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10 Young NHL Players Already Headed For Bust Status (And 10 Already There)

When it comes to being successful in the NHL, teams need to accurately draft players who are going to be legitimate factors professionally. However, when it comes to the NHL Entry Draft, each season we are witnessing more and more cases where players are unable to match their success in junior hockey and are soon labeled as legitimate busts. It is always disappointing for junior hockey superstars to turn into busts because there is a high level of excitement to see them succeed professionally. Over the past few drafts, we have seen this happen on numerous occasions and even with players who were taken high in the first round.

With all that has been stated thus far, in this article we will be looking at ten NHL busts and ten more who are soon going to hit that level. The players on this list will all be very familiar names to intense hockey fans because they once had extremely high expectations. However, in all of these cases, these players have either failed to reach them or are on the verge to if they continue to play at this trajectory. It is quite apparent that the NHL is a far more challenging league than junior hockey, so it does make a plethora of sense for these players to have failed. This is not the first time and certainly won’t be the last in this league’s history. However, it is still disappointing for their teams.

Nonetheless, let’s look at the ten NHL busts and ten more players who are about to be!

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20 Headed Toward Bust: Sam Bennett

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Bennett was supposed to end up being the future top center of the Calgary Flames, but ever since his arrival to the NHL, he has never been able to make a jump in his offensive statistics. In fact, his best season as an NHL player came when he was a rookie and ever since then, he has seen a bit of a dip in his season point totals. Instead of developing into a top-six forward like he was supposed to, he has been delegated to the Flames’ third line and likely has found a permanent spot in that area.

However, looking at the trajectory Bennett has taken, he could very well turn into a bust.

It is a bit challenging to call a player a bust, especially when they have been able to last in the NHL for multiple seasons, but it is likely that the Flames have yet to give up on him because of the fact that he is a former first round pick. This next season is an extremely important one for Bennett because it appears to be the last one where fans can hold any hope that he will be anything more than a depth player at best. Looking at the fact that he was once viewed as the top prospect in his draft class, if he does not improve whatsoever, he can be deemed officially as a bust.

19 Bust: Michael McCarron

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The Montreal Canadiens thought that they had landed a spectacular power forward when they drafted Michael McCarron. At the time that the draft pick was made, McCarron was definitely viewed as a risk, but the Canadiens decided to give him a shot. The issue with this decision was that McCarron was a first round pick and of course, they are given lofty expectations. However, since being drafted back in 2013, McCarron has yet to make any impact at the NHL level, even after given numerous chances to leave a mark. The time is definitely up when it comes to Montreal giving him chances.

Michael McCarron has failed so dramatically that he does not even have the potential to even be a fourth line winger for the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens making their pick with McCarron has resulted in them basically losing their first rounder of that season. McCarron has even been a below average player at the AHL level too, so it is clear that this is a player who cannot become accustomed to the speed of professional hockey. At this point in time, there is absolutely no way that McCarron cannot be labeled a bust, as he has failed to be effective at every professional level.

18 Headed Toward Bust: Jesse Puljujarvi

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When Jesse Puljujarvi dropped to the fourth overall selection, the Edmonton Oilers were extremely fortunate and took the elite potential forward. This was viewed as an absolutely wonderful move by the Edmonton Oilers because Puljujarvi was seen as a potential long-term winger on the Connor McDavid line. Puljujarvi would end up making the team right away with the Oilers, but after struggling without finding much growth, they ended up sending him down to the AHL where he was able to work on his game far more. The Oilers still had high hopes for him going into this season.

When looking at Jesse Puljujarvi’s sophomore season in the NHL, it definitely can be deemed as underwhelming. Puljujarvi just did not look like the player he was expected to be and failed to see much progression in his offensive production. There are now some serious concerns that Puljujarvi will never grow into the top-six forward he was expected to be and it is easy to understand why there are worries. Puljujarvi was expected to be a far better player and if he continues to produce at this level, he will be considered a bust, especially when looking at where he was drafted.

