Every young kid dreams of becoming a champion in their chosen sport, but first you have to have a super human junior or college career which propels you to the top of the charts in the eyes of the scouts. After being drafted in the first round your career is generally on track for you to become a household name if everything falls into place. Work hard, listen, show up everyday and there’s a good chance you’ll earn a permanent spot on the roster. Once you’re playing with the big club in your late teens let’s see if you can wow the world with a big point total in your rookie or sophomore campaign. Easier said than done. Maybe you stumble a bit out the gate and get labeled harshly by the fans, perhaps an early career injury leads the media to cap your ceiling at ‘not quite the player we thought they’d be’. Maybe you just don’t live up to the hype. But what if you do?
We’ve checked out some of the most anticipated NHL draft picks of the last 5 years and picked out those that haven’t quite lived up to their perceived potential (for a number of reasons) and might not have as big an impact on the league as many thought. And just to have some fun we sprinkled in 5 ‘sure things’ that have panned out so far and are only looking to get better in the years to come.
15. Washed Up: Sam Bennett
Sam Bennett is a prime example of a great young junior player being scouted to death and just never living up to what the system wanted him to be. At one point during his draft year Sam was ranked as the #1 North American skater. He slightly slipped down the rankings as the 2014 draft closed in but was still selected 4th overall by the Calgary Flames. Bennett was labeled a hard-working, points producing, mid-sized centre at 6ft 1in, 200 lbs. Sam came into the league with big hopes but through his first 4 years with the flames he’s only managed to put up 80 points in 206 games and has struggled as a Minus-33 through that time. He now languishes on the third line after being over shadowed by 2 other 1st rounders (Monahan No.6 2013, Tkachuk No.6 2016).
14. Washed Up: Josh Ho-Sang
Josh Ho-Sang is an ultra talented scorer who went to the New York Islanders on the 2014 draft. The Islanders hoped that Ho-Sang would jump into the league and add some secondary scoring to their big league club but instead Josh struggled out the gate with personal issues paving the way. He famously ‘slept through his alarm clock’ during training camp and has come under fire for attitude problems from day one with the organization. The Islanders have stuck with Ho-Sang regardless and after a year in the minors he made his underwhelming big league debut last year playing 21 games. This year he’s played 22. With 22 points on his career we’re just not quite sure the ‘attitude adjusted’ Ho-Sang is every going to find his stride in the big leagues.
13. Real Deal: Patrik Laine
Patrik Laine is a boy trapped in a man’s body. The 19-year-old is 6ft 5in, 206 lbs and shoots the puck like an artillery battery. Laine was drafted #2 in 2016 by the Winnipeg Jets and the young Fin found it right at home in the cold Canadian market. He blasted 36 goals in his rookie season on his way to 64 points and has 38 points in 49 games in his sophomore year as we speak. The Winnipeg Jets are trending up and look like they have a core in place to make them perennial playoff contenders and in a few years maybe even a cup favourite once Laine hits 50 goals, which he will, we’ll put money on it. How much you got?
12. Washed Up: Aleksander Barkov
Ok, it might seem weird for us to put Barkov on the negative side of this list, but we have our reasons. Barkov came into the league after his draft year and being selected #2 overall by the Florida Panthers in 2013. The big 22-year-old centre looked like a greta pice to build around and With taking Ekblad #1 the year after the Panthers had their young core players to build around. Just one thing, Barkov has never played a full NHL season! He’s only played 297 out of a possible 378 to date. Sure his points are fine and his Plus/Minus is on the rise, But if Barkov only ever plays %75 of his career then he’ll only ever be %75 of the player he could have been.
11. Washed Up: Sam Reinhart
Another Sam that hasn’t quite made the splash that everyone thought he would. When he went #2 overall to the Buffalo Sabres in the 2014 draft the New York city thought they had received the first piece of a much needed rebuild. Sam was supposed to be an all-around centre who could put points on the board and be a key piece for the Sabres to build around. Now, 4 seasons down the road, it looks like Sam might fade away down Buffalo’s depth chart and end up being a pretty ok 2/3rd line pivot. He has failed to break the 50 point barrier in his first 4 seasons (he’ll only get 40 this year) and he’s a collective Minus-34 on a still terrible Sabres team. The future isn’t looking bright.
10. Real Deal: Aaron Ekblad
Aaron Ekblad is the first real deal we’ve included on this list and went #1 in the 2014 draft ahead of the two stumbling Sam’s. The 21-year-old is a big 6ft 4in, 216 lbs defender who is poised to eventually captain the Florida Panthers (our guess is next season). aaron jumped directly into the league in 2014 and put up 39 points in his first full season of 81 games. He kept it up in 2015 and took a slight step back in 2016 only playing 68 games due to injury. But he’s back in full swing in 2017 a projecting another 40 point season. Defenders take a little longer to develop than young forwards but Ekblad is already putting up prime-aged points for his position and has a great all around game.
9. Washed Up: Curtis Lazar
Curtis Lazar is a nice kid, but he’s just not the NHL player that everyone thought he would be. He was taken in the first round by the Ottawa Senators in 2013 and then led the Edmonton Oil Kings to the CHL’s Memorial Cup. Then he added a World Junior Championship Gold Medal to his trophy case. It seemed like he would continue to win at every level. But Lazar has just never found his NHL game. After struggling for 3 seasons with the Tens and never putting up more than 20 points they shipped him off to the Calgary Flames where he has floundered to stay in the line-up. The 22-year-old has 44 points in 213 games and just won’t stick around the league long enough to change peoples minds.
