The role of the goalie is arguably the most important position in the game of hockey. A team can simply not win without at least a half decent goalie. When you look at all the top teams in the league right now, they are all getting great goaltending. However, acquiring a top tier goalie isn't that easy. Teams do get lucky once in a while by trading for, or signing a top-notch goalie, but usually teams are wary of letting guys like that go. For the most part teams have to draft and develop their own goalies.
All of these goalies on this list were highly sought after prospects, all of whom would eventually be first round draft choices. When you're a player who is drafted in the first round, you're expected to perform at the NHL level fairly quick. However, when you're a goalie who is a first round selection, teams are willing to be a lot more patient when it comes to letting you develop. The problem is there is so few spots available for goalies and teams can only wait so long for goalies to develop. The majority of the goalies on this list ended up getting passed by younger prospects on their team's goaltending depth chart.
A few these goalies did manage to get a couple of seasons in as a starting NHL goalie. However, they were't able to handle the workload and before they knew they were once again in a backup role. Some of these players struggled to find a role in the NHL, but had success as a goaltender in other leagues. Lastly, some of these players battled multiple injuries throughout their career, which hampered their development, and sometimes even put them into early retirement.
Here are the top 15 biggest NHL goalie draft busts in history.
15 Mark Visentin - 2010
There is a great video out there of Mark Visentin from the 2010 NHL Entry. When the Phoenix Coyotes announced they were taking Visentin with the 27th overall selection, you can see that's he was in a state of shock. He wasn't expected to go until the second round at the earliest. The Coyotes traded up five spots to take the seventeen-year-old.
Visentin spent his entire junior career with the Niagara Ice Dogs. He led them to the finals of the 2012 OHL Championship, losing to London in five games. He was also Canada's starting goalie at the 2011 and 2012 World Juniors, winning a Silver and Bronze medal.
He made his pro debut during the 2012-13 season with the Coyotes AHL affiliate in Portland. He posted decent numbers, while compiling a record of 15-12-1-2. He got into more games during his second season with Portland, but his numbers slid. He did however get into his only NHL game to date, which was a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
Visentin missed the entire 2014-15 season with an ankle injury. He became a restricted free agent at the end of the year, but the Coyotes did not tend him an offer. He signed with Chicago Blackhawks in the offseason, where he is currently a backup for their AHL affilate. Fortunately for the Coyotes they drafted Louis Domingue in the fifth round, who looks like he has a good future with Arizona.
14 Mika Noronen - 1997
Mika Noronen was taken 21st overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Buffalo was hoping that they found the eventual successor for future Hall of Fame goalie Dominik Hasek. Noronen spent four years developing in his native home of Finland, playing for Tappara of the top Finnish hockey league. He also represented Finland twice at the World Junior Championships. He made his North American debut in 1999-2000 with the Rochester Americans of the AHL, and it was an fantastic debut to say the least. In 54 games, he posted a record of 33-13-4, an amazing 2.18 GAA, with an exceptional .920 save percentage. Noronen won the Red Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL's Top Rookie.
He followed up his rookie pro season with two more solid years in the AHL. Noronen did manage to get into twelve NHL games during his first three seasons, but his numbers were nothing special. He split the 2002-03 season with Buffalo and Rochester, getting into a career high 16 NHL games. Noronen finally earned himself a permanent backup role with the Sabres in 2003-04, which turned out to be his only full season in the NHL of his career.
After the NHL lockout in 2004-05, Noronen returned to the Sabres, only to be pushed down to third on the depth chart thanks to the emergence of Ryan Miller. Noronen was traded to the Vancouver Canucks at the NHL trade deadline. He would only get into four games with the Canucks, where he struggled mightily. Noronen left North America for good at the end of the season. The only noteworthy goaltenders that went after Noronen in the 1997 draft, were David Aebischer and Scott Clemmensen.
13 Al Montoya - 2004
Al Montoya was a star goalie for the University of Michigan. In 2002-03 as the youngest player in Division 1, he set a record for most wins by a freshman with thirty. His sophomore season was almost as good as his season as a freshman. He was a finalist for CCHA Goaltender of the Year. He also won a Gold Medal as the starting goalie the U.S. at the 2004 World Junior Championships. Those accolades got the New York Rangers excited, and they took Montoya with 6th overall pick.