17 Bust: Curtis Lazar

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
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The Ottawa Senators thought they found their power forward of the future when they selected Curtis Lazar with the seventeenth selection of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Lazar had a very dominant junior career and already appeared to be ready for the NHL level by the time of his draft year. With that being stated, after kinking out some of the minor issues of his game with another year of juniors, Lazar made the team one year after he was drafted. In his rookie season with the Senators, he showed immense promise and appeared to lock down a permanent spot on the roster.

However, the following season quickly displayed the fact that Curtis Lazar was easily considered to be a bust at the NHL level. With the Ottawa Senators that season, Lazar only registered one assist in 33 games, while receiving little to no playing time. With all of this being stated, Lazar ended up requesting a trade out of Ottawa for a fresh start and was soon traded to the Calgary Flames. This move was viewed as a fresh new start for Lazar, but so far with the Flames, he still has played horridly and officially is a bust at the NHL level. He does not have much time left in this league.

16 Headed Toward Bust: Jakub Zboril

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During the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, there is absolutely no question that the Boston Bruins made some questionable decisions with their first round picks. Yet, their thirteenth overall selection in Jakub Zboril seemed to be the smartest decision on their end because that was where he was projected to go. Zboril had a very dominant season in junior hockey before the draft and was easily seen as a future top-four defenseman in the NHL. The Bruins stated that they were going to take their time in developing Zboril so he could focus more on growing as a player. However, no one would have thought he still would not be in the league.

The Boston Bruins definitely are a very deep team and are currently on the verge of becoming consistent contenders for the next few seasons, so there is no question they have a spectacular defensive core. However, with Jakub Zboril still not a member of the Bruns and his value as a player beginning to drop because of this, he seriously is running the risk of becoming a bust. There is still hope for Zboril because he has still yet to play at the NHL level, but realistically, there has to be some frustration amongst the Bruins’ management when observing his progression.

15 Bust: Kerby Rychel

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
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The Columbus Blue Jackets were extremely excited when they drafted Kerby Rychel in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft because he once had the potential to be a top-six power forward. Rychel was a very spectacular goal scorer in junior hockey, so there were a lot of expectations that he would be able to become a star player at the NHL level as well. However, after struggling to retrieve himself a permanent spot on the Blue Jackets’ roster because of their immense depth, the Blue Jackets quickly traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2016 NHL off-season and that is where he struggled.

As a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ organization, Kerby Rychel failed to make the team for essentially two seasons and was forced to play with the Toronto Marlies.

This ultimately secured him the label of a bust because he is now far too old to ever leave the impact on the game that he was once expected to. There maybe is a chance that he could develop into a bottom-six forward, but that is going to be exceptionally challenging. The Maple Leafs were far too strong offensively for Rychel to ever make their roster, so he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens at the deadline and still has yet to play with them.

14 Headed Toward Bust: Olli Juolevi

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Olli Juolevi was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks with the fifth overall selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. When the Canucks selected Juolevi, they made it clear that they envisioned him as their future number one defenseman because he had shown immense promise while playing professionally in Europe. The Canucks definitely need this because of the fact that they are in a fairly prolonged rebuilding period that has not seen much improvement over the past few seasons. However, as of 2018, Juolevi has yet to even come close to making the team and now there are worries.

Olli Juolevi has seen a bit of a drop in skill since his draft year and the Vancouver Canucks have to be extremely anxious when it comes to him. Although it has only been two seasons since he has been drafted, they expected him to at least be able to be an NHL player at this time. Although it may be a bit too early to label Juolevi as a bust, the possibility of it becoming a reality in the near future is sadly evident. The Canucks will need to focus on assisting in his development even more so this season because they cannot afford the former first rounder to be a bust.

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13 Bust: Hunter Shinkaruk

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
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The Vancouver Canucks believed they had the steal of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft when they were able to land top ten North American forward Hunter Shinkaruk with the 24th selection of the draft. Shinkaruk was a lethal sniper in junior hockey and many believed that he had an abundance of potential and would become a fantastic NHL player. After two solid seasons with the Utica Comets, Shinkaruk was shockingly traded from the Canucks to the Calgary Flames, one of their biggest rivals. This definitely was an unexpected trade and many thought the Flames won it.

