There is no doubt that a certain level of skill is required to reach the NHL and that in itself is a major accomplishment for any athlete. To make it to the big league and even appear in a single game must be the thrill of a lifetime for any player, their family, friends and former coaches etc. The problem is that once some of these players reach the NHL they underperform or just don’t belong there and it eventually shows over time.
It’s always hard to call somebody one of the worst ever, and since just about every player to perform in the Original Six era had to be good, we’ve basically focused on players since 1967. However, there is one player who makes the list from the days of the six-team NHL. The league’s talent pool was definitely diluted once more teams were added and we now have over 600 NHL players making their living compared to about 150 in the pre-expansion era. It would be easy to pick 20 players who have played just a game or two in the league, so these pucks all spent enough games in the league to realize how bad they were.
NHL clubs need to fill their rosters and with the salary cap now in place it can be argued that the skill level is falling even further. After expansion, many players that previously played in inferior leagues soon found themselves with NHL contracts even though their skills weren’t really up to NHL caliber. The league's rosters will be further diluted when they inevitably expand to 32 teams in the near future. Some may seem harsh or unwarranted, but for whatever the reason, be it high expectations for the position they were drafted, not being able to adapt to the North American game, clearly not being able to compete at the NHL level or really just not being that good. These are the choices for top 20 worst players in NHL history.
20 Gord Kluzak
Saskatchewan-born defenceman Gord Kluzak was a first overall draft pick for the Boston Bruins in 1982. Hoping for a blue line star Boston instead received an injury-riddled bust. Going before other notable first-rounder’s such as Scott Stevens, Phil Housley, Brian Bellows and Dave Andreychuck, Kluzak managed just four full seasons in the NHL, missing two complete years due to injury. He went through 11 surgeries in his nine-year NHL career. He was obviously betrayed by his body, but it can’t be said Kluzak had no heart as he was awarded for his perseverance and dedication by being the recipient of the Bill Masterton Trophy for the 1989-90 season. His NHL totals include 123 points and 543 penalty minutes in 299 games played.
19 Doug Berry
Center Doug Berry played a total of 121 games over two seasons with the Colorado Rockies from 1979 to 1981. He had a minus-38 rating and a respectable total of 43 points on 10 goals and 33 assists. Not the worst stats by far, but according to his coach in Colorado, Don Cherry, Berry was a poor hockey player who displayed an even worse work ethic. For fear of Berry being lost on waivers, Cherry was forced to play him until he was finally demoted to the minors. Berry's style just wasn’t suited to the North American game and he went on to a successful career in Germany accumulating 532 points in 399 games.
18 Andre Racicot
Andre Racicot played all of his NHL career over five seasons with the Montreal Canadiens as a back-up goalie and earned the nickname "Red Light." His unfortunate nickname could have been given to him after his first and only appearance of the 1989-90 season, but that moniker was bestowed upon him by Don Cherry in 1991. In his NHL debut on December 9th, 1989 against the Maple Leafs, Racicot allowed three goals on six shots in just less than 13 minutes before being pulled.
His name does however appear on the Stanley Cup as part of the Canadiens 1992-93 championship squad where in an 18-minute stretch in his only playoff game he allowed two goals on nine shots. His career totals are an unimpressive 26 wins, 23 losses and eight ties with a GAA of 3.50 and save percentage of .880 in 68 games.
17 Patrik Stefan
Patrik Stefan was chosen as the first overall pick by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 1999 Entry Draft. This is usually an honor bestowed on a future star or marquee player, but this was not the case with Stefan. With first-season totals of five goals, 20 assists and a minus-30 rating in 72 games, it was obvious he wasn't the star the Thrashers had hoped for. With a season-high 14 goals during his seven years in the NHL, Stefan retired at the age of 27 with a decent career total 188 points in 455 games.
His most memorable NHL moment occurred on January 4th, 2007 against the Edmonton Oilers when he fell on a breakaway while bearing down on an empty net. With just two seconds left in the game, Oiler Ales Hemsky sent the contest into overtime. Just as a side note, the second and third picks in the 1999 draft were the Sedin twins.
16 Brett Lindros
Sometimes lightning can strike twice and those were the hopes of the New York Islanders when they chose Brett Lindros with the ninth overall pick in the 1994 Entry Draft. With brother Eric being a bona fide superstar with the Philadelphia Flyers, expectations were high for his 6-foot younger brother right winger. Brett Lindros played a total of 51 games with the Islanders scoring twice with five assists and a minus-14 rating. He was forced to retire in 1996 due to post-concussion syndrome.
