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.