The NHL Draft is an annual event for teams to change the course of their respective histories. Drafting new superstars to lead the team to success in the long-term future becomes an enticing moment for GMs and the organization as a whole.
However, some teams have had terrible draft misses that they'll never get over. But coincidentally enough, there have been some years where GMs swung and missed at their draft selections in the same year, though there are other years where seemingly most picks are a home-run.
There have been some draft classes over the years that stack up as the best ever. The 2003 Draft was loaded with future superstars taken in the first round. The 1983 Draft brought in plenty of future Hall of Famers. But some draft years brought in mostly huge disappointments and regrets by GMs that they would not recover from.
Before we continue, we based these rankings mostly on how many stars and NHL regulars came out. Also, more recent drafts will be higher on the list, because of how they had more selections than 30-50 years ago and how most players selected today are expected by their teams to play in the NHL. That wasn't the case as much in the '60s and '70s.
Here are the 15 worst Draft Classes in NHL history.
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Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, the top pick in this draft, has failed to live up to expectations in Edmonton so far. He has a mere 222 points in 313 games. His highest-point totals have been 56 (which he has done twice).
Gabriel Landeskog, the second pick and captain of the Colorado Avalanche, has just 246 points in 356 games. Second-overall picks need to be better than that. Jonathan Huberdeau is slowly finding his grove. Hyped-up Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson still hasn't done enough to stand out.
Dougie Hamilton showed signs of a rising star in Boston, but his first year in Calgary was a disappointment. Mika Zibanejad is slowly getting better. Mark Scheifele and Sean Couturier could become stars at any minute.
After that, John Gibson, Brandon Saad and Johnny Gaudreau are the only All-Stars to come beyond the first-round. Given how hyped up this draft class was, it has to be considered one of the worst, so far. Time is running out for these picks to show they're truly NHL-ready.
This was the draft where far more selections were added. There were 10 rounds and 84 players were selected. Though a handful of guys who made All-Star games were selected, there weren't a lot of great players whose names you'd recognize today.
Rejean Houle, the top pick, had 161 goals and 408 points in 635 NHL games. Marc Tardif, Andre Dupont and Ivan Boldirev were all first-round selections who were decent, but five of the 13 first-rounders didn't even play 200 NHL games.
The majority of the second round was also a huge disappointment, with the exceptions being Bobby Clarke and Ron Stackhouse. The entire third and fourth round failed to produce a decent NHL regular. Butch Goring, a cornerstone of the Islanders dynasty in the '80s, went in the fifth round. After that, nobody else made much of a name for themselves in the NHL.
There's a good chance that this draft moves up higher, but it's still fairly early to determine how most of these selections will pan out.
The disappointment starts at the top with Nail Yakupov, who was taken first overall by the Edmonton Oilers. He's been hard for coaches to deal with and has yet to discover his full potential (if it'll even come),
After him was defenceman Ryan Murray, selected by Columbus. Griffin Reinhart, Matt Dumba, Derrick Pouliot, Slater Koekkoek and Tom Wilson are some of the other top names that went early that haven't panned out. So far, only Filip Forsberg and Zemgus Girgensons have been All-Stars. Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Hertl and Morgan Reilly have shown uprising talent, but aren't stars yet. Most of the 2012 round has yet to pan out and time's running out for them to show us that this draft isn't as bad as we're making it out to be.
NHL Drafts were smaller back then and this one only had 18 selections. Still, none of these guys ended up being stars, making it one of the worst drafts in history. Let's review some of the picks.
The top pick, Rick Pagnutti went to the Los Angeles Kings. He didn't play in a single NHL game, spending most of his professional career in the AHL. Steve Rexe, the next pick by the Pittsburgh Penguins, also didn't play in an NHL game. Ken Hicks, the third pick, also didn't play in an NHL game. Same for fourth-overall selection Wayne Cheeseman. The fifth pick, Serge Bernier, had 78 goals and 197 points in 302 games. He was at least serviceable.
The rest of the first round never played in the NHL. We won't give them the worst honour, however, because of how small the draft classes were back then.
This draft year had 24 selections and two of them became NHL All-Stars. But for the most part, this was a disappointing draft the entire way.
Michele Plasse, the top selection by the Montreal Canadiens, spent plenty of time in the NHL and won a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens, but his best year was a mere 24-19-10 record with a 3.45 GAA with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1975-76.
Roger Belisle, the second pick, never played an NHL game. The third pick, Jim Pritchard, also never played in the NHL. Garry Swain went fourth and played in nine NHL games. Jim Benzelock, the fifth pick, never played in the NHL. Jim McInally, the seventh pick, also never played. Most of the first-rounders saw very limited NHL action.
Only John Marks and Curt Bennett from the 1968 Draft Class were All-Stars. Overall, the 1968 Draft Class did at least have some players who had lengthy NHL careers, but there was not much starpower to say the least.