Montoya only spent two and half seasons with the Rangers organization. He was stuck in the minors and his play was nothing spectacular. With the emergence of Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers no longer saw Montoya in their future plans, so they traded him to Phoenix. He would get into his first NHL action with the Coyotes, but he wasn't able to earn one of their top two goalie spots. He was traded to New York Islanders at the 2011 Entry Draft, where he would finally find a permanent role in the NHL. Montoya played a career high 31 games in 2011-12 season.
Montoya has since had stops in Winnipeg and Florida, becoming one of the most reliable backups in the NHL. There is nothing wrong with making a career out of being a backup, but when you're a top ten pick, a great deal more is expected out of you. There were a few goalies who went in the 2004 draft, that have since gone on to become exceptional starting goalies. They include names like Devan Dubnyk and Pekka Rinne.
12 Jamie Storr - 1994
Jamie Storr played parts of four seasons with the Owen Sound Platers. Fortunately for him his best season came during his draft year in 1993-94. He posted a record of 21-11-1, with a 3.59 goals against average, along with a .915 save percentage. All of those numbers were career highs for Storr's junior career. The Los Angeles Kings made him the first goalie taken in the 1994 draft, when they selected him with the 7th overall pick.
Storr made his NHL debut the following season with a five game stint. His numbers showed that the teenager wasn't quite ready for the NHL, and he was sent back down to Owen Sound. The next season Storr became the starting goalie for the Kings IHL affiliate, the Phoenix Roadrunners. His numbers in the IHL were decent enough for him to get another five games in the NHL. Unlike his first five NHL games, Storr was fantastic. He had 2.49 GAA with an amazing .925 save percentage. The next season Storr would get into seventeen games with the Kings and his numbers were even better than the season prior. It was looking like Los Angeles made the right move by drafting Storr.
His first full season in the NHL came in 1998-99, where he played twenty-eight games backing up Stephane Fiset. In 1999-00 he would play forty-two games and his numbers were considerably better than the Kings starter Fiset. Finally in 2000-01 the Kings handed Storr the starting goaltending job. Storr's numbers were average at best and would end up losing the starting job to veteran Felix Potvin late in the season. Storr would put up fairly good numbers the next two seasons backing up Potvin.
Although Storr showed flashes of brilliance, he never quite lived up to the hype that comes with being a top ten draft pick. The 1994 draft was a great one when it came to producing future quality NHL goalies. The Kings could have drafted the likes of Jose Theodore, Marty Turco, Evgeni Nabokov, just to name a few.
11 Eric Fichaud - 1994
Eric Fichaud was a star for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the Quebec Major Junior League. In the 1993-94 season, he lead the league in minutes played and wins with 37. The Toronto Maple Leafs liked what they saw, so they drafted Fichaud with the 16th overall selection. He spent another season in junior before turning pro in the 1995-96 season.
By the time the 1995-96 season had begun, Fichaud was no longer a part of the Leafs organization as he had been traded to the New York Islanders. He would split his first professional season with the Islanders and their AHL affiliate in Worcester. His play was good enough to earn himself a full time NHL position with the Islanders in 1996-97. He would play a career high 34 games and post a record if 9-14-4. Unfortunately for Fichaud, that would be best season of his career.
After struggling with injuries in 1997-98, he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers. He never played a single game for the Oilers before he was once again traded, this time to the Nashville Predators. Fichaud would have stops in both Carolina and Montreal before finishing up his career in the minors. Fichaud was given the chance to become a starter in the NHL, but wasn't able to take the ball and run with it. Dan Cloutier was the best goalie taken in the first round of the 1994 draft. He had three great seasons as the Vancouver Canucks starting goaltender, recording a combined 97 wins in those three years.
10 Mathieu Chouinard - 1998
The case of Mathieu Chouinard is pretty interesting and somewhat funny at the same time. Chouinard played four solid seasons for the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He posted spectacular numbers in his draft year of 1997-98. He had a record of 32-18-3-2, with a 2.79 GAA, and a solid .906 save percentage. Those numbers impressed the Senators enough to use the 15th overall selection on Chouinard. He played two more seasons with Shawnigan and was ready to turn pro. Unfortunately, the Senators and Chouinard were not able to come to terms on a contract, so he had to re-enter the draft. Chouinard was taken in the second round, 45th overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by... the Ottawa Senators.
