Every year, the NHL Entry Draft brings such excitement for young prospects, as well as general managers and hockey fans. Everyone is so excited to see who will be the first overall draft choice.
There are so many great young hockey players to choose from that it’s nearly impossible to narrow it down to just one. While most teams only get one shot at choosing a player in the first round, sometimes you’ll see teams give away their first round pick in a quality player trade, which results with a few teams getting more than one shot in round one.
Although it’s usually pretty well known who the first few picks will be, it can be a fairly stressful time for general managers to pick the perfect player who will help their team in the area in which they’re struggling. If a team has the second overall pick and the most sought after player is a center and that team in particular is struggling on defense, do you ignore the superstar prospect and choose a lower ranked blueliner or do you pick the center and hope for a decent defenseman in the second round? They have big choices to make.
The majority of the time, the top 10 draft picks in any season usually turn out to be pretty good players. However, sometimes there are busts and some guys just aren’t cut out to play in the NHL. And other times, it takes some players longer than others to earn their spot in the league.
This list will detail the top 15 worst NHL players who were among the first ten draft picks in the last five years.
15 Morgan Rielly
Morgan Rielly was drafted 5th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 6’1-215 pound defenseman made his NHL debut on October 5, 2013 against the Ottawa Senators, but failed to record any points and finished the game with a -3 plus/minus rating.
Although his numbers are pretty impressive for a defenseman – 119 points, 564 shots on goal and 428 blocked shots in 303 regular season games – his overall plus/minus rating is very disappointing at -66. In fact, he has the worst overall plus/minus rating among all Leafs players since the 2013-14 season.
For being a fifth overall draft pick, he should have a much better rating on the ice and not have so many goals scored against his team while he’s out there defending his territory.
14 Jesse Puljujarvi
Jesse Puljujarvi was drafted 4th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Edmonton Oilers. The 6’4-203 pound right winger made his NHL debut on October 12, 2016 against the Calgary Flames and scored a goal, along with a +1 plus/minus rating.
So far this season, he has played 28 games with the Oilers and tallied 8 points, along with a +5 rating. For being the large player that he is, it’s surprising that he doesn’t throw his body around more. He has just 11 hits this season, which averages out to only 0.4 hits per game. Not overly impressive for a fourth overall pick.
He's also been playing for Edmonton’s AHL affiliate team, the Bakersfield Condors, and is doing much better there with 23 points in 28 regular season games.
If he wants to earn a permanent spot with the Oilers, he’ll have to get on the score sheet and perhaps throw his weight around a bit more.
13 Sam Bennett
Sam Bennett was drafted 4th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames. The 6’1-186 pound center made his NHL debut on April 11, 2015 against the Winnipeg Jets and recorded an assist, along with a -1 plus/minus rating.
In the three years that he’s spent with the Flames, he has recorded 60 points, 108 penalty minutes and a disappointing -27 rating in 151 regular season games. He also appeared in 11 playoff games with them and tallied 4 points.
So far this season, he has 23 points in 71 games. He can’t seem to stay out of the penalty box as he has the second highest amount of penalty minutes on the team with 71 PIM and also has the second worst plus/minus rating at -15.
Since making his NHL debut in 2015, he has been struggling to rack up major points which is not what you’d expect to see from a fourth overall pick.
12 Jonathan Drouin
Jonathan Drouin was drafted 3rd overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 5’11-188 pound left winger made his NHL debut on October 20, 2014 against the Edmonton Oilers but didn’t record any points and had a -1 plus/minus rating.
So far with the Lightning, he has pretty decent numbers with 90 points and a -3 rating in 155 regular season games. He also appeared in 23 playoff games with them and recorded 14 points.
However, having good numbers isn’t the only thing that makes a player great. He also has to have respect and show maturity. Drouin had stirred up some trouble during his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning. In January 2016, he was suspended indefinitely by the Lightning for failing to show up to play in an AHL game between the Syracuse Crunch and Toronto Marlies. It has also been said that he had asked for a trade.
However, things have obviously worked out for both Drouin and the Tampa Bay Lightning organization since he’s a still a member of the team and playing for them.
11 Jake Virtanen
Jake Virtanen was drafted 6th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Vancouver Canucks. The 6’1-229 pound right winger made his NHL debut on October 13, 2015 against the Los Angeles Kings but didn’t earn any points.
So far with the Canucks, he has played 65 regular season games with them and recorded 14 points, along with a -8 plus/minus rating.
Despite playing 55 games with the Canucks last season, he has barely played any with them this season. So far this year (2016-17), he has played ten games with Vancouver and tallied just one assist. He has also been playing for their AHL affiliate team, the Utica Comets but has just 16 points in 53 games.
For a 6th overall draft pick, he’s struggling to earn a permanent spot with the Vancouver Canucks.
10 Dylan Strome
Dylan Strome was drafted 3rd overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Arizona Coyotes. The 6’3-185 pound center made his NHL debut on October 18, 2016 against the Ottawa Senators and recorded an assist, along with a -1 plus/minus rating. So far this season, he has played just seven games with the Coyotes and has one assist, along with a -5 rating.
He’s currently in his fourth season with the Erie Otters in the Ontario Hockey League and has put up fantastic numbers with them. In four seasons, he has 354 points in 219 regular season games.
Although he’s doing fantastic in junior hockey, it’s clear that he’s not ready for the National Hockey League just yet. But maybe with a bit more experience at the junior level, he may just earn a permanent spot with the Coyotes.
9 Slater Koekkoek
Slater Koekkoek was drafted 10th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 6’2-193 pound defenseman made his NHL debut on March 31, 2015 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but finished the game with no points and a -1 plus/minus rating.
