Getting drafted first overall in the National Hockey League (NHL) is quite the thrill for one lucky individual each summer, but unfortunately for some of those players, they can’t live up to the hype.
It’s tough to judge which players are going to be future stars in the NHL, as teams and scouts are making these selections when the kids are only 17 and 18 years old. However, in today's landscape, the NHL Draft means so much to a struggling team and their fan base, that players are being scouted and discussed years before their name is even called.
Being a fantastic junior hockey player is great and means that one will likely be drafted, but it has its downfalls. Sometimes a player’s junior career is the best hockey they will ever play and once they get to the NHL, they can’t adjust to the speed and strength of professional hockey. When that occurs, a first overall pick can be frowned upon and considered a bust.
The NHL is a difficult league to play in and being a young kid in a man’s game can provide many struggles for young players. Many great junior players come into the NHL and fail and it’s actually rare to see rookies immediately excel in the pros. That’s why so many players who get drafted play one more year of junior or develop their game in the AHL before they are ready for the NHL.
First place rules and second place drools, but sometimes in the NHL Draft, the second pick is a safer spot, as it puts less pressure on the player. With that being said, here are some players who probably wished they were drafted second with a list of the top 10 worst first overall draft picks in the NHL of all-time.
10 Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers, 2012
He’s just halfway through his third NHL season, so it's definitely too early to call him a certain bust, but Nail Yakupov has making Edmonton Oilers fans upset ever since he was ever drafted. During a time when the Oilers probably should have drafted a defenceman instead of a forward, Yakupov hasn’t done anything in the NHL to prove that he’s special. Other forwards and defencemen drafted in the first round of the 2012 Entry Draft are already making impacts in the NHL, while the only impact Yakupov is having is being one of the worst plus/minus players in the NHL. In 170 career NHL games thus far, Yakupov is a career -64, and although he is only 21-years-old, he hasn’t shown much yet to show that he was worthy of being the first overall pick. Though, to his credit, he still has time to turn it around and get the last laugh.
9 Greg Joly, Washington Capitals, 1974
Born in Alberta, Greg Joly was a phenomenal talent in junior but couldn’t find his way in the NHL. Tallying a stellar 92 points in 67 games in his last year in junior with the Regina Pats, Joly was on the right path to the NHL. However, Joly seemed to switch from the AHL to the NHL every other year, or sometimes multiple times a year, as he was never able to find a steady job in the NHL. Although he was still able to play 365 career games in the NHL, his professional career required a lot of packing based on the amount of travel he had to do.
8 Patrik Stefan, Atlanta Trashers, 1999
Stefan will always be apart of the trivia question, “Who Was Drafted Before the Sedin Twins?” Unfortunately for Stefan, he will always be overshadowed by the fact that he went ahead of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, although he played 455 career NHL games. Although the Sedin Twins were a package deal from the start, Atlanta would probably have been better off trading this pick for something valuable because the 1999 NHL Draft had a terrible first round other than the Sedins. The Pribram, Czech Republic native managed to score 188 points in the big leagues, but will always be remembered for getting drafted before the Sedins (and missing an empty net goal).
7 Alexandre Daigle, Ottawa Senators, 1993
If you’re looking to get punched, bring up the name Alexandre Daigle to Ottawa Senators fans. Daigle managed to have a long professional career in hockey but was never able to live up to his junior days. Scoring 137 points in only 53 games in his last year of junior, Daigle was poised to be the next superstar in the NHL. However, that never happened and Daigle plateaued at 51 points in a season in his career. With players such as Chris Pronger and Paul Kariya falling only a few spots later than Daigle, the Senators could have had themselves an NHL All-Star but instead had themselves a dud.
6 Michel Plasse, Montreal Canadiens, 1968
Drafted first overall in the 1968 NHL Amateur Draft, Michel Plasse took a while to make it to the NHL. It took Plasse four years to get his first career NHL start with the Montreal Canadiens, but he had a very good start to his career. Compiling an 11-2-3 record in his first year with the club, he looked poised to become a top goaltender in the league. However, things changed quickly, as Plasse found himself with the Kansas City Scouts, then the Pittsburgh Penguins in the following season. Plasse would rack up a few more decent seasons in the NHL, but was never lived up to being the first overall pick.
5 Gord Kluzak, Boston Bruins, 1982
Racking up nearly double the amount of penalty minutes than career games played in the NHL, Gord Kluzak did not live up to his potential. Drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, the defenceman from Climax, Saskatchewan only managed 25 goals in 299 career games. With defenceman like Scott Stevens and Phil Housley taken only a few picks later than Kluzak, the Bruins did not draft the right defenceman and got themselves a bust, considering they could have had a future Hall of Famer.
4 Rick Pagnutti, Los Angeles Kings, 1967
Although the NHL Amateur Draft was a crap shoot in 1967 and was only two rounds long, Pagnutti was still never able to live up to the hopes that the Los Angeles Kings had when they drafted him. The closest Pagnutti ever got to lacing up his skates in the NHL was getting drafted, as he was never able to play an actual game in the big leagues. Pangutti’s professional career lasted 10 years with most of those years consisting of him either playing in the AHL or IHL.
3 Andre Veilleux, New York Rangers, 1965
1965 was a tough year for New York Rangers fans as their first overall draft pick was basically a waste of a pick. In one of the weakest NHL Drafts of all-time, the Rangers drafted the Montreal, Quebec native, Veilleux, but he was never able to make it to the pros. Only 10 players were drafted that year in a league that only had six teams, but unfortunately the Rangers weren’t able to secure themselves a future NHL leader.
2 Rick DiPietro, New York Islanders, 2000
Drafted first overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders, Rick DiPietro made a lot of money in his playing days, but is still considered a bust. Playing in only 143 career games before signing a 15-year, $67.5 million deal, DiPietro was a rich man before he had even done anything in the NHL. Unfortunately for Islanders fans, DiPietro was never able to live up to that contract and spent most of it in the American Hockey League or injured. Although his career didn’t pan out, DiPietro will still be cashing cheques from the Islanders until 2029 after they bought his contract out in 2013.
1 Claude Gauthier, Detroit Red Wings, 1964
The most recognizable name from the 1964 NHL Draft was unfortunately not the first overall pick made by the Detroit Red Wings. Instead, the best pick in the draft came by the New York Rangers who drafted Syl Apps with the 21st overall selection. Leading the QJAHL with 10 playoff goals in St. Jerome in 1965 may have been the biggest highlight for Gauthier who never played a game in the NHL. Standing at only 5’10”, 150 pounds, his height and weight may have had something to do with his inability to make the team, but fortunately for Red Wings fans, they had a player by the name of Gordie Howe who managed to fill the void in their terrible draft pick.