With the NHL doing a "Dream Draft" all throughout June, which, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the draft, they look at the best selection from each position of the modern first round. The modern first round thing I didn't completely agree with, since 2000 was the first year all 30 picks existed in the first round. However, it did get me thinking...what about the absolute worst drafts? Though most kids drafted in the first round have a great chance to make the NHL, there are always a handful of busts every year. Some players go in with huge hype, like Alex Daigle, but just never ban out. Others have scouts scratching their heads wondering, "what the heck?" Nevertheless, there's been a lot of bad picks in the first round over the years. And I'm gonna find the worst ones.
(Yea, this isn't what I usually write here on my blog, but it's my blog, and I like hockey, so there)
#30- Andy Rogers, Tampa Bay, D (2004)
This pick shows how far the NHL has come when scouting players since the (first) lockout. Rogers played on a very strong Calgary Hitmen team, which included the likes of Andrew Ladd, Ryan Getzlaf and Jeff Shultz. They were a hard hitting, big scoring team, and yet, Rogers ended his draft year with a very average 4 points and 89 PMs in 64 games. So he wasn't drafted for his offensive skills. Or his physicality. Why was he picked, then?
3 words: He was big.
Listed at 6'5" and 225 lbs (though probably lighter when he was picked- these are recent specs), scouts were high on him in 2004 because it's apparently rare to find someone with size and skating ability, which Rogers had plenty of. They saw a lot of potential, even though it hadn't really revealed itself in junior. But to play in the NHL, you had to be big, so the bigger the better, right?
Apparently not, unless your name is Zdeno. 2004 became the last time Rogers was a positive in plus/minus, and the closest he got to the NHL was in 2005, after the lockout, when he made 2 cuts in training camp before being sent back to Prince George. Then-coach Tortorella was impressed with the big defenseman, but didn't want to place a 19 year old in the lineup so quickly.
Rogers never got the chance again. He debuted in the AHL in 2006/07 with Springfield, and put up more unimpressive stats until he was traded in 2009 with Olaf Kolzig, Jamie Heward and another pick to Toronto for a guy named Richard Petiot. I looked up his stats and they're similar to Rogers, if not a bit better. That's a lot of players for another unproven defenseman...oh, wait, what's his size? Hmm, 6'4" and 210 lbs? Interesting.
To be fair, Petiot did increase his production with his new team, cracked the roster in 2009, and continues to play and get chances. The same can not be said of Rogers, who, after being released by the Marlies (Toronto's AHL affiliate), he just kinda stopped playing.
Of the 2004 first round, Rogers is one of 2 players who never played in the NHL. In 2005, Tampa had another chance to net their defenseman of the future, since it was a very deep draft. With the 30th overall pick, they drafted Vlad Mihalik, who ended up playing 15 games and getting 3 assists. How did they go wrong again? Well, Mihalik was 6'7" and 240 lbs. You do the math.
Interesting fact: all the worst picks I considered were from the WHL. Sad.
#29- Daultan Leveille, Atlanta, C (2008)
Believe it or not, I remember watching this draft. Yes, I am a nerd. The commentator said that Leveille was one of the fastest prospects in the draft. However, the pick was a risk to begin with. Atlanta had the third overall, which they took Zack Bogosian. Leveille was ranked 48 by the ISS and had a over a point per game (56 in 45) with his team. A Junior B team, mind you.
I'd imagine the same comparisons were drawn to Leveille as were made of Mark Jankowski last year. Sure, he's productive, but he hasn't faced tough competition against men. What can he do against bigger players?
Leveille went to Michigan State after being drafted and played the whole year as a freshman, which I'm told is impressive. He continued to improve, though in 2011 he was dealing with the death of his brother and his production dropped off a bit. Yet he still put up 18 points over 35 games, which is pretty good for college.
Then things started going south. He faced a significant injury in his senior year, limiting him to 21 games and 9 points. The Thrashers decided not to tender a qualifying offer, and he became a free agent. Montreal picked him up and he made his AHL debut with Hamilton this year after playing in the ECHL, where he wasn't spectacular. However, he only lasted 19 games before being sent down again to the East Coast, where he ended this year.
Hockey's future still considers Leveille a prospect, even though he's more on the bust side of things. He's still trying to crack an NHL lineup and actually getting a tiny bit closer every year. The reason I consider him the worst was that he still hasn't played an NHL game. The two other worst 29th overall picks were goalies (Toivonen for Boston in 2002 and Munro for Chicago in 2001) that have bounced all around the minors and NHL. Goalies are notorious for being unpredictable in their development and known for taking forever to even be ready. For this reason, very few first round picks are wasted on these players. When they are, teams are usually ecstatic over them (Fleury, Bordeur). According to one source, Bruins fans thought they had found their goalie of the future in 2005...for about 5 weeks. Then Toivonen injured his ankle and was never the same. Munro also had flashes of brilliance and was pegged as "the goalie of the future" as well, though he never could stick with the big league. Chicago didn't really have much confidence in him, though, as he was never given a qualifying offer and was only signed when their starter, Thibeault went down with an injury. Both goalies now play in Europe and look as though they ain't coming back.