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10 biggest busts in the history of the NHL Draft

Home » NHL » Biggest NHL draft busts: Worst NHL draft picks of all time

There is a long list of players who despite being drafted high, never worked out in the league, and are regarded as one of the biggest NHL draft busts.

These are the players with loads of potential and talent but were unable to put it all together in the best league in the world.

Biggest NHL draft busts

The first NHL draft took place in 1963. Back then, the rules were different, as only amateur players 17 years of age or older were able to be selected, just as long as an NHL team did not already sponsor them. It wasn’t until 1979 that the Amateur Draft was changed to the Entry Draft, which it is still called today.

Since the rules were different and there was a lot of speculation regarding players during the Amateur Draft era, only players selected after the 1979 draft are included on this list of worst NHL draft busts.

10. Nikita Filatov

Nikita Filatov was selected 6th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2008 NHL Draft.


Filatov showed some good potential during the 2008 IIHF World Junior Championships, where he collected nine points in seven games for Russia. Once he was drafted later that year, Filatov spent most of his first season with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL.

He would score just 13 points in 44 games with the Blue Jackets across three seasons. Filatov would get one last NHL look, playing nine games in 2011 for the Ottawa Senators. He would register a point in his first game with the team, but that would end up being his last NHL point, moving on to the KHL where he would finish the season and spend the rest of his career.

9. Alexandre Volchkov

A 4th overall selection in 1996 by the Washington Capitals, Alexandre Volchkov only played three games in the NHL.

Volchkov spent parts of three seasons with the AHL’s Portland Pirates and part of one season with the IHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones before getting a shot to play with the Capitals in 1999. His time with the big club only lasted three games, as he finished his NHL career with one shot on goal. He would go on to play the rest of the season for the Pirates and the Hamilton Bulldogs in the AHL.

After finishing off the 1999-2000 season in North America, Volchkov decided to return to Russia to finish his hockey career.


8. Scott Scissons

The New York Islanders selected Scott Scissons 6th overall in the 1990 NHL Draft.

Scissons was an elite player for the Saskatoon Blades in the WHL, scoring over 85 points in back-to-back seasons for the team before getting drafted. Unfortunately, injuries derailed his career as he went on to play just three games in the league. His final game came with the Islanders in 1993.

In that 1990 draft, Scissons was selected before NHL stars Keith Tkachuk, Martin Brodeur, Doug Weight, and Peter Bondra, making him one of the worst NHL draft picks of all time.

7. Nail Yakupov

Nail Yakupov did stay in the NHL for quite a few years but was considered a big disappointment after being selected 1st overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2012.

Yakupov was outstanding in his first season in the OHL, collecting 101 points in just 65 games. He would follow it up with 69 points in 42 games the following year. It wasn’t until he got to the NHL that it became clear that he was not who the Oilers had hoped he’d be.

Yakupov would last just three and a half seasons with Edmonton before the team traded him to the St. Louis Blues. His NHL career would last two more seasons before heading to the KHL. Yakupov finished with 136 points in 350 NHL games and was a career -89.

6. Pavel Brendl

A member of arguably the least successful draft class in NHL history, Pavel Brendl was taken 4th overall by the New York Rangers in 1999.

He had plenty of talent, which he showcased in the WHL, but he was unable to bring that level to the NHL game. Despite being drafted by the Rangers, he would never play a game for the team and instead made his NHL debut with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Brendl collected 13 points in 50 games for the Flyers before being traded to the Hurricanes. After 26 games for Carolina, he was traded one last time and finished his short NHL career with the Phoenix Coyotes.

5. Patrik Stefan

Pavel Brendl wasn’t the biggest NHL draft bust from 1999, as that honor goes to Patrik Stefan. Stefan was drafted 1st overall that year by the Atlanta Thrashers.

Atlanta had high hopes for Stefan, but he was unable to gain any traction in the top league. His career high in a season was just 40 points as he never had more than 14 goals in a season.

After spending six years with the Thrashers, he was traded to the Dallas Stars where his NHL career would end after 41 games with the team.

4. Gord Kluzak

Gord Kluzak was drafted 1st overall by the Boston Bruins in the 1982 NHL Draft.

He did start off his career pretty well before injuries put an end to it. Kluzak’s best season came in 1987-1988 when he played all 23 playoff games as the Bruins fell four games short of a Stanley Cup trophy.

Unfortunately, that would be his last full season in the NHL, as knee problems put an end to his career in 1990 after just 13 more games. He finished with 123 points in 299 games in the league.

3. Rick DiPietro

One of the worst NHL draft picks of all time, Rick DiPietro ended up costing the New York Islanders a lot of money.

DiPietro was drafted 1st overall in 2000 by the Islanders. The goaltender had a few good seasons and New York decided to reward him with a massive 15-year $67,500,000 deal.

DiPietro would have a couple more strong seasons after signing the contract, but then everything fell apart. After 2008, DiPietro would play just 50 more games as his career ended in 2013. The Islanders are still paying him $1.5 million a year, making it one of the worst NHL contracts ever.

2. Brian Lawton

Brian Lawton was the 1st overall selection in 1983 by the Minnesota North Stars.

Lawton spent a total of nine seasons in the NHL but was unable to produce at the level that a number one overall pick is expected to. He never surpassed 45 points in a season and had multiple seasons where he had fewer than 15 goals.

Lawton would jump around from team to team for the last half of his career before his eventual retirement in 1993.

1. Alexandre Daigle

Of the biggest NHL draft busts in history, Alexandre Daigle is the one to top the list. Daigle was selected 1st overall in the 1993 NHL Draft by the Ottawa Senators.

It was the hype around Daigle that makes him the biggest draft bust. He was so highly coveted that the Quebec Nordiques offered NHL greats and draft picks to get the opportunity to draft Daigle. It could have ended up being one of the worst NHL trades ever, but the Senators were persistent in drafting Daigle and rejected any offers made.

Daigle would play just four and a half seasons for the Senators before he was traded to Philadelphia. Daigle would end up playing 10 seasons in the NHL with six different teams before leaving the NHL at the age of 30. Although he was labeled as a can’t-miss prospect, Daigle is most remembered for being the NHL’s biggest draft disappointment, finishing his career with 327 points in 616 games.

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