5 Former First Overall NHL Draft Picks That Didn't Pan Out

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With the NHL draft set to go down from Montreal tonight, it’s time to look back on some of the biggest misses at the top of the draft. Multiple former first overall picks that didn’t pan out and never played an NHL game. But today we’ll focus on players that came close but just didn’t live up to the expectations. 

Below you can find five of the biggest busts in NHL draft history that were selected first overall, something the Montreal Canadiens will look to avoid when they make the first selection on Thursday evening. 

Rick DiPietro (New York Islanders) 2000

Not only did Rick DiPietro’s career not go as planned, he also signed one of the worst contracts in NHL history, which the New York Islanders will be paying off until 2029 after a buyout. That in itself is absurd, but so was signing a relatively unproven goalie to a 15-year extension.

It’s not like he didn’t get his crack at things either, the Islanders goalie played in 318 NHL games for the club, it just didn’t work and the team is still feeling the strain of that over twenty years later. 

Nail Yakupov (Edmonton Oilers) 2012

Nail Yakupov was the third first overall pick in a row for the Edmonton Oilers, and it’s the one of the three they’d love to have back if they had the chance. This was a terrible era of Oilers hockey, especially for a franchise that’s been part of some of the best teams in NHL history.

Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the two players selected first overall in the prior seasons are still in the league and having plenty of success. The same can’t be said for Yakupov, who played in just 350 career NHL games and never found consistency throughout his time in the league. He was not the consensus No. 1 pick, but the Oilers had been looking for a goaltender for a long time.

Andrei Vasilevskiy was selected in the back half of the first round in 2012, which would have solidified their net for years to come. Hindsight is 20/20, but the selection of Yakupov was clearly a miss for Edmonton. 

Alexandre Daigle (Ottawa Senators) 1993 

There are some draft classes where there is no clear number one pick. That wasn’t the case in 1993 when Alexandre Daigle was the clear-cut first overall pick. Daigle put up massive numbers in the QMJHL for the Victoriaville Tigres and there was an expectation that he would be one of the next great NHL stars.

Daigle put together a nice rookie campaign as he tallied 51 points, but he never surpassed that total for the duration of his 12-year NHL career. There was never a question about the player’s skill set, but many questioned his effort on a game-to-game basis. There’s no doubt this is a disappointing reminder for Ottawa Senators fans, as the franchise in their third year of existence desperately needed this draft pick to hit. 

Doug Wickenheiser (Montreal Canadiens) 1980

The Montreal Canadiens were hosting the 1980 entry draft from the famous Montreal Forum, and there was an expectation heading into the draft that they might have had their eyes on Quebec native Denis Savard. That wasn’t the case, and the Habs selected Doug Wickenheiser first overall, which didn’t go over well with the French population.

It’s not like Wickenheiser didn’t have the pedigree. He put up monster numbers in his junior hockey career with the Regina Pats and was named player of the year in Canadian junior hockey. The center recorded 115 points in 202 games for Montreal, which are good numbers at the surface, before being dealt to the St. Louis Blues.

Meanwhile, Savard went on to have an illustrious career, a Hall of Fame career, which included 473 career goals. The player was in the Habs’ backyard, and they missed, which still hurts to this day for Montreal fans. 

Greg Joly (Washington Capitals) 1974

There was a lot to like about Greg Joly after a dynamic season in 1973 with the Regina Pats, precisely the fact he led his club to the Memorial Cup and won the championship, where he was named the MVP of the tournament. Whenever you set significant expectations for a high draft pick, the spotlight shines even brighter, which transpired when Washington Capitals general manager Milt Schmidt labeled this player as the next Bobby Orr.

Those are completely unrealistic expectations, to begin with, and it was the start of what was a very mediocre NHL career for Greg Joly, which saw him play just 365 games and finish with a -165 rating. Unfortunately for Joly, this wasn’t on the golf course, and the expansion Capitals certainly would have liked a redo if they had the chance with this selection. 

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