8. Washed Up: Griffin Reinhart
Griffin Reinhart goes hand in hand with Curtis Lazar. The two of them led the Edmonton Oil Kings to seasons of glory culminating in them raising the Memorial Cup in 2014. Griffin had even more faith bestowed on him than Lazar going #4 overall to the New York Islanders in the 2012 draft but just never turned into an NHL player. His younger brother Sam (above on the list) at least is struggling in the big leagues. The highly touted Griffin has on ever played 37 NHL game at 24-years-old between New York and Edmonton and got bounced to the Las Vegas Knights where he hasn’t stepped on the ice. From #4 and a junior champion to a minor league wash out already. Greta work Griff.
7. Real Deal: Sean Monahan
Sean Monahan is the real deal for the Calgary Flames who took him #6 overall in the 2013 draft. The flames had been looking for a first line centre since the days of the 2004 Stanley cup run and it only took them a decade to find him. Monahan is big. He can score. Monahan plays 80 + games a season. He is a %50 or better face-off man. Monahan was the first piece in a massive Calgary rebuild (not including Johnny Gaudreau who was 4th round surprise) and it looks like it’s working out for the flames. Sean is on pace for his first 80 point season and looks like he might reach the 40 goal mark for the first (but probably not the last) time in his career.
6. Washed Up: Jonathan Drouin
Jonathan Drouin was a junior hockey god. in 2012-2013 he was named the CHL player of the year and won the Memorial Cup with the Halifax Mooseheads. He was taken #3 by the Tampa Bay Lightning on 2013 and many thought he’d make the jump right to the show. But he didn’t. He took a year to get to the NHL and had a pretty good rookie season, followed by a sophomore year that saw him spend most of his time in the minors, and a third year with a good point total but a Minus-13 on an incredible Tampa team. Tampa shipped him to Montreal, who’s having a nightmare season and Drouin has 25 points but is a Minus-19 in his home province of Quebec. Montreal is notorious for praising their own one day and then spitting them out the second they let them down.
5. Washed Up: Nail Yakupov
Nail Yakupov is the ultimate wash out on this list. The young scoring Russian had everything the scouts liked, speed, shot, skill, just apparently not the personality to be great on the big stage. Nail went #1 overall to the Edmonton Oilers (their third #1 pick in a row) so it might not be so much Yakupov’s fault that he never found his place in Edmonton, there wasn’t much room for another young superstar. Edmonton failed Nail, and Nail failed them. During 4 years in Edmonton Yak had 111 points and was a collective Minus-88. Poor kid. He was shipped out to St. Louis and now plays in Colorado. Nail is this generations greatest example of a #1 flop, but we don’t blame the kid. We blame the Oilers.
4. Real Deal: Auston Matthews
The second coming of the Toronto Maple Leafs has arrived in the form of saviour Auston Matthews. For heavens sake the kid scored 4 goals in his first NHL game with the Leafs against the rivalled Ottawa Senators at the beginning of last season (The Leafs still lost in OT), the only player in history to collect 4 in his first game. The American born Matthews is the Leafs great hope to end one of the most storied championship droughts in hockey history, and it looks like he could do it. The Leafs finally look like a perennial playoff team with Matthews on the ice and he’s on pace for another 40 goal season after potting exactly that many in his rookie year. What more could Toronto ask for?
3. Washed Up: Jesse Puljujarvi
Jesse Puljujarvi (try spelling that 5 times fast!) hasn’t even had a chance really to let us know he should be on the negative side of this list but we’re throwing him on here because he’s no Patrik Laine, and we like bashing on the Oilers. Jesse went #4 to Edmonton in the 2016 draft and is the same size as his fellow Fin (6ft 4in, 211 lbs) But he’s only played 59 games to Laine’s 122, and only has 22 points to Laine’s 102. One of the 2016 Fins is the real deal and one of them will be an ok NHL player for a bit. Poor Jesse just happened to land in Edmonton, who after a rare playoff year has come back down to earth and looks like a miss agin this year. Sorry Puljujarvi.
2. Washed Up: Alex Galchenyuk
Alex Galchenyuk is on the decline and all at the ripe age of 23-years-old. The young winger who went #3 to Montreal in 2012 built up some ok point totals as his young career clicked along and the Canadiens looked like they were becoming a solid team, but over the last couple of years Montreal has come back down to earth and looks like they’re slipping into a bottom 1/3 team and Galchenyuk’s Minus total is rising rapidly. His point production is down and will struggle to break the 50 point mark and he’s a minus-21 this season. He was on his way to being a top line winger, but now it looks like he’s stagnating and may fade away in Montreal.
1. Real Deal: Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid is the realest of deals. He is what to the NHL that Sidney Crosby was when he entered the league, a generational #1 that the Matthew’s, and the Laine’s of the world have to chase down for eternal glory. Connor McDavid will win a Stanley Cup (maybe even with the Oilers!). He will win multiple Hart Trophies (he already has 1). Connor McDavid will reach the 100 point plateau multiple time (he already has once). We can sit here and list off everything that Connor McDavid will do in his career and he’s already accomplished more in his 3 seasons with the Oilers than most players ever will (201 points in 175 games) but we’ll just kick back and watch him do it instead because he’s a sure thing.
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