So far with the Lightning, he has just 5 assists and a -5 rating in 41 regular season games. He’s not doing much better with hits and blocked shots, averaging less than one each a game. He then appeared in 10 playoff games and tallied one assist.
He’s currently in his third season with Tampa Bay and has seen a lot more NHL action this year with 29 games played so far, but he’s still struggling to earn a permanent spot with the team. He has also spent part of the season in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch and has 11 points in 38 games with them.
8 Timo Meier
Timo Meier was drafted 9th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks. The 6 foot tall, 210-pound right winger made his NHL debut on December 16, 2016 against the Montreal Canadiens and scored a goal.
So far this season, he has played 28 games with the Sharks but has just 5 points and a -1 plus/minus rating. On the other hand, he’s not afraid to throw his body around with 59 hits so far, averaging slightly more than two hits per game.
He is splitting his time this season between the Sharks and their AHL affiliate team, the San Jose Barracuda. So far this season with the Barracuda, he has 21 points in 32 regular season games.
He’s good at delivering hits, but he needs to rack up more points if he wants a permanent spot in the NHL.
7 Derrick Pouliot
Derrick Pouliot was drafted 8th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 6 foot tall, 208 pound defenseman made his NHL debut on December 20, 2014 against the Florida Panthers and recorded the game-winning goal.
So far with the Penguins, he has just 15 points and a disappointing -11 plus/minus rating in 66 regular season games. He also appeared in two playoff games but failed to earn any points. He did, however, help the Penguins win the Stanley Cup last season in 2016.
So far this season, he has played just ten games with the Pittsburgh Penguins with no points and a -4 rating. He has also been playing in the AHL this season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and is doing much better there with 18 points and a +12 rating in 35 games.
6 Pavel Zacha
Pavel Zacha was drafted 6th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the New Jersey Devils. The 6’3-210 pound center made his NHL debut on April 9, 2016 against the Toronto Maple Leafs and produced two assists, along with a very impressive +4 plus/minus rating.
While he had a great NHL debut, it was the only game he played in 2015-16. This season (2016-17) hasn’t been overly impressive with 22 points and a disappointing -14 rating in 61 games so far.
For a 6th overall draft pick, his numbers should be much better. This season, he’s only averaging 1.1 shots on goal per game. And for being 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing over 200 pounds, you’d think he’d play a more physical game, but averages just 0.7 hits per game.
5 Haydn Fleury
Haydn Fleury was drafted 7th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes. The 6’3-221 pound defenseman has yet to make his National Hockey League debut.
He put up pretty decent numbers in the Western Hockey League with the Red Deer Rebels, recording 134 points and a +42 plus/minus rating in 259 games.
He’s currently playing for the Charlotte Checkers in the American Hockey League and so far this season has 18 points and a +12 rating in 54 regular season games.
Along with Michael Dal Colle, Haydn Fleury is the only other top ten draft pick in 2014 who has yet to make his NHL debut. Since the Carolina Hurricanes are currently one of the bottom teams in the Eastern Conference, it might not be a bad decision to bring the large defenseman up to try him out.
4 Noah Hanifin
Noah Hanifin was drafted 5th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes. The 6’3-206 pound defenseman made his NHL debut on October 8, 2015 against the Nashville Predators but finished the game with no points and a -1 plus/minus rating. So far with the Hurricanes, he has played 150 regular season games and recorded 45 points along with a -31 rating.
Although almost half of his points this season have been recorded on the power play, he still has a very disappointing -18 plus/minus rating which is also the worst on the team. In fact, he has the second worst overall plus/minus rating among all Hurricanes players in the past two seasons (-32).
And for being a large defenseman who is 6 feet 3 inches tall and over 200 pounds, he doesn’t throw his body around much. He averages less than one hit and not even one blocked shot per game.
3 Griffin Reinhart
Griffin Reinhart was drafted 4th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders.
The 6’4-212 pound defenseman made his NHL debut on October 10, 2015 against the Carolina Hurricanes, but failed to earn any points. After playing just eight regular season games with the Islanders and recording just one assist, he was traded in June 2015 to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for two draft picks.
Then after tallying just one assist in 29 games with the Oilers in 2015-16, he has yet to play a game with them this season. In fact, he’s currently playing for Edmonton’s AHL affiliate team, the Bakersfield Condors and has 17 points in 44 games.
He’s definitely been struggling to earn a permanent spot in the NHL, which is quite disappointing for a fourth overall pick.
2 Valeri Nichushkin
Valeri Nichushkin was drafted 10th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Dallas Stars. The 6’4-205 pound right winger made his NHL debut on October 3, 2013 against the Florida Panthers but finished the game with no points and a -1 plus/minus rating.
In 166 regular season games with the Dallas Stars, he has recorded 64 points and a +17 plus/minus rating. He also appeared in 16 playoff games with them but tallied just 3 points.
However, in September 2016, after his three-year entry-level contract was up with the Dallas Stars, Nichushkin signed a two-year contract with CSKA of the Kontinental Hockey League. So for now, the 22-year-old Russian player will remain overseas, but perhaps someday he’ll return to the National Hockey League.
1 Michael Dal Colle
Michael Dal Colle was drafted 5th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders. The 6’3-198 pound left winger has yet to make his NHL debut. In fact, he’s the only player drafted in the top five in the 2014 Draft who hasn’t played in the National Hockey League.
During his time in the Ontario Hockey League he put up fantastic numbers with 316 points in 246 games between the Oshawa Generals and the Kingston Frontenacs.
Now he’s currently in his second season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the American Hockey League. So far this season he has 35 points in 63 regular season games with them.
Will we ever see Michael Dal Colle in the National Hockey League? It remains to be seen although it’s really not a good sign that a top five draft pick three years ago still has yet to make his NHL debut.