The 2006 NHL Entry Draft gave the league many of their current-day stars. Players like Phil Kessel, Claude Giroux, Brad Marchand, Jonathan Toews, and more came from this one draft, giving the league talent to draw from for seasons to come.
But, as with all drafts, there was a fair share of players who only ever saw a glimpse of the NHL during their careers. Players that experienced a certain amount of hype behind them at one point of their career, only to fall behind their peers. Whether it be from an inability to transfer their skills from juniors or an unfortunate injury, these five went from promising draft picks to out of the NHL before they hit 27 years old.
Peter Mueller: Arizona Coyotes, 8th Overall
Hype for Mueller was strong going into the 2006 draft, particularly due to his perceived offensive ability while still having a strong defensive side. During the season in which he was drafted, Mueller posted 58 points in 52 games with the Everett Silvertips.
During his rookie season in 2007-08 with Arizona, Mueller performed above expectations with 22 goals and 54 points in 81 games. His sophomore year included a dip in production, with only 36 points, but significantly reduced minutes caused Mueller to put in a trade request during the 2009-10 season. The Coyotes traded the forward to the Avalanche, where he recorded 20 points in 15 games before suffering a concussion at the hands of Rob Blake late in the season.
Just after recovering from his first concussion, Mueller was again concussed in the preseason, causing him to miss out on the entire 2010-11 season and most of the 2011-12 season. He signed a one-year deal with the Panthers for the 2013 season, but failed to impress with only 17 points in 43 games.
Mueller then spent two seasons in the Swiss-A league and one in Sweden before attempting an NHL comeback by signing a professional tryout with the Boston Bruins. Although he didn’t make the NHL, he did manage to get a deal done with the Providence Bruins of the AHL, where he spent the 2016-17 season. In 2017-18, Mueller had a dominating season in the Austrian league, posting 42 points in 38 games, before moving on to Brno Kometa of the Czech League, where he’s playing now.
James Sheppard: Minnesota Wild, 9th Overall
A former first overall selection in the QMJHL draft, Sheppard is a classic example of a player that used his size to dominate at the junior level, but could not translate his play into success in the NHL. It is not a surprise that he was taken by the Wild in the top ten after scoring 84 points in 66 games during his draft season, and Minnesota certainly did not expect a bust after he followed that season up with 96 points in 56 games.
However, Sheppard was never able to capture the offense he had in juniors. In his sophomore year, he began to show his ability by putting up 24 points, but his ice time was decreased significantly in 2009-10 after a bad start to the season. What definitely did not help Sheppard develop was a fractured patella injury, suffered from an offseason ATV accident while on a guided tour in Colorado. He was suspended by the team and missed two full NHL seasons, being traded to the Sharks in the midst of his recovery.
During his time with the Sharks, he had one memorable playoff run where he collected six points in seven games during the 2014 playoffs but was moved to the Rangers at the following trade deadline. After failing to get an NHL contract out of preseason in 2015, Sheppard signed with Kloten HC of the Swiss League where he stayed for two seasons. In 2017-18 he joined the Berlin Polar Bears of the DEL in Germany and remains there this season.
Bobby Sanguinetti: New York Rangers, 21st Overall
Projected as the second-best defenseman of the 2006 draft by many, Sanguinetti would actually go later in the first round as the fourth blueliner. However, of the nine defenders taken in the first round, only Erik Johnson, selected first overall by the Blues, would go on to play more than Sanguinetti’s 45 career games in the NHL.
As an offensive defenseman in the OHL, Sanguinetti stockpiled points, including a 29-goal season in his fourth year, but struggled showing that ability in the major leagues. Although he consistently put up points in the AHL, at a tune to half a point per game, he rarely got a shot in the NHL. The Rangers only gave him five games in 2009 before trading him to the Hurricanes, even after setting the record for the fastest skater at the AHL all-star game.
Unfortunately, his first season with the Hurricanes saw him miss most of the year to a hip surgery, delaying a call-up until late 2012. He would earn a full-time roster spot with the Hurricanes in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, scoring his only two NHL goals. He then signed in the KHL, made a brief two-season AHL comeback, and then signed with the Swiss-A league where he remains for this upcoming season.
Luckily for Sanguinetti, his impressive skating ability adds to his skill on international ice as he put up 57 points in 84 games with the Swiss league, capturing the attention of USA Hockey. He was named to the 2018 Olympic roster, where he logged the third-most ice time on the team throughout the tournament. He came back to the Charlotte Checkers for 28 regular-season games, and 10 playoff games during the Checkers Calder Cup-winning 2018-19 season. For the 2019-20 season, he is back in Europe playing for Muich EHC in the German DEL league.
Leland Irving: Calgary Flames, 26th Overall
Irving was the fourth goalie taken in the first round in 2006, something that hasn’t been done in a draft since. He had a fantastic draft year with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL, leading the league in games played with 67 and posting a .938 save percentage through 12 playoff games.
In the AHL, Irving had a tendency to have bad streaks, causing him to go four seasons before earning his first NHL time in December of 2011. Heading into the 2012-13 season he was slated to be the team’s option at backup, but the lockout forced him back into the minors. When the season started up, Irving faltered with a .833 save percentage through six games and was sent back down to the AHL. That would end up being his last shot in the NHL.
Instead of continuing in the AHL, Irving left for Europe in the summer of 2013, landing in the Finnish SM-liiga before bouncing around the world to the KHL, back to the AHL, and then back to SM-liiga. Last season, Irving signed with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL, who then traded the goaltender before he played a single game to the San Diego Gulls, where he only saw six games in the net. Seemingly done with North American leagues, Irving inked a deal with Bolzano HC in the Austrian league EBEL in 2018-19.
Blake Geoffrion: Nashville Predators, 56th Overall
A great story in hockey when he was drafted, Geoffrion was the first fourth-generation player in NHL history, being the descendant of Hall of Famers Howie Morenz and Bernie “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion. Not only that, but Blake grew up with his family in Nashville, becoming the first player raised in Tennessee drafted into the NHL. The Predators drafted Blake before he made his college debut, but he stayed all four seasons with the University of Wisconsin Badgers, winning the Hobey Baker Award during his senior year.
Geoffrion debuted in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals in 2010-11 and had a fantastic rookie season with 37 points in 45 games. He was called up to the Predators in late February of the same season and tallied his first goal as well as his first hattrick in the final 20 games of the season. He started the 2011-12 season with the Predators before finding himself back in the AHL before December’s end.
In a classic feel-good hockey story, Geoffrion was traded to the Canadiens where his dad, grandfather, and great-grandfather all played during their careers. However, the move proved dark when Geoffrion was given a depressed skull fracture on a hip check while he was with the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate early on in the 2012-13 season. The fracture would ultimately lead to Geoffrion retiring at 25, although he would immediately take a job as a scout with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Honorable Mentions: Andreas Nodl, Jamie McBain, Theo Peckham