The 2016 NHL Entry Draft is a little over a month away, bringing with it optimistic hopes for future success and ominous warnings of disappointing failure. What makes the draft so compelling is the spectrum of possibility that exists between franchises finding that elusive star to carry them to new heights and those who place endless resources and expectations into a prospect, only to see him fizzle out amidst a sea of 'what-ifs'.
This year, it is the Toronto Maple Leafs who are buoyed with hope. Coming off a season in which their long-tortured fan base actually celebrated the Brendan Shanahan-led front office's newfound commitment to bottoming out and restocking the cupboards with young talent, the campaign ended with a last-place finish and, more importantly, a lottery-enabled first overall draft selection. As if that weren't enough of a boon, this year happens to bring the long-awaited arrival of much-hyped center Auston Matthews, a dream scenario for a franchise that has long chased that elusive front line pivot in the middle.
But as the history of the NHL draft has proven, even sure things don't always end up so. Lurking a half step behind Matthews is uber-talented Finnish winger Patrik Laine, who turned heads at the World Junior Championships and has continued to do so at this summer's World Championships. As the Leafs are well aware, NHL history is littered with examples of clubs selecting the wrong guy and then being haunted by their decision for years thereafter. Leaf fans may not want to consider this doomsday scenario, but here are 14 examples of draft misses that have crippled NHL clubs.
15 Boris Valabik - Atlanta Thrashers
14 Brian Finley - Nashville Predators
13 Braydon Coburn - Atlanta Thrashers
12 Curtis Leschyshyn & Daniel Dore - Quebec Nordiques
11 Gilbert Brule - Columbus Blue Jackets
10 Zach Bogosian - Atlanta Thrashers
9 Gary Nylund - Toronto Maple Leafs
8 Nikolay Zherdev - Columbus Blue Jackets
7 Trevor Kidd - Calgary Flames
6 Alexandre Daigle - Ottawa Senators
5 Keith Brown - Chicago Blackhawks
Boston Bruins GM Harry Sinden was in the market for a defenseman with their No. 8 pick in the 1979 draft, and had his sights set on Portland Winter Hawks standout Keith Brown, a fact known to the Chicago Blackhawks GM Bob Pulford, who held the No. 7 selection. Much to the chagrin of the Bruins, Pulford opted to pull the trigger on taking Brown one pick before Boston could get their hands on him. So Sinden and the Bruins ultimately had to settle for what was left – Verdun Eperviers blue liner Ray Bourque. Ouch.
4 Brad Church, Miika Elomo, Alexander Volchkov and Jaroslav Svejkovsky - Washington Capitals
3 Brian Lawton - Minnesota North Stars
2 Rick DiPietro - New York Islanders
Speaking of American players selected No. 1 overall, Rick DiPietro has – fairly or unfairly – seemingly become the face of unfulfilled expectations in the NHL. Lofty hopes for DiPietro began early on and only grew when the New York Islanders shocked the hockey world by handing him a landmark 15-year, $67.5 million deal. Despite respectable career numbers of 130 wins and a 2.87 goals against average, DiPietro’s career is defined by injuries. It doesn’t help that the Islanders selected DiPietro while they still had a young Roberto Luongo on the roster, who they later traded away (with Olli Jokinen) for nothing. The Islanders didn't win a single playoff series with DiPietro, finally breaking their winless streak this year on the back of John Tavares.
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