotes
Connor Murphy was the 20th-overall pick by the Coyotes in the 2011 NHL Draft. The Coyotes loved his size (6-5, 210 pounds). He had all the makings to be a quality stay-at-home defenceman, but so far it’s been a massive failure. He’s already in his fourth NHL season but hasn’t been able to establish himself.
Two seasons ago, Murphy posted a woeful minus-27 in 73 games. He showed signs of bouncing back after posting a plus-five in 78 games on one of the NHL’s worst teams. But Murphy has since fell back to earth. In 2016-17, he has five assists and is posting a porous minus-12 rating. To be fair to Murphy, there aren’t really any stars on Arizona, so it’s hard for him to succeed.
3. Jordan Nolan, Los Angeles Kings
The son of legendary head coach Ted Nolan has kept the family tradition of pro hockey careers in place, but he hasn’t lived up to the legacy of his father when it comes to success. Jordan Nolan did win a pair of Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings (in 2012 and 2014) but isn’t fitting in at this point.
For example, he has 18 career goals and 38 points in 268 games. He is also minus-13 for his career. Everyone knows how great of a defensive team L.A. is, so this isn’t really acceptable. Nolan recently scored his first goal in two seasons, but that doesn’t give him a free pass on our list.
2. Jakub Kindl, Florida Panthers
The Detroit Red Wings are known for finding late-round gems and developing these little-known guys into stars. Well, Jakub Kindl was a first-round pick in 2005 (19th-overall). Judging by the success of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen (among others), you’d think a first-rounder in Kindl would be a solid player.
Not exactly. The Red Wings grew frustrated with him, and he now finds himself struggling with the Florid Panthers. Kindl has just one assist in 13 games with a terrible minus-eight rating. He’s averaging just 15:11 of ice time per game, but isn’t holding his end of the bargain.
1. Nikita Zadorov, Colorado Avalanche
Another early draft selection that hasn’t lived up to his potential. Nikita Zadorov was taken 16th-overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2013. He only played two seasons with them and found his way on the Colorado Avalanche, where his misfortunes have grown more unfortunate.
Zadorov was a minus-14 with just 16 points in 67 games with the Sabres over two seasons. Last season, he had two assists and a minus-five rating in 22 games with the Colorado Avalanche. Now, he’s at five assists in 30 games with a minus-11 rating.
Now he is only 21 years of age, playing on a bad team and can definitely develop into a ore well-rounded defenceman. But the Avalanche are the NHL’s worst team and Zadorov is struggling the most out of any player on the team. This was an easy call for number one, but you have to hope the kid can turn it around.
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