Who’s The Biggest NHL Draft Bust In The History Of The League?

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Hockey is one of a number of sports where the acquisition of a single player can immediately and resoundingly alter the trajectory of the team that obtains them.

As a result, the stakes can be pretty high when it comes to the NHL Draft.

The NHL Draft has spawned plenty of stars since it was first held back in 1963.

While only eight men who were selected with the first overall pick have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame over the past 60 years, generational stars including Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Connor McDavid are all but locks to follow in their footsteps.

Based on the insane amount of hype that’s surrounding Connor Bedard ahead of the 2023 NHL Draft, plenty of hockey fans have already convinced themselves that the presumptive No. 1 pick will also be enshrined in Toronto when everything is said and done based on how he was able to dominate the competition while playing in the WHL and for Canada’s junior national team. 

Of course, only time will tell if that ends up being the case.

Based on the evidence at hand, it seems very hard to believe Bedard won’t become a superstar after he makes the leap to the NHL.

However, history has repeatedly shown anything can happen once a prospect arrives at hockey’s highest level—including a few people who’ve really failed to live up to the lofty expectations surrounding them.

Who’s the biggest bust in the history of the NHL Draft?

Results of the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft

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The most notable NHL Draft bust in recent memory is probably Nail Yakupov, who was scooped up by the Oilers with the top pick in 2012.

The Russian winger was one of the four men Edmonton earned the right to draft with the top overall pick in a six-year span and the only member of a quartet also comprised of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and McDavid who failed to achieve any major success at the NHL level (he’s been playing in the KHL since 2018).

Yakupov is one of a handful of players who will likely only end up being remembered by hockey fans due to their failure to perform at the level they were expected to. However, it’s also hard to argue he was really hyped up in the lead-up to the NHL Draft as much as some other players who ended up embarking on a fairly underwhelming career.

In some cases, that disappointment is magnified by a guy who was picked before someone who ended up becoming a hockey legend.

For example, Brian Lawton didn’t exactly dazzle after he was selected by the Minnesota North Stars with the top overall pick in 1983.

When everything was said and done, Lawton only posted 266 points in an NHL career that spanned 483 games, which pales in comparison to the numbers Pat LaFontaine (selected third by the Islanders) and Steve Yzerman (fourth by the Red Wings) put up over the course of their Hall of Fame careers.

You could make the argument Lawton deserves the dubious title of Biggest NHL Bust Ever, but it’s hard to talk about this particular topic without discussing Alexandre Daigle, who was the top overall pick in the 1993 NHL Draft where he became a member of the Senators.

Nothing illustrates how Daigle was viewed ahead of the draft quite like the rumored trade that would’ve seen the Quebec Nordiques send a group of players including Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg to Ottawa in exchange for the right to acquire the highly-touted prospect.

The Nordiques (who moved to Colorado and rebranded as the Avalanche two years later) are probably glad the Senators turned them down, as both Sakic and Forsberg played instrumental roles in the Stanley Cup championships the franchise secured in 1996 and 2001.

Daigle, on the other hand, put up a grand total of 327 points in a  616-game career where he played for five different NHL teams, which makes him another top candidate for the biggest draft bust in NHL history.