The importance of the annual NHL Entry Draft cannot be overstated. Sure, the argument could be made that anything beyond the first round pretty much boils down to luck, but in the first round it’s imperative to get value from your pick, and that goes doubly so if it’s a top-10 overall pick.
That said, if you are blessed with a top-10 overall pick in any year, you’re statistically quite likely to find—at the very least—an NHL hockey player. There were 160 names called in the top-10 from 2000 to 2015, and of those 160, 142 of them have played at least 100 NHL games.
Those figures include 2015 top-10 picks Dylan Strome or Timo Meier, both of whom will more than likely reach the milestone in the future (Meier probably later this season). It also includes Luc Bourdon, who played 36 games and would have most certainly hit the milestone if not for the tragic motorcycle accident that killed him in 2008.
That’s about a 90% success rate for top-10 picks in the draft (if 100 GP is your measuring stick), so that sort of illustrates how painful it must be to pick a flop in the top-10. But, it does happen, almost every year. There were four drafts from 2000-2015 that had all 10 players crack the 100-game mark (’03, ’06, ’11, ’13), but every other season in that window had at least one top-10 player fall short.
Today’s list looks at each draft class from 2000 to 2015 and picks the biggest bust from the top-10 in each year. Given that it's way too early to tell who could be considered a bust from the 2016 and '17 drafts, we felt it was more appropriate to go up to 2015. Three years is a much better indication than eight months, right? Enjoy:
16 2000 – Rick DiPietro (1st overall)
Of the first 10 players called at the 2000 NHL Entry draft, a whopping three of them never reached the 100 game milestone. That’s the most busts out of any draft year included here on the list, and yet I didn’t select any of Lars Jonsson, Brent Krahn, or Mikhail Yakubov as the biggest bust of the draft year. I actually went with the first overall pick from 2000, goalie Rick DiPietro, selected by the Islanders and the man who made Roberto Luongo disposable (in management’s eyes).
DiPietro was supposed to be the next great goalie, but he turned out to be a major disappointment.
He did play in over 300 games, which isn’t terrible for a goalie, but many of those games were granted to him based on his draft pedigree—as well as the Islanders' hope that he’d eventually figure it out, seeing as they had invested so much in him.
15 2001 – Alexandr Svitov (3rd overall)
Nine of the top-10 picks from the 2001 NHL Entry Draft played in at least 100 NHL games, and the only selection who failed to hit the mark was 10th overall pick Dan Blackburn, the goalie taken by the Rangers. We still went with 3rd overall pick Alexandr Svitov for our representative from the 2001 class though, as forwards are simply easier to accurately scout than goalies. Also, blowing 3rd-overall pick is much more egregious than blowing a 10th-overall selection.
Svitov, who was originally a Tampa Bay Lightning pick, played 74 games for them before playing another 105 with the Blue Jackets. He made the move back home to Russia for the start of the 2007-08 season, and hasn’t looked back since. He’s 36-years-old now and still playing in the KHL for Kazan Ak-Bars.
14 2002 – Petr Taticek (9th overall)
The Florida Panthers called Petr Tacitek's name 9th overall in the the 2002 NHL Entry draft, and the Czech ended up playing just three NHL games (all for the Panthers in 2005-06). That’s the fewest games played by someone selected in the top-10 of that class by a mile, as defenseman Ryan Whitney played the second-fewest, at 481 (his career was cut short due to a debilitating ankle injury).
Taticek is now 34 years old and still playing pro hockey in Europe. You can find him today skating with Ingolstadt ERC in the German league, and he previously spent substantial time in the Swiss league (Davos HC) as well as cups of coffee in the KHL and the Czech league. Some Europeans are simply better suited to play near home, and Taticek is one of them.
13 2003 - Nikolai Zherdev (4th overall)
The 2003 NHL Entry Draft was legendary, and I have no reservations in calling it the deepest and best of all time. The list of names who came out of that draft class is borderline unbelievable, really. However, I had to pick someone from the top-10 that year for this list, and that someone is Nikolai Zherdev. Zherdev was picked 4th overall by the Blue Jackets, and while he played 421 NHL games (283 with the CBJ), he’s still a bust when measured against his peers.
Of the top-10 selected that year, only Andrei Kostitsyn (10th-overall) played fewer games than Zherdev. While both players defected to Europe to play out their careers (both are playing in the KHL this season), Zherdev ditched out a year before Kostitsyn did, heading to Russia in 2011.