There were 18 rounds in the 1975 NHL Draft, which had 217 players total. Only four of the guys would actually make an All-Star Game. Even one of the guys who was an All-Star, Tim Young, only scored 536 points in 628 games. Good, not great.
Dennis Maruk, another All-Star, had a great career, posting 356 goals and 878 points in 888 games, carrying porous Washington Capitals and Minnesota North Stars teams during the '80s.
Brian Engblom was another recognizable name taken in the draft, but even his career wasn't that spectacular: 206 points in 659 games. Mike McConnell and Paul Holmgren were also All-Stars. Simply put, look through this draft and try to find at least five names you'd recognize. Mel Bridgman, Barry Dean, Ralph Klassen, Rick Lapointe and Don Ashby (the top five picks,) failed to stand out in their careers.
Not exactly a draft that brought much talent into the NHL.
Yes, Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin (the top two picks), have become franchise-changing stars in Washington and Pittsburgh, respectively. Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler discovered their talents when they found the right fits.
Devan Dubnyk didn't break out until he joined the Minnesota Wild. Cory Schneider had to wait patiently until the Canucks finally gave him his shot in 2010-11. Mike Green had two All-Star-calibre seasons and has been above average since.
Pekka Rinne, Alex Edler and Mark Streit were the few late-round gems, but even the latter two haven't rediscovered the star forms they displayed five-seven years ago.
Cam Barker, Al Montoya, Rostislav Olesz, Alexandre Picard, Ladislav Smid, Boris Valabik, Lauri Tukonen, A.J. Thelen, Petteri Nokelainen, Marek Schwarz, Kyle Chipchura, Wojtek Wolski, Kris Chucho and Rob Schremp were some of the first-rounders who made very little impacts in the NHL.
This draft class did have a few stars, but overall, not many guys actually came out and had lengthy (or even decent) NHL careers.
The top pick, Wendel Clark, did just fine in the NHL, scoring 330 goals and 564 points. Craig Simpson, who went second-overall, won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers. He had six-straight 20-goal seasons from 1987-88 to 1992-93.
The next four picks: Craig Wolanin, Jim Sandlak, Dana Murzyn and Brad Dalgarno, couldn't find consistency. Ulf Dahlen, the seventh pick, did put up a respectable 655 points in 966 games.
However, other top-10 picks like Craig Duncanson and Dan Gratton barely played in the NHL. Dave Manson was an All-Star, but the rest of the first-round failed to garner much attention. Sean Burke, Joe Nieuwendyk and Mick Richter were the lone three to become All-Stars in the second round.
After that, Steve Chiasson, Bill Ranford, Igor Larionov and Randy Burridge were the only other All-Stars. The third-round pick featured Keith Gretzky, Wayne's brother. He, like most of the third and subsequent round selections, couldn't find full-time work in the NHL.
A look at the first round is all you need to know where the rest of this draft went. Perennial superstars Rick Nash (first) and Jay Bouwmeester (third) highlighted the top 30. Kari Lehtonen went second and has been an average goalie in his career.
Joffrey Lupul, Alexander Semin and Ryan Whitney are other guys who went in the first-round. They each had a pair of productive seasons but became incredibly inconsistent after that. Cam Ward also went in the first-round, but hasn't been much of a star since winning it all in 2006.
The disappointing first round was overshadowed by the lack of talent in the second. Duncan Keith, Johnny Boychuk and Jiri Hudler are all terrific players. After that, Matt Stajan, Jarret Stoll and Trevor Daley were the next best players taken. And they're not close to stars.
Valterri Filppula is the lone above-average player who came from the third round. Career number four defenceman Tom Gilbert was the best to come from Round 4. Dennis Wideman was the final player to make an All-Star game from Round 3-9.
Bryan Berard, the top pick, saw limited action because of an eye injury. He played just 619 games in 11 NHL seasons, mainly as a defensive blueliner.
Wade Redden was the next pick. He was extremely productive in Ottawa, before becoming a major disappointment with the New York Rangers. Perennial stars Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla went in the first-round, as did 2003 Conn Smythe winner and 2007 Stanley Cup Champion, J.S. Giguere.
Second-tier talents like Petr Sykora and Martin Biron also went in Round 1, but most of the first round lacked future stardom. The best NHL player to come out of Round 2 was Jochen Hecht, who had 463 points in 833 NHL games.
Petr Buzek, a one-time All-Star, was the biggest standout in Round 3. After that, there weren't many more players to be excited about. Miikka Kiprusoff went late, but almost every round was filled up with future draft busts.
Aki Berg, Steve Kelly, Chad Kilger, Terry Ryan, Kyle McLaren and Jeff Ware were some of the top first-rounders that weren't anything more than depth players.
