Every draft choice is a huge gamble. Teams rely greatly on how well a player does in the minor leagues. A young prospect can be an outstanding player in the minors where he averaged well over a point a game, but as soon as he makes it to the NHL, he is unable to produce points. Unfortunately, the talented young guy just isn’t cut out to play in the National Hockey League.
And while most prospects (especially in the first round) play at least one game in the NHL, some guys unfortunately never make it to their professional debuts. They just can’t seem to get past the American Hockey League and are unfortunately stuck in the minors for the majority of their careers. And while some prospects spend their careers playing in the AHL, others decide to pack up and head overseas to play in European leagues, such as the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia.
This article will detail the 15 biggest draft busts since the year 2010. You will also find out where they are currently playing – that is, if they are still playing hockey. And yes, every one of these busts were drafted in the first round.
16 Valeri Nichushkin
Valeri Nichushkin was drafted 10th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Dallas Stars. This right winger made his NHL debut that following season and played a total of 166 regular season games with the Stars between 2013-14 and 2015-16 and tallied 64 points, along with a +17 plus/minus rating. Although his numbers weren’t overly terrible, his time in the NHL was short lived.
In September 2016, Nichushkin signed a two-year contract with CSKA Moscow to play in the Kontinental Hockey League. And his numbers are much better playing in his native country of Russia. Last season, he produced 24 points and a +25 plus/minus rating in 36 games with them. He’s the prime example of a bust as he was drafted in the top ten and just three years later he was back playing overseas.
15 Griffin Reinhart
Griffin Reinhart was drafted 4th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders. This defenseman spent five seasons in the WHL from 2009 to 2014 with the Edmonton Oil Kings and produced 111 points, along with a +83 plus/minus rating, in 209 games. He then spent three seasons in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Bakersfield Condors, tallying 53 points in 143 games.
He did play a total of 37 games in the NHL – 8 with the Islanders in 2014-15, then 29 games with the Edmonton Oilers in 2015-16 – but recorded with just 2 assists and a -5 rating. For being drafted in the top five, Reinhart has been a huge disappointment so far, but now that he’s a member of the Vegas Golden Knights, maybe he can turn his luck around.
13 Zack Phillips
Zack Phillips was drafted 28th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild. This center put up fantastic numbers in the QMJHL with the Saint John Sea Dogs with a total of 219 points and a +117 plus/minus rating in 192 games. He then spent four seasons in the American Hockey League from 2012 to 2016 playing for the Houston Aeros, Iowa Wild, Providence Bruins, and Chicago Wolves. During that time, he totalled 100 points in 260 regular season games. He never did make it to the National Hockey League.
After failing to make it to the NHL level, Phillips spent last season (2016-17) playing in Sweden, but is now currently playing for the Nottingham Panthers of the EIHL in the United Kingdom.
12 Stuart Percy
Stuart Percy was drafted 25th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. This defenseman put up pretty nice numbers in the Ontario Hockey League from 2009 to 2013 with a total of 122 points and a +55 plus/minus rating in 218 games. He then played a total of 214 games in the AHL between the 2011-12 and 2016-17 seasons with the Toronto Marlies and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and produced 72 points. Also during that time, he appeared in 12 NHL games with the Leafs (9 games in 2014-15 and 3 games in 2015-16) but tallied just 3 points – all assists.
Percy is currently a free agent. It’s pretty disappointing for the Leafs that both of their first round draft picks in 2011 (Biggs and Percy) were total busts.
11 Mark Visentin
Mark Visentin was drafted 27th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. This goaltender had a pretty decent career playing in the Ontario Hockey League with the Niagara IceDogs from 2008 to 2012 as he earned a total of 89 wins in 166 games.
He then went on to play 89 games in the American Hockey League but posted just 33 wins. He made his NHL debut with the Coyotes on April 12, 2014 in a game against the San Jose Sharks. He let in 3 goals on 32 shots and was credited with the first loss of his career (they lost 3-2). In fact, that was the only National Hockey League game that Visentin played in. He is currently playing hockey overseas in Austria.
10 Henrik Samuelsson
Henrik Samuelsson was drafted 27th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. This center spent three seasons in the WHL with the Edmonton Oil Kings from 2011 to 2014 and racked up an impressive 198 points, along with a +84 plus/minus rating, in 162 games. He then went on to spend three seasons in the American Hockey League from 2014 to 2017 with the Portland Pirates, Springfield Falcons, Tucson Roadrunners, and Bakersfield Condors. During that time, he totalled 55 points in 136 games.
He did make three National Hockey League appearances with the Coyotes during the 2014-15 season, but failed to earn any points. This draft bust has not played in the NHL since then. Samuelsson recently signed a contract with the Idaho Steelheads in the ECHL.
9 Quinton Howden
Quinton Howden was drafted 25th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Florida Panthers. This center thrived in the Western Hockey League with the Moose Jaw Warriors with a total of 239 points in 244 games. But unfortunately for him, that’s the only place where he excelled. He was less than impressive in the AHL with 99 points in 207 games. And he was even worst during his time in the National Hockey League with just 17 points in 97 games between 2012-13 and 2016-17 playing for both Florida and Winnipeg.
After a rough time trying to produce points at the NHL level, Howden is now playing overseas as he signed a contract last month with Dinamo Minsk of the Kontinental Hockey League.
