Being selected in the first round of any draft is a sign of premier talent. Any player who is selected so early in the draft must feel extremely proud of themselves, as it is a sign that they are the best of the best. In the National Hockey League, the only difference from that is that the players should feel even prouder. NHL players have to deal with players from across the world looking to steal their draft slots, while in other sports players mostly only have to deal with players from the United States of America. It makes sense that hockey players feel the proudest about being selected in the first round, but it also makes sense that there is the most room for error in the draft accordingly.
So many players are available, so it's impossible to tell for certain who will be the best, and who will be a bust. The draft is so fascinating because of this, as we have no idea even on draft day who the real winners are. It takes time and the understanding that players must develop properly to see who really has what it takes to stick in the National Hockey League. Still, there are plenty of players we can label as definite busts playing in the NHL today. Playing in the NHL is something to be proud of, but these players did not live up to expectations. Let's take a look at 15 first round busts in the NHL today.
15 Nail Yakupov
What better way to start off a list about busts than to use a former first overall pick? Nail Yakupov was selected with one of the Edmonton Oilers' many, many first overall picks throughout the recent decade. The Oilers struck gold with Connor McDavid and did fine jobs with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Yet Nail Yakupov had one fine season with the Oilers, then watched his career completely fall apart. He became a fan least-favorite under Dallas Eakins, then struggled under Todd McLellan as well. Eventually rather than watching him continue to toil away with the Oilers, the organization moved him to the St. Louis Blues for a non-prospect and a third round pick. Yakupov has struggled mightily in St. Louis as well.
14 Thomas Hickey
It's easy to think of the New York Islanders' defenseman Thomas Hickey as a bargain for his current NHL team. Hickey scored an overtime winner in last year's first round playoff matchup with the Florida Panthers, solidifying his place as a fan favorite with the Brooklyn-based franchise. Yet Hickey was not drafted to play second pair minutes for the New York Islanders, nor was he ever supposed to be an Islander. Hickey was selected fourth overall in the 2007 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings, as the Kings thought they had a piece that could help them in their present and future. Instead, Hickey was a bust in L.A., eventually being waived without ever contributing to any success for the Los Angeles Kings.
13 Al Montoya
Another player that is currently playing fine hockey for his respective team, Al Montoya was once the sixth overall pick by the New York Rangers. We know what you are thinking, what about Henrik Lundqvist? At the time, Lundqvist was not even an after-thought. He was a 7th round pick that was used essentially as a flyer at best, so the Rangers thought they had a desperate need for goaltending. It ended up being Lundqvist, not Montoya, that filled that need for the Rangers. Montoya never contributed to the Rangers' success, instead bouncing around the NHL as a backup. Funny enough, Montoya's only real extended stint as a starter actually came for the Rangers' arch-rivals, the New York Islanders. Not what the Rangers were looking for.
12 Benoit Pouliot
Benoit Pouliot helped the New York Rangers a whole lot more than Al Montoya did. Pouliot was one of the key cogs on the Rangers' third line that led the team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. But Pouliot was not drafted by the Rangers, but instead signed by the organization after bouncing around with other teams on one-year contracts. Pouliot was originally drafted by the Minnesota Wild with the fourth pick of the 2005 NHL Draft. Taken after Pouliot? Anze Kopitar, Tuukka Rask, and T.J. Oshie, among others. Pouliot was a total bust for the Wild, even if he did manage to make a name for himself as a useful depth piece for other organizations after leaving the Wild for good.
11 Derick Brassard
Again, it is essential to recognize that by being busts these players are not necessarily players that are having sub-par NHL careers. Instead, it means that they were not what the teams that drafted them were looking for when they made the selections. When Derick Brassard was taken sixth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, they expected him to be a long-term Blue Jackets center. Instead, Brassard's best years came on the third line of the New York Rangers alongside Benoit Pouliot. Brassard did help bring Marian Gaborik to the Blue Jackets, but the Jackets later traded Gaborik for essentially nothing, meaning Brassard essentially brought nothing to the Blue Jackets organization in his tenure with the team.
10 Michael Grabner
How about another New York Ranger, but this time an active one? Michael Grabner joined former Ranger Derick Brassard as an early pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Grabner was taken by the Vancouver Canucks, but quickly fell out of favor with the Canucks organization. He was moved to the Florida Panthers in a deal for Keith Ballard (if you need to look up who that is we do not blame you at all) then was waived by the Panthers soon after. Thus, Grabner's use to the Canucks comes in the form of Keith Ballard and a short stint with not a lot of production at all. Not quite what the Canucks were looking for when they selected him 14th overall in that draft.
9 Tom Wilson
Tom Wilson still has plenty of time to make a name for himself considering he is not even 22 years old yet, but the Washington Capitals grinder appears set to be no more than just that. Wilson is a big body who can occasionally make plays defensively, but that's all the former first round pick brings to the table for the Capitals. Wilson was taken 16th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, directly ahead of Tomas Hertl and Teuvo Terravainen. Additionally, the Capitals' rivals have found gems in the later picks of the same round, making matters worse for the Capitals. The Penguins plucked Olli Maataa later in that round, while the Rangers found Brady Skjei to help complement their own defense for the future.