15 Jay Caufield
Jay Caufield was a linebacker in football, a position he played from 1980-85 at the University of North Dakota, but he also played hockey and was eventually signed by the New York Rangers in October of 1985. After a short 13-game stint during the 1986-87 season he was traded to the Minnesota North Stars where he spent all but one game in the minor leagues with the Kalamazoo Wings.
It was at this point in time he accepted the role of enforcer as he amassed 273 penalty minutes in just 65 games. With his new found skill, the Pittsburgh Penguins picked him up in the waiver draft of 1988 to protect the likes of Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey and John Cullen. Caufield ended his 208-game NHL career with five goals, eight assists, 759 penalty minutes and a minus-15 rating.
14 Alek Stojanov
The Vancouver Canucks selected Windsor, Ontario native Alek Stojanov with the seventh overall pick in the 1991 entry draft only to learn very quickly he had trouble playing at the NHL level. After putting up just one assist in 62 games with a minus-24 rating and 136 penalty minutes over from 1994 to 1996, Stojanov was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96. With Pittsburgh, he notched two goals and four assists in 45 games leaving his career totals in the NHL at two goals and five assists in 107 regular season games with a minus-12 rating.
He was also a bust in the postseason with zero points in 14 games. To make matters worse, the Penguins traded away future Hall of Fame star Markus Naslund, (1,117 GP, 395 goals 474 assists, 869 points) to get Stojanov.
13 Jason Bonsignore
During the 1994 Entry Draft, the Edmonton Oilers had the luxury of two first-round picks. Choosing fourth overall, they decided on American-born centre Jason Bonsignore. After scoring in his debut things seemed to go downhill from there. He spent the majority of the next five seasons in the minors. When all was said and done, Bonsignore’s NHL career ended with a total of three goals, 13 assists and a minus-22 rating in 79 games. The saving grace for the Oilers was that they used their second 1994 draft pick, sixth overall, on Ryan Smyth.
12 Alexander Svitov
Still known as the biggest disappointment the Tampa Bay Lightning ever drafted, 6-foot-3, 245 pound Russian centre Alexander Svitov was the third-overall overall pick in 2001. To add salt to the wound, the first and second picks that year were Ilya Kovalchuk and Jason Spezza respectively. After 74 games, a reputation for taking dumb penalties and an unimpressive four goals and seven assists with Tampa from 2002 to 2004, Svitov was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets and soon forgotten. He left the NHL with just 13 goals and 24 assists for a total of 37 points in 179 games, along with 223 minutes in penalties.
11 Ken McAuley
Goalie and Edmonton, Alberta native Ken McAuley played his entire two-season NHL career with the New York Rangers from 1943 to 1945. He appeared in a total of 96 games before moving on to the Western Canada Senior Hockey League. McAuley posted an NHL total of just 17 wins with a GAA of 5.61. His GAA for the 1943-44 campaign was a gaudy 6.24. If that's not enough, his other claim to fame is being a part of the largest margin of victory since the introduction of the red line in 1943 when the Rangers were beaten 15-0 by the Detroit Red Wings back on January 23rd, 1943. McAuley surrendered eight goals in the third period alone.
10 Bill Mikkelson
Playing for the expansion Washington Capitals during the 1974-75 season was no easy task by any stretch of the imagination. With a record of eight wins, 67 losses and five ties, the team posted a GAA of 5.58 for the season. But add to the mix a defenceman that in only 59 games posted a minus-82 and you have something special. Bill Mikkelson still holds the NHL record for the worst defensive rating ever in a single season and prior to this he also had a minus-54 season in 72 games with the expansion New York Islanders. Mikkelson’s career ended with his retirement in 1977 after playing 147 NHL games with five goals and 18 assists and a minus-147 rating.
9 Jack Lynch
Jack Lynch was acquired by the expansion Washington Capitals from the Detroit Red Wings in February of 1975 to give the ailing defensive core some much needed help. At the time of the trade, Lynch was a minus-15 after 50 games, but astoundingly in just 20 games with the Caps he posted a mind-blowing minus-54, giving him a total of minus-69 for the season. Had Lynch played the entire year with the Caps, we shudder to think of the numbers he would have posted. Lynch ended his career with a minus-197 in 382 games played. Not the kind of numbers you'd expect from a 24th overall draft pick.