Hunter Shinkaruk would play a handful of games with the Calgary Flames during the 2015-16 season and showed signs of being a very talented player. However, since his stint, his offensive numbers have taken a massive hit and he is way less talented in the AHL than before. With all of this being stated, it is fair to call Shinkaruk a bust because he has made no improvements in his game and now is far worse than before. He did not play a single game at the NHL level during the 2017-18 season, so it appears likely that he may end up moving to play hockey in the European leagues.

12 Headed Toward Bust: Pavel Zacha

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The New Jersey Devils went a bit off the board with their sixth overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft when they took Pavel Zacha with the pick. Although Zacha was seen as more of a middle first round pick, the Devils envisioned him as a legitimate top-six forward and someone who would have been able to make a major impact in the league early on in his career. You cannot blame the Devils for making a gamble pick on Zacha because he did have a lot of league interest and he was viewed as a player who would end up becoming a very effective player at the NHL level.

Pavel Zacha would make the New Jersey Devils in his first season after the draft, but the team decided to send him back to juniors. However, he would end up making the team again in his second season and secured a permanent spot within their lineup. However, when it comes to his individual statistics since joining the NHL, it is apparent that he has not become the top-six presence that he was expected to be. After only registering one more point than his previous season, it is clear that he is on the cusp of becoming a bust, when applying it to his former expectations with the club.

11 Bust: Samuel Morin

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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The Philadelphia Flyers made a massive mistake when they took the giant defenseman Samuel Morin with the eleventh selection of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Although Morin was once viewed as a legitimate future top-four defenseman in the NHL, there were definitely some warning signs with this selection from the very start. One major concern when looking at Morin was the question of if he would have been able to adapt to the speed of the NHL. Morin definitely had the potential to be a shutdown defenseman in the NHL, but his skill level was questionable as an early to mid first round pick.

As we fast forward to now and observe the progression that Samuel Morin has made as a player thus far, it is easy to deem him a bust.

Morin has yet to leave much impact at the AHL level, let alone with the Philadelphia Flyers. It has been five years, a half decade, since Morin has been drafted by the Flyers and he has only played three games and has failed to register a single point. The Flyers could have selected far better talent with virtually any of the first round picks who were selected in that round. Overall, this draft decision by the Flyers was an absolute failure.

10 Headed Toward Bust: Haydn Fleury

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Haydn Fleury was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes with the seventh overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. When the Hurricanes selected Fleury, the move was met with great praise because many envisioned him as a legitimate top-four, even potential top-two future defenseman in the NHL. Fleury was nothing short of a superstar during his days with the Red Deer Rebels while playing the WHL, so there was hope he would have been able to carry this game to the NHL level. However, Fleury’s progression at the NHL level has been a bit rough and there are some worries.

One important factor behind Haydn Fleury is that this season he was actually able to maintain a permanent spot in the Carolina Hurricanes’ top-four pairing. Although he failed to produce much statistically, he did look fairly well defensively and there is still some hope for the youngster. However, if Fleury does not show improvement offensively this season and fixes some of the other holes in his game, there is a very good chance that he could end up being labeled as a bust in the near future. As an early first round pick, he has to be better or else the Hurricanes will regret this.

9 Bust: Emile Poirier

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Emile Poirier was a late round draft pick by the Calgary Flames in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, so there were not as high of expectations for the speedy winger, but he was expected to at least be top nine forward. The Calgary Flames made a lot of draft choices in the past few seasons who were definitely more offensively talented and a big reason behind was due to the fact that they had lost Jarome Iginla and needed to replace him. Poirier was seen as a long-term project, but someone who had a pretty decent amount of potential who become a 20 to 25 goal scorer each season.