8 Jack Campbell
Jack Campbell was drafted 11th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Dallas Stars. This goaltender had a decent two seasons in the OHL from 2010 to 2012 with the Windsor Spitfires and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds with a record of 45 wins in 91 games. He then played six seasons in the AHL with the Texas Stars and Ontario Reign, earning a total of 87 wins in 174 games. He also spent some time in the ECHL with the Idaho Steelheads where he had a much better record of 19 wins in 27 games.
As for his NHL career, he played two games – one with the Stars in 2013-14 and once last season in 2016-17 with the Los Angeles Kings. In those two games combined, he recorded one loss and a 4.50 goals against average. Although he’s still a member of the Kings, he’s been a huge disappointment for being the first goaltender drafted in 2010.
7 Tyler Biggs
Tyler Biggs was drafted 22nd overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. This right winger played a total of 119 regular season games in the American Hockey League from 2012-13 to 2015-16 between the Toronto Marlies and the Wilkes-Barre /Scranton Penguins and tallied just 17 points. He never played a game in the National Hockey League. Last year he signed a contract with the Kalamazoo Wings in the ECHL and had a pretty successful 2016-17 season with them with a total of 32 points in 58 games.
Having failed to make a NHL appearance, along with his very disappointing performance in the AHL, there is no doubt that Biggs was a huge bust for the Leafs as he was their first pick in that year’s draft.
6 Haydn Fleury
Haydn Fleury was drafted 7th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes. This defenseman put up pretty decent numbers in the OHL with the Red Deer Rebels with a total of 134 points and a +42 plus/minus rating in 259 games. Then he spent last season in the American Hockey League with the Charlotte Checkers and produced 26 points, along with a +16 rating, in 69 regular season games.
He has put up decent numbers in the minors leagues, but has yet to make his National Hockey League debut despite still being a prospect for the Hurricanes. What’s even more disappointing is that he’s one of only two guys drafted in the top 16 in 2014 (along with Michael Dal Colle) who have not yet played a game in the NHL. This is not good for a guy drafted in the top ten.
5 Michael Dal Colle
Michael Dal Colle was drafted 5th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders. This left winger thrived in the OHL from 2012 to 2016 playing for the Oshawa Generals and Kingston Frontenacs, having racked up 316 points and a +76 plus/minus rating in 246 games. He then spent last season (2016-17) in the American Hockey League playing for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and produced 41 points in 75 games.
Although he has put up good numbers in the minor leagues, he has not made it to the NHL level as of yet despite still being a prospect for the Islanders. In fact, he’s the only player drafted in the top five that year, and one of only two guys drafted in the top sixteen (along with Haydn Fleury) who have not yet played in the National Hockey League.
4 Brandon Gormley
Brandon Gormley was drafted 13th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. This defenseman had a successful career in the QMJHL (from 2008 to 2012) with a total of 150 points in 202 games between the Moncton Wildcats and Shawinigan Cataractes. He then spent the majority of his time in the AHL playing for several different teams (San Antonio Rampage, Portland Pirates, Albany Devils and Binghamton Senators) and recording a total of 97 points in 240 games.
He did play a total of 58 regular season NHL games with the Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche between the 2013-14 and 2015-16 seasons, but tallied just 5 points, along with a -6 plus/minus rating. Gormley is currently a free agent, which is pretty disappointing for a thirteenth overall draft pick.
3 Ilya Samsonov
Ilya Samsonov was drafted 22nd overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Washington Capitals. This goaltender has not played any games in the American Hockey League or the National Hockey League. He is currently playing in his native country of Russia in the Kontinental Hockey League with Metallurg Magnitogorsk. As a matter of fact, he has been playing in the KHL since the 2014-15 season. In those four seasons combined (including this current season), he has played a total of 53 games and earned 25 wins.
This is pretty disappointing for the Capitals, as Samsonov was the highest drafted goalie of 2015 – and the only one drafted in the first round – and he has not even played a game in North America. This is no doubt a huge bust for Washington.
2 Joey Hishon
Joey Hishon was drafted 17th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Colorado Avalanche. This center had a great minor league career in the OHL with the Owen Sound Attack as he racked up 255 points in 214 games. Unfortunately, his NHL career was a total bust as he played a total of just 13 games with the Avalanche in 2014-15 and tallied 2 points. He did spent a lot of time in the American Hockey League and put up much better numbers with 109 points in 174 games.
After his extremely short career in the National Hockey League, he signed with Jokerit Helsinki of the Kontinental Hockey League in 2016. And after a disappointing season with them, he’s now playing in Sweden with Lulea HF.
1 Mikhail Grigorenko
Mikhail Grigorenko was drafted 12th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres. This center had a fantastic career in the QMJHL with the Quebec Remparts, having racked up 178 points and a +60 plus/minus rating in 115 games. He then spent some time in the AHL and did very well there with 40 points in 52 games.
He spent five seasons in the NHL from 2012 to 2017 but couldn’t produce the high numbers he was use to in the minors with just 64 points and a -26 plus/minus rating in 217 regular season games between Buffalo and Colorado.
After becoming an unrestricted free agent this past summer, Grigorenko signed a three-year contract with CSKA Moscow to play in the Kontinental Hockey League. He definitely didn’t live up to the high expectations during his career in the National Hockey League.