Draft picks are some of the best assets general managers can use in trades. Pretty much every year at the trade deadline, a team will surrender a first round pick in an attempt to bulk up for a lengthy run in the spring.
While trading picks is very common, trading players that a team has already drafted is much rarer. The organization has already put time and effort into developing these assets, therefore they’re hesitant to let them go.
Today’s list will look at the best players in NHL history who had virtually no positive impact on the team that drafted them. In all cases it’s because the player was traded before his NHL career got underway, but a few of them were because the player simply refused to sign with the team that drafted him.
Before kicking it off, I’d like to point out a few honorable mentions who just missed the cut. Francois Beauchemin was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1998 but only played one game for the Habs.
Brett Hull (originally a Flames draft pick) got cut from the list on a technicality—he played 57 games with Calgary before being dealt, putting up 51 points in the process. That’s tangible impact if you ask me, so he wasn't included.
Then of course there’s Peter Forsberg—a key component of the infamous Eric Lindros trade—who would be high on this list had he not laced them up for Philadelphia in 2005-06, 14 years after the Flyers called his name sixth overall in 1991.
With that said, here are those who did make the cut: the top 15 NHL players who had no impact with the team that drafted them. Enjoy:
Click the button below to start this article in quick view
15 Dennis Wideman - Buffalo Sabres
Just squeaking onto the list at number 15 is current Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman. Wideman was originally a Buffalo Sabres draft pick, selected in the eighth round (241st overall) in 2002. The Sabres never even signed Wideman to a contract, and the defenseman ended up going to St. Louis as a free agent in the 2004 offseason.
No one here is saying that Dennis Wideman is an incredible NHL player, as he most certainly has his faults. That said, the 33-year-old played his 800th NHL game last weekend, and he’s shown the ability to be a premier offensive producer from the backend, twice breaking the 50-point barrier in a single season. Most notably, he stepped up big time for the Flames in the last few months of the 2014-15 season after Mark Giordano went down with a season-ending injury in the 61st game of the year.
14 Kris Versteeg - Boston Bruins
Coming in at number 14 on the list is another current Calgary Flame, this one in the form of winger Kris Versteeg. Versteeg is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Blackhawks in 2010 and 2015, and was originally drafted by the Boston Bruins in the fifth round (134th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. While he toiled in their farm system for a while, Versteeg never played a game with the Bruins.
The Bruins sent Versteeg to Chicago in exchange for Brandon Bochenski in 2007, which is how the Lethbridge, Alberta native ended up in Chi-town. He’s put together a pretty stellar career for himself, playing in nearly 600 games for seven different teams since making his debut with the ‘Hawks in 2007-08.
13 Brayden Schenn - Los Angeles Kings
Today Brayden Schenn is a solid second-line NHLer playing in Philadelphia. The Saskatoon native played just nine games for the L.A. Kings (the team that drafted him) before they sent him off to Philly along with Wayne Simmonds and a second round pick in a 2011 blockbuster that brought the Kings Mike Richards and Rob Bordson back in return.
This looks like a great deal for the Flyers today, as both Schenn and Simmonds are playing key roles while Richards and Bordson are gone from the league. Schenn, originally selected fifth overall by the Kings in 2009, will soon play the 400th game of his career. The centerman has amassed 223 points so far, and his next goal will be the 100th of his still-young career.
12 Ryan McDonagh - Montreal Canadiens
This one still stings Canadiens fans. In June 2009, Montreal sent defenseman Ryan McDonagh (along with Pavel Valentenko, Doug Janik, and Chris Higgins) to the New York Rangers in exchange for Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt, and Michael Busto. The Habs drafted McDonagh in the first round two years prior, but he hadn’t yet played a game for Montreal.
To be fair, Gomez did enjoy one decent season in Montreal before his production fell off a cliff in 2010-11. McDonagh, on the other hand, continues to play a key role on the blue line for one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams. Barring injury he’ll surpass the 500 game mark sometime mid-next season, and he’s amassed nearly 200 points already. Needless to say, the Canadiens probably would like to take this one back.