Chouinard started his pro career in 2001-02 with the Grand Rapid Griffins who then were a part of the IHL. He would play two seasons with the Griffins but his numbers didn't turn anybody's head. The following season he battled injuries and was even demoted to the ECHL. He would leave the Ottawa organization and sign with the Los Angeles Kings in 2003. He got his only taste of the NHL during the 2003-04 season, playing a grand total of two mins. He would spend the next few seasons toiling in the minors before retiring in 2006.
Wasting one draft pick on a bust is bad, but the Ottawa Senators wasted two draft picks on a player who never played a single game for the team. In hindsight, the Senators would have been a lot better off drafting Andrew Raycroft in the 1998 draft.
9 Riku Helenius - 2006
Riku Helenius was taken with the 15th overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Tampa Bay Lighting. His play with the Finnish U-18 team in 2004-05 was the main reason the Lightning liked him so much. In sixteen games he had three shutouts to go along with a sparkling 1.99 GAA. In 2005-06, Helenius had an even better year. He won the top goalie award for his play at the U-18 World Junior Championships. He finished with 1.83 GAA and .943 save percentage, on route to winning a Silver medal. Helenius spent his last year of junior hockey with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. He had a pretty solid performance in his first year in North America. He posted a 22-12-6 record with a solid 2.42 GAA and a .915 saver percentage. His stock was on the rise heading into his first pro season.
Helenius was a frequent flyer (more a frequent bus rider) during his first professional season in 2008-09. He would play for five different teams, in three different leagues. He started out in the ECHL where his play was inconsistent. He then played twenty five games with Norfolk in the AHL ,where he played well on a poor team. He got into his first NHL game for the Lighting in relief of Mike Smith, stopping 11 out of 12 shots. Helenius started the 2009-10 season with Norfolk. He struggled for the majority of the twelve games he played, so Tampa decided to loan him to the Swedish Elite League in order for him to get his confidence back. It went well in the years he spent there, so Tampa Bay and signed him to a two year contract.
His second stint in North America was one he and the Lightning would like to forget. Helenius struggled badly and by the second year of the contract, he found himself in the ECHL. He signed with a team in the KHL ahead of the 2014-15 season. The Lightning missed out on drafting Semyon Varlamov, who went to the Washington Capitals later in the first round.
8 Jimmy Waite - 1987
Jimmy Waite was a highly sought after prospect during his junior career. He played two seasons for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. His numbers actually weren't the greatest, with his goal against average being close to over five in his two seasons. Despite those numbers the scouts still loved him, blaming Waite's high GAA on the fact that the QMJL was a high scoring league. This numbers did not apparently scare the Chicago Blackhawks either, as they took Waite 8th overall, making him the first and only goalie to be taken in the first round of the 1987 draft.
Waite spent parts of eights season in the Chicago Blackhawks organization, which included two separate stints. He was never able to play more than twenty games in a season as he spent most of his time in the minors. He would play a grand total of 106 career NHL games, with Chicago, San Jose, and Phoenix. His final NHL career numbers added up to a record of 28-41-12, with 3.42 GAA, along with a .871 save percentage. Those numbers are nowhere near what you expect from a top ten draft selection.
Waite did end up having a successful career in Germany, but he still earned his spot on this list, when it comes to the biggest goalie busts in NHL history. Chicago could have drafted their future starting goalie Jeff Hackett, who went in the second round to the New York Islanders.
7 Chet Pickard - 2008
Chet Pickard spent his entire four year junior career with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League. In 2007-08, to say he had an incredible season would be an understatement. In 64 games, he had a record of 46-12-4, a 2.32 GAA, with a .918 save percentage. Those numbers where enough for Pickard to win the WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Year. He was the first goaltender selected at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, when the Nashville Predators took him with the 18th overall pick.
Pickard's turned pro ahead of the 2008-09 season, playing for Nashville's AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. His numbers in 36 games played, were less than impressive. In just his second professional season, Pickard was already dropping on Nashville's goaltending depth chart, as he found himself in the ECHL. In a league where he should been able to easily post solid numbers, Pickard did the opposite. In 29 games with the Cincinnati Cyclones, he posted a horrible 3.39 GAA, with an abysmal .877 save percentage. He started the next season with Cyclones and again struggled. He did get into five AHL games in 2013-14, but he posted an ugly 5.34 GAA.
In 2014, Pickard left for Europe without ever getting into a single minute of NHL action. Pickard is still young, but has a very long uphill battle in order to even get a sniff of the NHL. To make things worse for Nashville is the fact that they could of drafted future elite NHL goaltender Braden Holtby, who went to Washington in the fourth round, 93rd overall.
