Have you wondered what would have happened if your hockey team’s scouting staff had pick another player instead of the player they drafted in the first round of an NHL Entry Draft? Usually, each NHL team has a knowledgeable scouting staff whose purpose is to analyse every draft-eligible prospect and compile a list of the best players available in a particular draft.
Sometimes your team will pick the best player available regardless of his position, while other times your team will try to fill a specific need by drafting a player playing a particular position. Still, even if a player is viewed by draft experts as a “no-miss”, there are no guarantees that the player your organization selects will ever play in the NHL.
The following list includes the worst player drafted in each of the past 10 years (2001-2010). The list ends with the 2010 draft, as the prospects in the past two NHL entry drafts are still developing and have not reached their full potential yet.
2001 – Igor Knyazev, D – Moscow Spartak
The Carolina Hurricanes drafted the stay-at-home defenseman with the 15th pick of the 2001 draft thinking they would have a future top-4 rearguard. Knyazev played two seasons in the AHL, but never played a single NHL game. Prior to the 2003 draft, the Hurricanes traded him with David Tanabe to the Phoenix Coyotes for Daniil Markov and a conditional 4th round selection in 2004.
Honourable mention: Jens Karlsson drafted 18th overall by the Los Angeles Kings
2002 – Petr Taticek, C – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Coming off a 63-point season in 60 games with the Greyhounds during his draft year, Taticek was seen as top-prospect by the Florida Panthers, who would picked him with the 9th overall pick. The lanky Czech never turned out to be the much of a good hockey player, dressing for only three NHL games. Taticek has been playing with Davos of the Swiss-A league since the 2006-07 season. Thanks to the lockout, Taticek gets to play with Joe Thornton and Rick Nash!
Honourable mention: Jesse Niinimaki drafted 15th overall by the Edmonton Oilers
2003 – Hugh Jessiman, C – Dartmouth College
Nicknamed “Huge Specimen” for good reason, the 6’6”, 230-lb pivot was drafted 12th overall by the New York Rangers who hoped Jessiman would become their first-line center for years to come. Instead, they drafted one of the biggest busts in the past 25 years in a very deep NHL Entry Draft that included star forwards Dustin Brown, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry and Loui Eriksson, who were all drafted after Jessiman that year. Jessiman, who played only two games in the NHL with the Panthers in 2010-11, is currently playing with the Binghamton Senators of the AHL where he has recorded only three goals in 16 games.
Honourable mention: Shawn Belle drafted 30th overall by the St. Louis Blues
2004 – A.J. Thelen, D – Michigan State University
The offensive-minded defenseman from Minnesota was drafted 12th overall by the Minnesota Wild. After playing two seasons in the WHL with Prince Albert and Vancouver, Thelen found himself in the ECHL in 2007-08. Thelen has never played in the NHL, and even worse, he has only played ten AHL games since being drafted. Tidbit: A.J. stands for Anthony James.
Honourable mention: Lauri Tukonen drafted 11th overall by the Los Angeles Kings
2005 – Marek Zagrapan, C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens & Sasha Pokulok, D – Cornell University
The offensive-minded Slovak was very productive with Chicoutimi of the QMJHL before being drafted 13th overall by the Buffalo Sabres, recording 82 and 87 points in 2004-05 and 2005-06, respectively. Zagrapan went on to play 227 games in the AHL with the Sabres’ affiliate without ever being called-up by his NHL team. Zagarapan is currently playing in Czech Republic.
With the next pick, the Washington Capitals drafted 14th overall defensive defenseman Sasha Pokulok. Pokulok had all the tools to become a star defender in the NHL until major injuries derailed his career. Concussions became a big problem as Pokulok was limited to 17, 49, and 31 games in the three years of his entry-level contract with the Capitals. He was later released by the organization who drafted him. Tidbit: his full name is Alexandre Grenier Pokulok and he is a native of Vaudreuil-Dorion, near Montreal.
Honourable mention: Alex Bourret drafted 16th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers
2006 – Riku Helenius, G – Ilves Tampere
Coming off a very good international year during which he led the 2006 Finnish team to a silver medal in the World Junior Championships, Helenius’ draft stock rose very quickly in 2006. As a result, the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted Helenius with the 15th overall selection thinking he would become the goalie of the future. Unfortunately for the Bolt, Helenius has only played seven minutes in the NHL in 2008-09. He is currently playing with their AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, this season.
Honourable mention: David Fischer drafted 20th overall by the Montreal Canadiens
2007 – Thomas Hickey, D – Seattle Thunderbirds
The Los Angeles Kings surprised everyone when they drafted Thomas Hickey fourth overall in 2007. Pegged to be a mid-to-late first round pick, Hickey turned into a bust over the years, having yet to play in the NHL. After a successful career, Hickey has played for the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL for the past few seasons, never recording more than 26 points in a single campaign.
Honourable mention: Zach Hamill drafted 8th overall by the Boston Bruins
2008 – Kyle Beach, LW – Everett Silvertips
The Chicago Blackhawks drafted Kyle Beach with the 11th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft thinking they were selecting a future power forward blessed with a fine combination of size and scoring. Instead, the Hawks ended up with a hot-headed prospect who never managed to turn into the promising player he was expected to become. Beach is currently playing for Chiacgo’s AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, where he currently has 8 points in 16 games this season.
Honourable mention: Chet Pickard drafted 20th overall by the Nashville Predators
2009 – Scott Glennie, C – Brandon Wheat Kings
An offensive dynamo in the WHL where he recorded 308 points in 252 games, Glennie was selected 8th overall by the Dallas Stars in 2008, three ranks behind his junior teammate Brayden Schenn. Contrary to Schenn, Glennie has yet to show his multiple talents at the higher level, playing only one game in the NHL with Dallas last season. He is currently playing with the Stars’ AHL affiliate in Texas where he has a mere 3 points in 8 games this year.
Honourable mention: Calvin de Haan drafted 12th overall by the New York Islanders
2010 – Dylan McIlrath, D – Moose Jaw Warriors
The New York Rangers drafted Dylan McIlrath with the 9th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. The stay-at-home defenseman was slated to make the transition to the AHL with the Connecticut Whale this season after playing four seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL. However, McIlrath, who underwent a major knee surgery in July, has yet to play a single this season as he is still rehabbing his knee and has yet to resume playing.
The fact that the first eight players drafted before McIlrath in 2010 have played already at least 60 games in the NHL (except for Mikael Granlund who is tearing it up in the AHL this season with 12 points in only 8 games), makes this selection a disappointment for the Rangers’ organization.
*Please note that 18 players from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft have yet to play in the NHL.