The top two picks made huge names for themselves in the NHL. Ilya Kovalchuk went first to the Atlanta Thrashers and became a consistent 40-goal scorer before going to the KHL in 2013. Jason Spezza, the second pick to Ottawa, remains one of the craftiest centres in the league.
Aside from that, the first-round only had a few more players who've been marred with inconsistent careers: Mikko Koivu, Stephen Weiss, Dan Hamhuis, Mike Komisarek, and R.J. Umberger. The majority of first-rounders, such as Alexander Svitov, Pascal Leclaire, Dan Blackburn, Chuck Kobasew and Jens Karlsson disappointed.
Derek Roy, Michael Cammalleri and Jason Pominville, all good, but not star scorers. were the best trio in Round 2. Patrick Sharp, Craig Anderson and Tomas Plekanec are the only third-rounders still playing in the NHL full-time.
Only nine players from Rounds 4-9 are still playing in the NHL regularly today.
Take away seventh-round selection Henrik Lundvist and oft-injured/inconsistent winger Marian Gaborik, and the two best players from this draft, who are still in the NHL, are second-line forwards Scott Hartnell and Justin Williams.
That's not a knock against those two hard-working players, but it goes to show there really weren't any other bonafide stars in this draft. Dany Heatley, Rick DiPietro and Ilya Bryzgalov have had different issues. Only five players we haven't mentioned from Round 1 are still playing: Niklas Kronwall, Raffi Torres, Brooks Orpik, Steve Ott and Brad Boyes, none of which are "great" players. Only nine guys from Rounds 2-9 still play in the NHL.
This draft just had disappointment written all over it. Nobody taken then is a superstar now and there were very few players who had and still do play in the NHL. This is definitely one most people want to forget.
Chris Phillips went first overall to the Ottawa Senators. He spent nearly two decades as a shutdown blueliner and great leader. But he was never an NHL All-Star. He was still far better than most players taken in the first-round.
Early first rounders like Andrei Zyuzin (second overall, 496 NHL games), Alexandre Volchkov (fourth-overall, three NHL games), Ric Jackman (fifth overall, 232 games), and Boyd Devereaux (sixth overall, 279 points in 627 games,) were major busts.
Erik Rasmussen, Johnathan Aitken and Lance Ward were also top-10 selections who failed to garner much attention. Only Marco Sturm and Daniel Briere became All-Stars in Round 1.
Only five guys from Round 2 played in the NHL from 2012-present. Zdeno Chara and Tom Poti were the standouts of Round 3. Michal Rozsival, a second-pairing defenceman, was the best player from Round 4. Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle were the only other All-Stars to come out of the 1996 Draft. Aside from Chara, no one taken in this draft will be a Hall of Famer. It was absolutely one of the most disappointing.
At first, you'll see that three of the top six selections were All-Stars. However, one of them, second-overall pick Jimmy Carson, only had 561 points in 626 NHL Games. Not really anything to be excited about.
Zarley Zalapski, another All-Star, only played played in 637 NHL games from 1987-88 to 1999-2000. But Vincent Damphousse was a real star, scoring 1,205 points in 1,378.
First-overall pick Joe Murphy had a mere 528 points in 779 games. Neil Brady, the third pick, had 31 points in 89 NHL games. After future Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, nobody else in the NHL had impressive careers from Round 1. Adam Graves and Teppo Numminen rounded out Round 2, though they weren't exactly superstars.
Eight players from Round 3 never played an NHL game and six had played their last game in the league by 1993. Tim Cheveldae and Rob Brown made Round 4 look better than it really was. Only eight of 21 players from Round 5 played in an NHL game.
Darren Turcotte was the one All-Star from Round 6-12.
If it weren't for the superstardom of the Sedin Twins (Daniel went second and Henrik went third), then nobody would remember the first round. In fact, nobody would want to.
Patrik Stefan (the top pick) is only remembered for his empty net miss in a game against the Edmonton Oilers. Nick Boynton and Martin Havlat were the other first rounders to make the All-Star Game, though both fought consistency issues throughout their playing careers.
Pavel Brendl (fourth, 78 NHL games), Brian Finley (sixth, four NHL games), Kris Beech (seventh, 198 games), Denis Shvidki (12th, 76 games), and Scott Kelman (15th, zero NHL games) rounded out a disappointing first round. Only four guys from Round 1 are still in the NHL and 20 of them haven't played in the league in the 2010s.
Round 2 wasn't any better, as 12 guys never played in the NHL and only 10 have played in this decade. 12 guys from Round 3 also never played in the NHL. Mike Comrie (365 points in 589 games,) was the best player from that round. Round 4 saw four guys play an NHL game.
39 players from Rounds 4-9 played an NHL Game. So without a doubt, 1999 is the worst draft class ever.
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