6 Marek Schwarz - 2004
Marek Schwarz played with three different Czech teams during his draft year of 2003-04. He posted solid numbers and was the third goalie taken in the 2004 draft, when the St. Louis grabbed him with the 17th overall selection. He came to North America the following season, becoming the starting goalie of the WHL's Vancouver Giants. He posted great numbers for the Giants, which included a very good 2.67 GAA and .900 save percentage. His 2005-06 season was spent back in his native home of the Czech Republic. He also represented his country at the 2006 World Junior Championships.
The 2006-07 season was his first as a pro where he played most of the season with St. Louis' AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen. It was a great rookie year for him, as he earned himself a spot in the AHL All-Star game. He also played in his first NHL game that same season, which ended up being a 3-2 loss. He spent the next two seasons in the minors, where his numbers slid greatly from his rookie year in the AHL. He did get into a few more games with the Blues as well, but he showed that he clearly wasn't an NHL calibre goalie.
Schwarz left for home after the 2008-09 season, where he still plays today. After a great first professional season, he showed a great deal of potential, but was never able to come close to fulfilling it. The Blues could have been set in goal for years, had they taken Cory Schneider instead, who went later in the first round to the Vancouver Canucks.
5 Patrick DesRochers - 1998
Patrick DeRochers played almost all of his junior career with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. In his draft year, he played a career high 56 games, posting a record of 26-17-11-1. His goals against average was 3.35 and he had .901 save percentage, which were both career highs. Those stats were enough for the Coyotes to take the big goaltender with 14th overall selection. He played one more year of junior before turning pro in the 1999-00 season.
DesRochers started his professional career with the Coyotes' AHL affiliate in Springfield, and he immediately entrenched himself as a starter. He went on to play 52 games in his rookie season, posting some good numbers as well. He continued his role as starter in Springfield for the 2000-01 season. His numbers slipped from the previous year, but were still respectable.
DesRochers got his first taste of the NHL life when he suited up for five games during the 2001-02 season. He certainly wasn't ready for the NHL, as his save percentage of .848 would clearly indicate. The Coyotes gave DesRochers another chance the following season. He went winless in four appearances.
Phoenix decided DesRochers wasn't in their future plans, so they traded him to Carolina where he would play his final two NHL games of his career. After going nowhere on the Carolina's depth chart, DesRochers left for Europe in 2006. The Coyotes missed out on drafting future Rookie of the Year goaltender Andrew Raycroft, who went to the Boston Bruins.
4 Jack Campbell - 2010
Jack Campbell spent time honing his skills with the U.S National Development Team, where he excelled. He won two Gold medals while representing the U.S. at both the 2009 and 2010 U18 Championships. The Dallas Stars would take him with 11th overall pick, hoping that they found their future franchise goalie. After being drafted, Campbell spent two successful years in the Ontario Hockey League. He also added more to his international resume, when he played for the United States at both the 2010 and 2011 World Junior Championships.
Campbell's first full pro season came in 2012-13. He was solid in his 40 games with the AHL's Texas Stars. Campbell had an injury plagued 2013-14 season, but it was still a positive year for him. In his 16 games with a stacked Texas Stars team, Campbell posted a record of 12-2-2 to go along with an amazing 1.49 goals against average, and a sparkling .942 save percentage. Texas would end up winning the 2014 Calder Championship. Campbell also started his first NHL game in 2013-14, but it was one he would like to forget, as he allowed six goals against in loss against Anaheim.
Campbell's number's fell greatly in the 2014-15 season. He struggled so much, that he was demoted to the ECHL. He started the 2015-16 season with Texas of the AHL but his performance was poor to say the least. In 13 games he had a goals against average of 4.13 and an abysmal .872 save percentage. He's being badly out played in Texas, by the undrafted Maxime Lagace. It is safe to say his future with the Dallas Stars is very uncertain. Philipp Grubauer and Louis Domingue, who were also taken in the 2010 draft, look like they have brighter NHL futures than Campbell at this point.
3 Brent Krahn - 2000
Brent Krahn played his entire four year junior career with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. So it was fitting that the Calgary Flames drafted him with the 8th overall selection in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. The 1999-00 season was Krahn's draft year, and fortunately for him, it was by far his best year in junior. He had a stellar record of 33-6-0, with a 2.38 GAA and .912 save percentage. As the Hitmen declined in the standings the following three seasons, so did Krahn's stats. It was starting to look like Krahn's rookie WHL season was just a flash in the pan.