8 Rick Jodzio
A typical enforcer from the goon-hockey era of the 70s, Rick Jodzio played just one season in the NHL. He split his time in 1977 and 1978 between the two expansion teams, the Colorado Rockies and Cleveland Barons. Originally drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the ninth round of the 1974 Amateur Draft, Jodzio spent his seven-year career in eight different leagues including the WHA.
He is remembered most though for an incident that occurred on April 11th, 1976 during a WHA playoff game between his Calgary Cowboys and the Quebec Nordiques. After delivering a brutal hit to the Nords’ Marc Tardif, that saw Tardif leave the ice on a stretcher, the ensuing brawl left Jodzio facing assault charges in Quebec City. His NHL career consisted of just two goals, 10 points and 71 penalty minutes in 70 games.
7 Gary Laskoski
In October of 1982, the Los Angeles Kings signed free agent Gary Laskoski and handed him the chance to become the team’s number one goalie. With the starter’s job his for the taking he underperformed and ended the 1982-83 season with a record of 15 wins, 20 losses and one tie with an abysmal GAA of 4.56 along with an .857 save percentage.
For some reason the Kings gave him another chance the next year where he performed even worse with only four wins in 13 games, a 4.96 GAA and an .829 save percent. Why the Kings would sign a free agent with just 25 wins in 74 games at the university level in the first place was a question many Kings fans asked. Laskoski’s career ended after being sent to the minors during the 1983-84 season.
6 Paul Higgins
Not much has changed in the past few decades in Toronto as the team was a farce then under owner Harold Ballard and it continues to be today. The Leafs felt they needed some toughness back in 1981 and drafted forward Paul Higgins from Henry Carr High School with the 200th-overall pick. He managed to play three games that year with the Leafs with no points and 17 penalty minutes. He appeared in 22 games the next year with no points and 135 more penalty minutes. Suffice to say, that was the end of Higgins’ undeserved NHL career.
5 John Scott
There are still a few thugs in the NHL today, with John Scott of the Arizona Coyotes being among them. The 32-year-old is in the league purely because of his size of 6-foot-8-. He’s already with his sixth team since making his NHL debut in 2006-07 as he’s also played with Minnesota, Chicago, the New York Rangers, Buffalo and San Jose. After 274 regular season games Scott has scored a grand total of five goals and five assists while serving 517 minutes in penalties. He’s also pointless in four playoff games with 22 minutes in penalties.
4 Ryan Hollweg
Beginning his NHL career during the 2005-06 season with the New York Rangers, Ryan Hollweg was known as a tough player with a big heart that could score goals. The only problem is his scoring touch didn't transfer to the NHL. In his 228-game career, he could only muster a total of five goals and nine assists to go along with 349 penalty minutes and a minus-34 rating. Hollweg is also a footnote in NHL history for being the recipient of a stick to the chin from Ranger Chris Simon that resulted in Simon's 25 game suspension, one of the harshest in league history.
3 Frazer McLaren
The 6-foot-5, 230 pound McLaren started his junior career as an enforcer and could also contribute the occasional goal. The problem was when he reached the NHL level whatever scoring touch he had was gone. After being drafted 203rd overall by the San Jose Sharks in 2007, McLaren made his NHL debut during the 2009-10 season and scored once in 23 games. Spending more time in the minors than the NHL over the next five years, McLaren's NHL totals to date are four goals, seven assists and 264 penalty minutes in 102 games with the Sharks and Toronto. The 27-year-old is currently an unrestricted free agent.
2 Hardy Astrom
Swedish-born goaltender Hardy Astrom was often on the wrong end of coach Don Cherry’s rants when he played for him with the Colorado Rockies. Cherry didn’t hide his dislike for the goalie’s skills in Colorado between 1979 and 1981. Astrom’s only previous NHL experience was four games with the Rangers in the 1977-78 season when he posted a 3.50 GAA. Astrom didn’t fare any better with the Rockies and his NHL career was over by 1981 with a record of 14 wins, 44 losses and 12 ties. Luckily for Astrom, there were no save-percentage records back then. However, his career GAA was 3.74 in 83 games.
1 Andre Deveaux
Forward Andre Deveaux is famous for being the only NHL player born in the Bahamas. Other than that, his NHL career is nothing to write home about. Deveaux was selected with the 182nd pick in the 2002 draft by Montreal and made his NHL debut six years later with Toronto. He played 22 games with the Leafs before they unloaded him to the Rangers, where he played another nine games. In his 31-game career, Deveaux managed two assists and 104 penalty minutes. He also disgraced himself in the Swedish League earlier this year when he attacked an opponent on the ice during warm-up for a playoff game. Deveaux was suspended and had his contract terminated.