1999: The Worst NHL Draft Class Ever?

Heading into the 1999 NHL Entry Draft in Boston, the draft class was regarded as one of the deepest the NHL had seen in years. The Sedin twins and Patrik Stefan headlined the draft class, but it was still deep if you couldn’t draft any of them.

Or so they thought.

Fast forward fifteen years later, and the 1999 NHL Entry Draft is pretty much a bust. Of the 28 players selected in the first round, only four went on to become All-Stars, but two players in the late rounds went on to have pretty successful careers, goalie Ryan Miller and Red Wing Henrik Zetterberg.

Many teams were hoping to find the future of their franchise in the 1999 draft, but instead found talent that never quite materialized and having to restart again.

If you don’t believe me on how bad this draft class was (save for the Sedins), here is the top ten.

Patrik Stefan (Atlanta Thrashers)

patrik-stefan

The Atlanta Thrashers weren’t supposed to have the number one overall pick, that belonged to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but a bevy of trades led to Atlanta getting the top pick. The Thrashers used the pick on Patrik Stefan, instead of either of the Sedin twins. That proved to be a big mistake on their part.

It’s pretty safe to say that Patrik Stefan is a bust. In only six seasons with the Thrashers, Stefan only recorded 40 points once, during the 2003-2004 season. In 2006, Stefan was traded to the Dallas Stars and a new city and franchise couldn’t revive his once promising career as he only recorded eleven points in 41 games with the Stars and is most remembered for a major blunder. In a game against the Edmonton Oilers, Stefan tripped and missed an empty net goal that allowed Edmonton to tie up the game just seconds later.

When you are a number one overall pick, that play right there is not how you want to be remembered.

Sedin Twins (Vancouver Canucks)

sedins drafted 1999

Henrik and Daniel Sedin are easily the most successful first round selections in this draft class. In the 15 years since the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, the Sedins have become the faces of the Vancouver Canucks franchise and, for a time, turned the Canucks into perennial contenders.

It took a little bit for the Sedins to get some traction, but they turned out to be superstars and really changed the Vancouver Canucks franchise. Both have won Art Ross Trophies, led the Canucks to two Presidents Trophies, and played in one Stanley Cup Final, in 2011 against the Boston Bruins.

Pavel Brendl and Jamie Lundmark (New York Rangers)

230px-pavelbrendlmoraThis selection could be arguably worse than the Patrik Stefan pick simply because Brendl NEVER played a game with the New York Rangers.

This was right at the height of former Rangers general manager Neil Smith’s era of bad moves. Bloated contracts, bad trades, and bad picks, Smith seemed to have done it all and the selection of Brendl just added to the list.

Brendl was an offensive juggernaut during his time with the Calgary Hitmen, scoring 134 and 111 points in his first two seasons there. Smith felt so highly of Brendl and his offeneive talent that he actually traded up to select Brendl, New York traded goalie Dan Cloutier and other picks to the Lightning.

Brendl never played a game with the Rangers as he was traded as part of the deal that sent Eric Lindros to Manhattan.

Brendl only played in 78 career NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, and Phoenix Coyotes. He left the NHL in 2006 after only a two game stint with the Coyotes. Brendl bounced around from Sweden to Russia to Finland during the final years of his career. He last played professional hockey in 2011 with KalPa in the SM-Iliga in Finland.

That wasn’t the only bad selection Neil Smith made in the first round that year. Just five picks later, the Rangers used it on Jamie Lundmark.

Lundmark is the very definition of an NHL journeyman, something that a ninth overall selection should never have to say. He never really caught fire with the Rangers and moved around to the Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames (twice), Los Angeles Kings, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. His best season was in his rookie year where he only scored 19 points.

Lundmark played this last season with EC KAC of the Austrian Hockey League where he seems to be having more success. Last season with EC KAC, Lundmark scored 58 points, the most he has had since his AHL days with the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Tim Connolly (New York Islanders)

(Icon SMI)

(Icon SMI)

Tim Connolly isn’t a bad player, he’s a serviceable veteran that can hold his own out on the ice, but his selection at number five by the Islanders was a bit too high in hindsight.

Connolly only spent two seasons with the Islanders where he put up some respectable numbers, but he was part of a trade that sent Michael Peca to Long Island from Buffalo. Buffalo is where Connolly has spent the majority of his career and only missed three games during his first four seasons in the league.