Krahn would go on to play 223 career games in his professional hockey career. It's just too bad that just one of those games was an NHL outing, and not even with the team that drafted him. Krahn played a grand total of twenty minutes with the Dallas Stars, allowing three goals on nine shots. His final NHL numbers, included a 9.00 GAA and a .667 save percentage, not the kind of numbers you want to tell your grandchildren.
The 2000 draft produced a great deal of solid future NHL goalies, including Ilya Bryzgalov, Dan Ellis, and Henrik Lundqvist.
2 Brian Finley - 1999
The first round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft is notoriously known as a poor one. Case and point, Brian Finley, who the Nashville Predators took with the 6th overall selection. Finley played the majority of his junior career with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League. He won multiple awards in his junior career, including the OHL Goaltender of the Year in 1999. He lead Barrie to the 2000 OHL Championship. Finley also represented Canada on the international stage, winning a Silver medal at the 1999 World Junior Championships.
The future looked bright for Finley and Nashville alike. The team just finished their inaugural season when they took Finley. They thought they had their goalie of the future. Unfortunately for the Predators, it didn't quite work out like that. Finley had a horrible start to his professional career. The 2001-02 season was supposed be his first as pro, but Finley suffered a groin injury that would force him to sit out the entire season.
Finley spent almost all of the 2002-03 season in the minors, posting mediocre numbers at best. He did get into one NHL game that season, in which he allowed three goals on just 13 shots. He would spend the next three seasons with Nashville's AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, posting some decent numbers. He would play his second and final game with the Predators in 2005-06 where allowed a whopping seven goals against.
He signed with the Boston Bruins in 2006 and appeared in two games. He retired after the season, because he had reinjured his groin. Buffalo Sabres draft pick Ryan Miller, ended up being the best to goalie to come out of the 1999 draft by a long shot.
1 Rick DiPietro - 2000
DiPietro at the time, was the first goaltender in NHL history to be taken first overall in the NHL Entry Draft, when the New York Islanders took him with very first pick of the 2000 draft. DiPietro earned his number one overall selection with an excellent amateur hockey career. He was a star for the U.S. Junior National Team. In the 1998-99 season he had a record of 22-6-1, with a low 2.32 GAA, and a solid .907 save percentage. DiPietro spent his draft year of 1990-00 with Boston University. It was a great season for DiPietro as he won multiple awards, including Hockey East's Rookie of the Year.
DiPietro split his first pro season with the Islanders and the Chicago Wolves of the IHL. He struggled in the NHL, posting a record 3-15-1 with the Islanders, with a horrible .878 savee percentage. His numbers in the IHL were just as bad. DiPietro spent the next two seasons playing for the Islanders AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. His numbers improved greatly as he was starting to show the reason why he was taken with the first overall pick. He would become the Islanders starting goalie for the next four seasons. His best season came in 2006-07 , when he posted a record of 32-19-9 with a 2.58 GAA, and a .919 save percentage.
Before we move on to the part where DiPietro's career takes a turn for the worst, it is important to note that in summer of 2006, the Islanders signed DiPietro to a record breaking 15 year contract, worth $67.5 million. The 2008-09 season was the start of the downfall of DiPietro's once promising career. He would only get into five games with Islanders due knee injuries. For the next four seasons with the Islanders, he would only manage to play a combined 45 games due to multiple injuries. In the games that he did play, he was just a shell of his former self. In February of 2013 the Islanders put him on waivers for the purpose of buying him out. DiPietro still had eight years and $36 million dollars left on his contract.
DiPietro attempted a comeback with the Carolina Hurricanes AHL affiliate in Charlotte. He was no longer capable of performing at a professional level, as his numbers clearly showed. He played five games with Charlotte, going winless, with an abysmal 5.18 GAA and an terrible .846 save percentage. Definitely not the way someone wants to end a career, but that is exactly what happened to DiPietro.
It's hard to imagine how DiPietro's career would have gone, had he not suffered so many career altering injuries. The Islanders won't be able to forget about DiPietro any time soon, as they are currently paying him $1.5 million a year until 2029. Not trying to sound like a broken record but the Islanders could had changed their future as well as the future of the New York Rangers, had they instead taken "The King" Henrik Lundqvist, who in hindsight might be the best player to come out of the 2000 NHL Draft.