Top 30 NHL Draft Busts
It’s too early in the season to see if the 2015 draft picks like Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) or Jake Eichel (Buffalo Sabres) will turn out as good or bad selections, but each has a good amount of hype to see what they can do in the NHL.
Maybe McDavid or Eichel will become as great as Wayne Gretsky or Jaromir Jagr, but the players on this list remind us not to get too excited too early.
30. A.J. Thelen – 2004 Minnesota Wild, 12th overall
When you are a hockey franchise that is still within its first five years, drafting the right players is one of the most important tasks of building a playoff contender. Since becoming a new franchise in 2000, the Wild were hoping that they would start drafting their future leaders in the 2004 NHL Draft – starting with A.J. Thelen.
In the season before the draft, Thelen scored 11 goals and 18 assists in a 42-game season with Michigan State University and played his senior season with the Spartans in 2004-05 (33 games, 11 assists). Shortly after, he played for the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League in the 2005-06 season where he played 72 games and had 13 goals and 23 assists.
These numbers were not good enough for the Wild to sign Thelen to a contract, so he would make a move to the East Coast Hockey League by signing with the Texas Wildcatters in the 2007-08 season, finishing with just seven goals in 63 games. During a two season run with the Florida Everblades, he had only 11 goals in 82 games.
Thelen would make nine appearances with the Rochester Americans for the 2000-10 season, but only played nine games before playing a season with the Kalamazoo Wings in the ECHL for the 2010-11 season – another mediocre season with only six goals over 65 games. That was the last professional season for Thelen.
Keep in mind only two players from the first round of the 2004 draft didn’t at least make an appearance in the NHL – the other was Andy Rogers, who was taken 30th by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The next person who had the third least amount of NHL experience was Mike Green with 575 total games between the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings.
29. Nikita Filatov – 2008 Columbus Blue Jackets, 6th overall
Filatov was one of those examples of a young 18-year-old prospect that showed a lot of potential with a good amount of actual talent. His first year with the Syracuse Crunch, Columbus’ affiliate in the American Hockey League, showed him scoring a total of 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in his 39 games in the 2008-09 season – which also saw him score four goals in eight NHL games with the Blue Jackets.
He was also averaging about a point per game during the next season in Russia’s KHL, so there was a lot of hope when he returned to the Blue Jackets. But he went without any goals in the 2010-11 season where he appeared in 23 games. The team traded him to the Ottawa Senators that next season, where he only made nine appearances before he found himself back in the KHL, where he has played since with various clubs. Unfortunately, the talent that many NHL scouts saw when he was 18 and 19 never materialized when he made it to the big stage.
What is frustrating for the Blue Jackets is that the four players that were selected after Filatov – Colin Wilson (Nashville Predators), Mikkel Boedker (Phoenix Coyotes), Josh Bailey (New York Islanders) and Cody Hodgson (Vancouver Canucks) – all have played more than 200 games in the NHL.
28. Patrick Stefan – 1999 Atlanta Thrashers, 1st overall
There was not a large amount of talent in the 1999 draft pool, except the two Sedin brothers who went second and third to the Vancouver Canucks – which has proven to be a dynamic duo in their own right. But the first player selected was Stefan, who the Thrashers were hoping would be better than the Sedins.
After a few seasons with the Long Beach Ice Dogs of the International Hockey League, Stefan would spend five season with Atlanta, where he would have mediocre success with a total of 49 goals over 350 NHL appearances. After that, he was traded to the Dallas Stars where Stefan would have his notorious moment that led to the end of his NHL career.
On January 4, 2007, Stefan had a breakaway attempt on an empty net against the Edmonton Oilers in a game the team was winning 5-4. However, he would end up falling on the breakaway, which led to Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky to score in the final seconds of regulation. While Dallas won, the Stars didn’t renew Stefan’s contract.
He would sign a contract with a club in a Czech league before being forced to retire due to a severe hip injury and other issues that bothered him throughout the season.