However, when looking at Emile Poirier’s progression, at the end of the day, he has absolutely failed to come close to becoming a decent NHL player. In fact, Poirier has only suited up in eight games for the Calgary Flames, while producing average numbers at the AHL level. There is no question that Poirier will never be a reliable NHL player, especially when looking at the fact that he has no progressed at all at the AHL level. So it is officially accurate to state that Poirier is easily considered to be a bust at this present time. The Flames cannot be too happy about this pick.

8 Headed Toward Bust: Lawson Crouse

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Lawson Crouse was expected to be the prospect with the most chance of being an elite forward at the NHL level when he was drafted by the Florida Panthers with the eleventh overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Crouse had a very spectacular junior career at that time and was expected to be a very effective player at the NHL level. However, just one season after his draft year, the Florida Panthers decided to maximize his value by throwing him a deal to the Arizona Coyotes that took away Dave Bolland’s atrocious contract. Crouse would end up making the Coyotes soon after.

In Lawson Crouse’s first season with the Arizona Coyotes, he failed to produce much of anything offensively and was fourth liner because of it.

Crouse only had twelve points in seventy two games, so the Coyotes were definitely a bit disappointed in his game that season. Due to his lack of success at the NHL level, Crouse spent the majority of this season with the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL and did show some signs of a decent offensive game. However, in eleven contests with the Coyotes, he only had one goal. If Crouse continues to produce at this poor level, he will inevitably become a bust.

7 Bust: Conner Bleackley

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The Colorado Avalanche drafted Conner Bleackley with the 23rd overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and he was viewed as a potential second line forward for them moving forward. Bleackley had just come off a very solid draft season with the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL and showed legitimate signs of developing into a star playmaker at the NHL level. However, just one season after this, his point totals dropped off dramatically and the Avalanche would decide to not sign him. This resulted in Bleackley reentering the 2016 NHL Draft, where he was picked 144th overall by the St. Louis Blues.

There is absolutely no question from this move alone, Conner Bleackley ended up determining that he was a massive bust before he even entered the AHL. Speaking about the AHL, Bleackley has performed absolutely atrociously in his stints there and has even spent a significant time of his minor league days with the ECHL. Bleackley just cannot grow from his best seasons in juniors and has seen a massive decline instead. Bleackley could go down as one of the biggest busts in the history of the NHL and easily has the strangest prospect journey of this decade.

6 Headed Toward Bust: Anthony DeAngelo

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony DeAngelo was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning with the nineteenth overall selection of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and it was viewed as the potential top steal of the year. DeAngelo was drafted a bit lower than he was expected to be because of the fact that he had some serious attitude issues off the ice. However, that did not stop the Lightning from taking a chance of DeAngelo because they viewed him as their offensive defenseman of the future. However, just two years later on draft day, the Lightning traded DeAngelo to the Arizona Coyotes for a second round pick.

Soon after being traded, DeAngelo was traded again the next off-season to the New York Rangers as part of the Derek Stepan trade. DeAngelo would end up making the New York Rangers, but struggled immensely to be the offensive defenseman he was envisioned to be. In fact, DeAngelo failed to register a single goal by the end of the season and even spent a decent amount of the season at the AHL level. There is absolutely no question that DeAngelo is playing at a trajectory that will soon label him as a bust. It is truly a shame because he could have been something special.

5 Bust: Jake Virtanen

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
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Jake Virtanen was taken with the sixth overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Vancouver Canucks. This was viewed as a fantastic move because of the fact that not only was Virtanen a lethal scorer in juniors, but he was basically a hometown boy. With all of this being stated, the Canucks saw him as their future top line winger, even potentially playing with the Sedin twins. These of course were lofty expectations for the young power forward, but there was still a lot of hope for his growth as a player. Virtanen would end up making the Canucks just one season after his draft year and he looked fairly decent.

There was still a lot of hope that Jake Virtanen would see a spike in his offensive production in his second season with the Vancouver Canucks, but things took a dark turn for the worse. Virtanen would only register a single assist in ten games and would play the rest of the season with the Canucks’ AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets. He would even struggle offensively down there and it quickly showed that he would never be a top-six talent in the NHL, let alone AHL. Virtanen did have a decent year this year with the Canucks, but he now is primarily a bottom-six forward and could lose his job permanently.

