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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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