12 2004 - Cam Barker (3rd overall)
Chicago Blackhawks pick Cam Barker was the 3rd-overall selection in the top-heavy 2004 NHL draft, and he did manage to find his way into 310 NHL games. Eighth overall Blue Jackets pick Alexandre Picard only played 67 games, and 10th-overall Thrashers pick Boris Valabik only played 80 games, but I still went with Barker. Why?
Barker was the highest pick from his class not named Alexander Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin.
Barker’s career got off to a slow start, not establishing himself as a regular in Chicago until 2008-09. That said, he had an impressive year, notching 40 points in 68 games from the blue line. That unfortunately would represent his best season by a mile, and the rest of his NHL days featured buyouts and healthy scratches. He can be found playing in the KHL these days.
11 2005 – Jack Skille (7th overall)
While his name may lead you to believe otherwise, Jack Skille was far from the most skilled player from the top-10 of the 2005 NHL entry Draft. That season, all eyes were on the lottery as it was the Sidney Crosby sweepstakes, and for good reason. Not only is Crosby obviously one of the greatest players of all time, but the other nine picks in the top-10 that year were underwhelming.
With that in mind, nine of the 10 picks still played at least 200 games, and only the late Luc Bourdon didn’t reach that milestone due to a fatal motorcycle accident in 2008. Skille himself played 368 games, most recently with Vancouver last season. He was hardly an NHL regular ever though, and he finally let the NHL dream die this season by joining Minsk Dynamo of the KHL.
10 2006 – James Sheppard (9th overall)
The 2006 draft class was one of the four from 2000-2015 in which all 10 players selected in the top-10 went on to play at least 100 NHL games. Ergo, it’s not entirely fair to label any of the 10 players picked as busts, but since I have to I had to go with 9th overall Minnesota Wild selection James Sheppard.
Sheppard played in nearly 400 NHL games, which is a decent run for anyone and only the second-fewest from the top-10 draft class of ’06. The crown for fewest goes to Peter Mueller, who only found his way into 297 NHL matches. We gave Sheppard the edge as the bigger bust though, because despite playing nearly 100 fewer games, Mueller still out-pointed Sheppard by 69 points. Today Sheppard toils away in the German league, while Mueller skates in Austria.
9 2007 – Zach Hamill (8th overall)
For the most part, the top-10 from the class of 2007 have gone on to have great careers. Nine out of 10 have played over 200 NHL games, which is a decent career for any pick. Our biggest bust from the top-10 that year—Zach Hamill—found his way into just 20 NHL games, all played with the Boston Bruins, the club that picked him 8th overall.
Hamill never scored an NHL goal, and played much more in the AHL than the NHL.
He still plays pro today in Europe, a move he made during the 2013-14 season. Hamill and Keaton Ellerby—the 10th overall pick by the Panthers that season—are the only two skaters from the ’07 top-10 who are not still enjoying careers in the NHL.
8 2008 – Nikita Filatov (6th overall)
The 2008 representative was sort of tough to pick. Although Nikita Fikatov only played 53 NHL games, he didn’t really give the North American game much of a chance before heading back home to play in Europe. That said, we still had to give him the edge over Cody Hodgson, who actually had a few good seasons before completely falling off the cliff (Hodgson is now 27 years old and retired from pro hockey).
Nonetheless, Hodgson’s two good NHL seasons were better and ultimately more valuable than Filatov’s zero. The most the Russian ever played in a single season was 23 games, which was when he registered his career high in points (seven). Filatov made the move to the KHL mid-season in 2011-12, after failing to make the Ottawa Senators and spending the bulk of the first quarter of the year playing in the AHL with the Binghamton Senators.
7 2009 – Scott Glennie (8th overall)
While I was mighty tempted to give this crown to Jared Cowen, the 9th-overall pick by the Senators in 2009, I ended up giving the title to Scott Glennie instead, the 8th-overall pick of the Dallas Stars. Glennie played in a grand total of one NHL game and has pretty much been an AHL journeyman otherwise. According to HockeyDB, Glennie isn’t playing anywhere for the 2017-18 season.
Some players are able to produce at the junior level but never at the pro level, and that basically sums up Scott Glennie.
He did help the Texas Stars win the 2014 Calder Cup, but he wasn’t an offensive star of that team, recording 28 points in his 50 games played that year (plus 10 points in 20 postseason games).