11 Filip Forsberg - Washington Capitals
It’s not as if the Washington Capitals aren’t flush with talented forwards, but you can bet they still cringe when they think about the cost they paid for the Martin Erat rental back in 2013. Looking to add a scoring punch for the postseason, the Caps sent 2012 11th overall pick Filip Forsberg to Nashville in exchange for Erat and Michael Latta. Forsberg had yet to make his NHL debut.
The 22-year-old Swede has emerged as the best forward to come out of the 2012 draft (no disrespect to Alex Galchenyuk), whereas Erat simply disappeared off the face of the Earth, pretty much immediately after the deal went down. It’s a shame the Caps were so careless with this asset, as he represented their highest draft choice since the 2007 pick of Karl Alzner.
10 Rick MacLeish - Boston Bruins
Rick MacLeish was a crucial member of the famed Broad Street Bullies in the mid-70s. He led the Flyers in playoff scoring in both Stanley Cup Championship seasons (’74 and ’75), narrowly missing out on the Conn Smythe Trophy both years. MacLeish is also a member of the 50 goals/50 assists club, joining it in 1972-73 when he ended with exactly 100 points.
Philadelphia is where he started his pro career, but MacLeish was actually drafted by the Boston Bruins, 4th overall in the 1970 Amateur Draft. The Bruins traded MacLeish (along with Danny Shock) to Philly in January 1971 for veteran Mike Walton. Walton did win a cup with the Bruins in ’72, but there’s no question that MacLeish ended up being the far superior player.
9 Reggie Leach - Boston Bruins
Another former member of the Broad Street Bullies comes in at number nine on the countdown, this one in the form of 1976 Conn Smythe winner Reggie Leach. Leach is still the only skater (non-goalie) to win the Conn Smythe as a member of the losing team as his Flyers fell to the Canadiens in the Final as Philly tried to go for their third straight Stanley Cup.
To be fair, Leach did play pieces of two seasons with the Bruins before they shipped him to the California Golden Seals in 1972, but they weren't noteworthy. Leach was a member of just the second Flyers championship team in ’75, as he was acquired by the club in the 1974 offseason (immediately after their first Cup win). Leach is also a member of another exclusive club, as he’s one of just 19 players to score at least 60 goals in a season.
8 Blake Wheeler - Arizona Coyotes
Blake Wheeler was drafted fifth overall by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2004, but he elected to take the college route to the NHL. In hindsight that seems like a good career move, as Wheeler is not only currently a great first line player in Winnipeg, but he also won a championship with the Minnesota Golden Gophers in 2007. Wheeler scored the overtime game-winner, and was named tournament MVP.
At the end of his college career, Wheeler opted to hit free agency rather than sign the contract offer from the Coyotes. The offer on the table was the maximum-allowable (under the CBA at the time) for an entry-level contract, so it obviously wasn’t the money that was the issue there. Either way, Wheeler signed in Boston and his career got underway with a 21 goal season in 2008-09.
7 Mark Howe - Boston Bruins
Mr. Hockey’s son Mark Howe appears on our list at number 7. Howe was originally drafted by the Boston Bruins in the second round (25th overall) in the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft. The Hall-of-Fame defenseman started his pro career in the now-defunct WHA, where he established himself as an elite offensive defenseman, posting 504 points in 426 games before the two leagues merged in 1979.
Although the Bruins drafted Howe, they no longer had rights to the defender because Howe’s last two seasons in the WHA were as a member of the New England Whalers, which turned into the Hartford Whalers when the leagues merged. It was there that Mark played a season with his father Gordie and brother Marty, the only time in NHL history that’s happened.
6 Kirk McLean - New Jersey Devils
Kirk McLean is a legend in Vancouver. He played for the Canucks from 1987 to 1998, a stretch that included the club’s 1994 Stanley Cup Final appearance. Many people likely don’t recall that his career actually got underway in New Jersey, as he was drafted 107th overall by the Devils in 1984. McLean played six games over two seasons in East Rutherford before heading to Van City.