4 Headed Toward Bust: Dylan Strome

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes thought they drafted their franchise centerman of the future when they selected Dylan Strome with the third overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. With the Lake Erie Otters that past season, Strome was an absolute beast with them and showed that he had the potential to be a very dominant playmaker at the NHL level. Strome would end up playing another two seasons with the Otters to work on his offensive game because the Coyotes did not want to rush him up too quickly. This past season, Strome spent most of his time with the Tucson Roadrunners.

Dylan Strome showed this season in the AHL that he can be a dominant playmaker, but his stints in the NHL have been incredibly weak.

There are definitely some major concerns when looking at Dylan Strome because he was expected to be a star in the NHL by this point, but he has yet to show any progression at the NHL level. It is important to note that not all hope is lost for the young forward, but time is rapidly clicking. This next season will be a very important one for Strome because it could ultimately be his last chance to make show he is as good as he scouts predicted.

3 Bust: Frederik Gauthier

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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The Toronto Maple Leafs have made some absolutely marvellous draft picks over the past few seasons to enhance their rebuilding period. They thought they made a steal of a pick when they drafted two-way center Frederik Gauthier with the twenty-first selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Gauthier had played significantly well in juniors and many saw him as a potential Patrice Bergeron type of player once he hit his prime in the NHL. The Maple Leafs wanted to take their time with Gauthier to ensure that he would be an impactful player once he officially reached the NHL.

When observing what Frederik Gauthier has brought to the table at the NHL level with the Toronto Maple Leafs, they cannot be too happy with this selection. Gauthier has registered a measly four points in 28 career NHL games, which is exceptionally low for both categories considering how long it has been since he has been drafted. He simply has yet to be able to crack the Maple Leafs’ roster because of their spectacular offensive depth, but he just has not done enough. Gauthier is absolutely a bust at this point of his career and it is likely that he will never end up becoming a reliable NHL player by the time his professional hockey career comes to a close.

2 Head Toward Bust: Zachary Senyshyn

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The Boston Bruins selected Zachary Senyshyn with their final first round pick of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and this selection was met with a lot of criticism. Senyshyn was expected to be a MIDDLE second round pick, but the Bruins apparently saw something more special than Mathew Barzal (selected one pick after Senyshyn) in him. Senyshyn was putting up average numbers in juniors and did not possess a single trait that made him look like a legitimate first round pick. Yet, the Bruins decided to try to take a gamble on the young winger and thus far, it has been a mistake.

There is still some hope for Zachary Senyshyn, as he is still very young and has yet to play in the NHL, but he really is not playing well. Senyshyn put up below average numbers in his first season in the AHL and that is an extremely troubling sign for the Bruins. The Bruins may decide to accelerate his development and give him the opportunity to make the big league next season, but realistically, there just is not much hope for this kid. The Bruins made a massive mistake with this pick and are now on the cusp of having two legitimate busts from their first round draft picks.

1 Bust: Michael Dal Colle

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Michael Dal Colle was expected to become an elite winger for the New York Islanders when they selected him with the fourth overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Dal Colle was an absolute star in juniors throughout his career there and was seen as a top line forward for John Tavares in the future. The Islanders decided to send him back down to another year of juniors so he could work on his two-way game a bit and he still produced a fairly solid level, even though there was a little bit of a dip in his points. However, the Islanders still remained hopeful he would be a star in the making.

However, as we fast forward to this year’s upcoming draft, Michael Dal Colle has only gotten far worse. After a decent first full season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Dal Colle’s point totals fell off dramatically in his second season and now he looks like a legitimate bust. The Islanders were desperate to try to spark his game when they sent him up to the NHL this season, but he failed to register a single point in four games. Dal Colle has shown over the past few seasons in his development that he will never be a productive player in the NHL. WIth that being stated, he is a major bust.

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