6 2010 – Dylan McIlrath (10th overall)
While a productive NHL career seems unlikely for 2010 10th overall pick Dylan McIlrath, he’s still plying his trade in North America, God bless him. He’s currently a member of the Detroit Red Wings system and is playing the 2017-18 season for their AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins. The defenseman has played 43 NHL games to date, so it seems unlikely he’ll hit the 100 game mark.
McIlrath was the clear choice from the top-10 in 2010, but that’s not to say there weren’t other disappointments. Third overall selection Erik Gudbranson has fallen short of his projection, as has Brett Connolly and even Alexander Burmistrov. Still though, those players have all played at least 300 NHL games, which is a decent career any way you look at it.
5 2011 – Ryan Strome (5th overall)
While the 2011 NHL draft was lacking elite top-end talent, there’s no denying that it was fairly deep. All 10 players selected in the top-10 that season have already hit the 300 game milestone, and only six players taken in the first round haven’t yet hit the 100 game mark. Of the players picked in the top-10, Ryan Strome has played the fewest, and he’s our biggest bust from 2011’s top-10.
Strome has been disappointing Oilers fans so far this season as they expected more in return for Jordan Eberle, which is fair. Really, the blame actually rests on the shoulders of GM Peter Chiarelli, as he’s the one who traded the third-highest scorer from the 2008 draft class for the 10th best player selected inside the top-10 of the 2011 draft class.
4 2012 – Nail Yakupov (1st overall)
All-in-all 2012 was a relatively weak draft class, and it may be unfair to name Nail Yakupov as the biggest bust of the top 10. This means he edges out defensemen Slater Koekkoek (10th), Derrick Pouliot (8th), and even Griffin Reinhart (4th) for the honor. Sure, Yak has already played well over 300 games, which is substantially more than the other three listed, but he was also the 1st overall pick, so he takes the cake.
It’s fair to wonder if Yakupov has even earned those games, to be honest.
He was drafted to a terrible team, and he maybe got a little too much rope based on his draft pedigree.
Let’s put it this way: if he were selected 100th overall instead on 1st, would he have even played his first NHL game yet? Maybe, but definitely debatable.
3 2013 – Valeri Nichushkin (10th overall)
The first 10 players called at the 2013 NHL entry Draft have all played at least 100 NHL games, but Valeri Nichushkin is the only one who has possibly played his last NHL game. After butting heads with management in Dallas, Nichushkin decided to make the move to Russia for the start of the 2016-17 season, and there’s no telling if he plans to make a return to North America.
That decision probably isn’t hurting Dallas too dearly, as they already have a pretty solid top-six forward group, and Nichuskin's numbers for CSKA Moscow haven’t been too crazy—he scored 24 points in 36 games last season, and has 24 through 44 this year. It’s too bad, because Nichushkin had a decent rookie season (34 points) in 2013-14, then lost most of 2014-15 to injury, and hasn’t regained his form since.
2 2014 – Michael Dal Colle (5th overall)
Michael Dal Colle is our pick for biggest top-10 bust from 2014, but we’re getting into some unfair territory here. It’s only been three years and change since the 2014 draftees heard their names called by the various NHL GMs, so it’s entirely possible that some of these men are just beginning to embark on their NHL careers.
Dal Colle, for instance, just played his first NHL game with the New York Islanders (the team that picked him 5th overall in 2014) on January 13.
Who’s to say if he’s here to stay, or if this is the first of many cups of coffee, but the fact of the matter is he’s currently the obvious bust choice from 2014’s top-10. Sure, Haydn Fleury or Jake Virtanen might usurp Dal Colle in a few years’ time, but today Dal Colle takes the cake.
1 2015 – Dylan Strome (3rd overall)
Again, the 2015 selection comes with an asterisk. Dylan Strome has underperformed to this point in his career, as the 2015 3rd overall pick has played the fewest games among all top-10 picks from his draft class. That being said, the young center has spent the bulk of 2017-18 playing with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners, and his results there have been great thus far—37 points in 24 games.
Playing like that, he obviously earned a call-up earlier this year.
Once in the NHL, though, Strome managed just one goal (no assists) in his 11 game audition.
With all this in mind, I still see Strome having a better career than a few others picked in the top-10 here (Pavel Zacha, for one), but today Strome’s lack of NHL experience speaks volumes and it's the primary reason he’s our 2015 representative.