The Devils traded McLean and Greg Adams to the Canucks for Patrik Sundstrom and a fourth rounder in the 1987 offseason, and McLean almost immediately stepped into the starter role in Vancouver. He racked up wins in B.C. in the decade that followed, and when he was finally sent to the Hurricanes in January 1998, he led the franchise in wins (since passed by Roberto Luongo).
5 Miikka Kiprusoff - San Jose Sharks
Our top five includes three goaltenders, and coming in at the fifth slot is Flames all-time wins leader Miikka Kiprusoff. Kiprusoff had been playing the backup role in San Jose for three seasons prior to his arrival in Calgary, so I think it’s fair to say his impact in the Bay Area was minimal enough for his inclusion here. Originally a Sharks fifth round pick (116th overall in 1995), the Sharks sent him to Calgary for a second-round pick that turned into Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Kiprusoff of course had an immediate impact in Calgary, leading the team to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season as starter in 2003-04. The Finnish netminder went on to backstop the Flames to four more consecutive playoff appearances after that, but was never able to win another playoff round. Nonetheless, his 576 games played and 305 wins both rank first in Flames all-time history.
4 Roberto Luongo - New York Islanders
Roberto Luongo played 24 games for the New York Islanders in 1999-00, earning the first seven wins of his career on Long Island. At the 2000 draft, the Islanders held the first overall selection, and they made goalie Rick DiPietro the first NHL draft pick of the new millennium. Deciding that their crease was set for the foreseeable future with DiPietro, they sent Luongo (along with Olli Jokinen) to Florida for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish. Ouch.
Luongo would go on to make an impact on the Panthers, then on the Canucks, then on the Panthers again, but never on the Islanders. Luongo leads both franchises in all-time wins, recording 252 during his 448 games in Vancouver, and currently adding to his 190 he now has for Florida. Luongo is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer if you ask me, and DiPietro is a first-ballot all-time bust.
3 Tuukka Rask - Toronto Maple Leafs
The final goalie to appear on our list comes in at number three. Tuukka Rask was a first round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, selected 21st overall in 2005. The problem is, much like in the aforementioned Roberto Luongo scenario in NYI, the Leafs thought they already had their franchise goalie in the system by the name of Justin Pogge, who was hot off a solid showing at the World Junior Tournament.
I probably don’t have to tell you that Pogge—a third-round 2004 draft pick—never panned out, and that Rask is closing in on 200 NHL wins and won a Vezina as the league’s best goalie in 2014. He also has a Stanley Cup to his name, although he was in the backup role to Conn Smythe champion Tim Thomas for that run in 2011.
2 Eric Lindros - Quebec Nordiques
We’d be remiss to not include Eric Lindros on this list, as it’s the most infamous case of a player refusing to sign with the team that drafted him. Lindros was dubbed “The Next One” by media leading up to the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, and the Quebec Nordiques held the first overall selection for the record third time in a row. They of course called Lindros’s name, but he refused to don the jersey, and the rest is history.
After holding out for a full season, Lindros was eventually dealt to Philadelphia for a package that included a lot of cash, and a handful of players highlighted by Peter Forsberg. Forsberg would have ended up on this list himself if he hadn’t have played in Philadelphia for two seasons at the end of his career. Lindros’s career was of course cut short due to concussions.
1 Jarome Iginla - Dallas Stars
Jarome Iginla is arguably the greatest Calgary Flame of all-time (I’m more partial to Theo Fleury, but I digress). Iginla is the franchise leader in games played (1,219), goals (525), and points (1,095). While Iginla plays out the twilight of his career elsewhere, he will long be remembered as a Flame. What some likely forget, though, is that Iggy was in fact a Dallas Stars draft pick.
Picked in the first round of the 1995 NHL Draft (11th overall), Iginla was traded to Calgary along with Corey Millen for veteran Joe Nieuwendyk in December of the same year. Iginla had yet to make his NHL debut, and Dallas was preparing to be a perennial powerhouse. Nieuwendyk would eventually captain the Stars to a Stanley Cup in 1999 (winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process), so this trade actually worked out very well for both clubs.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!