The NHL draft is a time of optimism, where teams can alter the fate of their franchise in one weekend.
In reality, however, most teams will be happy if they draft a few guys who one day turn into NHL players. The worst case scenario, besides landing the next Alexandre Daigle Nail Yakupov, is walking away empty handed.
It’s happened many times before and it will happen again, but until it does here’s a look back at some of the worst draft classes ever by an individual team.
A few caveats, first:
Only drafts from 1979 (four-team expansion) to 2010 were included.
Only teams with first-round picks were considered, as the probability of landing an NHL player drops significantly without one.
To keep things consistent, the primary factor used to weigh a team’s draft was total NHL games logged by the draftees.
Edmonton Oilers, 1990
No team has struck out worse than the Edmonton Oilers did in the 1990 draft.
They had 11 picks in total, including one each in the first 10 rounds, and didn’t hit on a single one.
What makes this draft particularly painful in hindsight is how this could have turned out to be one of the team’s best drafts ever.
They started by taking winger Scott Allison 17th overall. Two of the next three players off the board were Keith Tkachuk (19th) and Martin Brodeur (20th).
Their bad fortune didn’t end there.
Craig Conroy was taken one pick after the Oilers’ selection in the sixth round, while Mikael Renberg went two spots after Edmonton’s second-round pick. Not franchise-changing losses, but it adds up.
The one that got away: Martin Brodeur, 20th overall
Vancouver Canucks, 2007
Going o-fer in the NHL draft is exceptionally rare, especially when you have a first-round pick.
Besides the aforementioned Oilers, the Canucks are the only other team in the Entry Draft era to whiff on all their selections.
The Canucks had six picks in the 2007 draft, including 25th (Patrick White) and 33rd (Taylor Ellington) overall, but none would lace up the skates for a single game at the highest level.
The one that got away: David Perron, 26th overall
Toronto Maple Leafs, 1999
Despite their recent decade-long dysfunction the Maple Leafs weren’t all that bad at drafting — they were just really bad at asset management.
The one notable exception was 1999.
Toronto missed on all but one of its nine picks in the draft, including Luca Cereda at No. 24 overall. Pierre Hedin, taken in the eighth round, was the only player drafted by the Leafs that year to ever see NHL action and he played a total of three career games.
The one that got away: Martin Havlat, 26th overall
Calgary Flames, 2006
What is it about Canadian teams and bad drafts?
With only one pick in the first two rounds, the Calgary Flames swung for the fences and scooped up goaltender Leland Irving at No. 26 overall.
The Alberta native would play 13 career games with the Flames before packing up and heading overseas.
That is the high-water mark for Calgary’s 2006 draft class, as the seven other players taken never even reached the NHL. In fairness to the Flames, there weren’t too many obvious misses in the spots they drafted.
What makes this even worse is the Flames drafted nearly as poorly the year prior. Sixth-round pick Brett Sutter, he of 60 career games, emerged as the most accomplished of Calgary’s eight picks.
The one that got away: Nick Foligno, 28th overall
Los Angeles Kings, 1985
The Kings got only 91 combined games from the 10 players they selected in the 1985 draft, but that’s not the worst part.
What makes this particular draft class stand out among the worst is that L.A. had two picks in the top-10 and botched them both.
Craig Duncanson played only 38 career games after getting taken ninth, while 10th overall pick Dan Gratton only got into seven games.
Fortunately for the Kings, this didn’t come back to haunt them too much as Dave Manson, Derek King and Calle Johansson were the only other notable names taken after them in the first round.
The one that got away: Dave Manson, 11th overall
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