8 Dylan McIlrath
A pick that any New York Rangers fan would scream at you for talking about, Dylan McIlrath was selected tenth overall by the New York Rangers in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The Rangers decided to prioritize size over skill for some unknown reasons, so they went with McIlrath with the tenth selection. What transpired next was the Anaheim Ducks getting All-Star defenseman Cam Fowler two picks later, and the St. Louis Blues getting possible future Hall of Famer Vladimir Tarasenko six picks later. Funny enough, Tarasenko scored one of the prettiest goals in NHL history at Madison Square Garden, pushing the puck between the legs of none other than Dylan McIlrath. That perfectly captured how the pick went for the New York Rangers.
7 Magnus Paajarvi
Magnus Paajarvi was selected by the Edmonton Oilers with the tenth selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The Oilers had their fair share of early draft picks thanks to their poor play, and as you can tell they did not always capitalize on their favorable positioning in the draft. Edmonton took Paajarvi thanks to his rumored tremendous hands and scoring abilities, but watched as he became nothing in the National Hockey League. Paajarvi scored 22 goals in his Oilers career before being traded along with a 2nd round draft pick for David Perron, who was not exactly a superstar in Edmonton himself. Overall, the Paajarvi selection is one the Oilers would like to forget. Ryan Ellis was taken immediately after the Oilers' pick. Yikes.
6 Riley Nash
If you're thinking this is a typo and we're talking about Rick Nash, think again. We're referring to Riley Nash, who currently plays for the Boston Bruins. Riley Nash was taken by the Edmonton Oilers with the 21st selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. After toiling away in college and minor hockey, the Oilers decided to trade Nash to the Carolina Hurricanes for the 46th pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. What must be understood about the Nash selection, however, is who was taken after the Oilers took their shot on him. The direct pick after was All-Star and Captain of the Montreal Canadiens, Max Pacioretty. Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith was also taken later on in that same first round.
5 Colin Wilson
Don't get us wrong, Colin Wilson has been a fine player for the Nashville Predators. He has gotten the job done when needed, and spending his entire NHL career thus far with the same organization is something to be proud of. Wilson is a fine player who deserves to be treated as such. Unfortunately, Wilson is also a draft bust. Taken seventh overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Wilson had a lot expected out of him. What he's provided is instead a consistent third line threat for Nashville, which is fine, but not something a seventh overall pick can provide. Chosen after Wilson: Erik Karlsson, Jake Gardiner, Jordan Eberle, and John Carlson, among others. So, do you see why Wilson is a bust now?
4 Jack Skille
Jack Skille is one of the quietest NHL regulars currently playing in the league. Perhaps that's because he resides on one of the league's basement dwellers, or maybe it's because he simply isn't very good at hockey. Regardless, at one point he was considered good enough to be taken seventh overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. The Chicago Blackhawks haven't made many mistakes in their days, but this was one of them. Skille, who has bounced around NHL organizations more than most players do throughout their entire careers, was taken ahead of Anze Kopitar, Marc Staal, Tuukka Rask, T.J. Oshie, and Matt Niskanen, among others. He provided nothing to the Blackhawks organization, and is one of the biggest flops in their drafting history.
3 Lauri Korpikoski
Lauri Korpikoski is a fine bottom six player for the Dallas Stars right now, but if things went the way they were expected to when he was drafted, he would be a solid member of the New York Rangers' top six at the moment. Instead, Korpikoski played briefly in the Rangers' top six, failing to amount to much of anything at all. He was moved by the Rangers, then continued to bounce around on short deals for small sums of money. Overall, he provided the Rangers organization with essentially nothing. That was the second miss by the Rangers in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, as they took him 19th overall and Al Montoya sixth overall. The draft was one of the most disastrous in franchise history.
2 Steve Bernier
Imagine if Mike Richards was a San Jose Shark instead of a Philadelphia Flyer and Los Angeles King? How about Ryan Getzlaf: San Jose Shark? Or even Zach Parise, American born San Jose Sharks winger. All of these possibilities could have come true if the Sharks simply drafted one of those players instead of Steve Bernier with the 16th selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. But the Sharks chose Bernier instead, passing up on a number of players that have been all-stars and could very well end up as future hall of famers. Bernier scored 28 goals for the San Jose Sharks in his tenure with the team, and now bounces around NHL organizations hoping to hold onto a spot in the league.
1 Zack Kassian
While the Edmonton Oilers made more than their fair share of draft mistakes throughout their recent history, they have also picked up a few mistakes from other organizations. One of those mistakes plays for the team now, gritty forward Zack Kassian. Kassian was chosen by the Buffalo Sabres with the 13th overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Kassian was expected to be a big bodied winger that could bully opponents into giving him the puck, then pot the puck into the net. Instead, Kassian flamed out early in his attempt to be a valuable player for the Sabres. He brought little to nothing to the organization, eventually becoming a part of a trade for another draft bust in Cody Hodgson. Not what the Sabres dreamed of.