Connolly then suffered concussion problems. He missed the entire 2003-04 season after suffering a major concussion during the preseason and he has been dealing with nagging injuries ever since. When healthy, Connolly was a decent player, but he was hurt far too often.

He was last seen playing with the Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, during the 2012-2013 AHL season.

Brian Finley (Nashville Predators)

[Related: Finley also makes an appearance on our Top 5 Predators' Busts]

Here is perhaps the biggest goaltending bust in the history of the NHL. The Nashville Predators, still very young at the time, wasted their sixth overall selection on Barrie Colts goalie Brian Finley.

Finley was supposed to be the future of the Nashville Predators and guard the crease in Opryland for years to come. He was anything but that. After Finley was drafted by the Predators, his numbers started to go downhill and fast. After recording 36 wins with the Colts the season before he was drafted, he fell to a 24-12-6 record in 1999-2000 and a combined 12-11-1 record with the Colts and the Brampton Battalion in 2000-2001.

Finley only played two games with Nashville giving up ten goals, including seven in one game, and two games with the Boston Bruins. He never recorded a win in four career NHL games. Finley retired from hockey after his short stint with the Boston Bruins.

Finley is the classic case of cashing in on a breakout season despite having the talent to play at the NHL level.

Kris Beech (Washington Capitals)

Beech, much like the previously selected Jamie Lundmark, turned out to be an NHL journeyman, but with worse results than Lundmark.

After drafting the Calgary Hitmen center at number seven, Beech only spent four games during his first tenure in Washington before being dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals were not happy with the development of Kris Beech and packaged him in a deal to bring defenseman Brendan Witt.

Beech spent time bouncing back and forth between the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Pittsburgh. After a brief stint with the Nashville Predators, Beech returned to the Washington Capitals, but the results were still the same. Although he had a career high 26 points in 2006-2007 with the Caps, his time in Washington was more or less not remembered.

He would find his way onto the rosters of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Vancouver Canucks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second time before leaving the NHL for good in 2008. Since leaving the NHL, Beech has played all throughout Europe and is currently playing in Germany with the Straubing Tigers.

Taylor Pyatt (New York Islanders)

Taylor Pyatt is yet another journeyman that was selected in the top ten of the 1999 draft, a running trend with this class.

Pyatt was the second selection in the top ten by the New York Islanders, but, along with the Islanders’ first selection in Tim Connolly, he was dealt to the Buffalo Sabres for Michael Peca. Pyatt would largely be a disappointment in Buffalo, only topping out at 28 points.

Pyatt would have his best seasons while with the Vancouver Canucks playing alongside his fellow 1999 alumnus, Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Pyatt would score 37 points his first two seasons with the Canucks before falling off the proverbial cliff in 2008-2009 only scoring 19 points in 69 games.

Pyatt still continues to work his way onto rosters with the Phoenix Coyotes, New York Rangers, and most recently with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pyatt played this last season with the Penguins scoring four points (all goals) in 34 games.

Branislav Mezei (New York Islanders)

Again the New York Islanders are on this list and this is perhaps the worst selection of the three the Isles made in the top ten in 1999.

Mezei was selected as the tenth overall pick and was expected to be the future of the blue line on Long Island. Instead, he turned out to be one of the biggest busts in Islanders history.

Mezei was never much of a scorer, he was more of a fighter, racking up 90+ penalty minutes in his last two seasons in juniors. He flamed out of the Islanders after just two seasons and he was traded to the Florida Panthers where he would bounce around from the Panthers to the AHL and being scratched.

After 2008, Mezei left the NHL and played in Europe, playing in Russia, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. Mezei most recently played with Chekhov Vityaz, recording a disappointing eight points in 47 games. In fact, Mezei has not scored over 25 points in a season since his time at Belleville in the OHL.

That’s a pretty weak list for a top ten class, but not every pick was terrible in this draft class. Nick Boynton and Martin Havlat were selected in the late first round and, like I mentioned before, Ryan Miler and Henrik Zetterberg were selected in the fifth and seventh rounds respectively.

That being said, I still believe this to be the worst draft class in the history of the NHL draft.

What do you think of the 1999 Draft class? Comment below or send me a Tweet, @MarkWGraham

 

Mark Wallace Graham

Mark Wallace Graham

Mark Wallace Graham has been a writer for TheHockeyWriters.com since March 2013. Growing up in New England, Boston Bruins hockey was in my blood. Follow me on Twitter, @MarkWGraham
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