I think it's simply amazing what kind of teams can be built out of the drafting process. The Penguins, Hawks, and Capitals have done well by not fucking up with their multiple top five draft picks over the past few years, while other teams such as the Ducks, Flyers and Bruins have hit paydirt with their later-picked prospects.
Some teams, though, are just terrible at drafting. While some of that can be accredited to current team success which leads to later draft picks, most of the time it is a result of scouting incompetence.
Here are five recent instances where I imagine things should have been different:
5. Brian Lee, drafted 9th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2005 entry draft.
Earning this pick through the post-lockout draft lottery, Ottawa would be picking at its highest rank since drafting Jason Spezza 2nd overall in 2001 (thank you, Yashin!). While I know that the kid is still young, and anything is possible, I feel that the Sens passed up an opportunity for a fantastic player. By drafting Lee, they passed up current NHL stars and regulars such as Anze Kopitar, Marc Staal, Martin Hanzal, Andrew Cogliano, Steve Downie (...I keed), Paul Statsny, and James Neal, among others that have enjoyed more success in the NHL than Lee has. Even Patric Hornqvist, the last pick of the draft, has had more success. Currently, Lee is playing for the Baby Sens, for Sens d-men Alex Picard and Matt Carkner had better training camps and are fairing quite well early this season. I feel that time is running out on him to prove his worth as the 9th overall pick.
4. Jordan Staal, drafted 2nd overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2006 entry draft.
I'll start this one by saying that Jordan Staal has developed into a great defensive-forward that puts up a fair amount of points. While he was projected as the #2-ranked North American skater prior to the draft, that was due to Phil Kessel falling out of the #1 rank that he held in the previous winter. Although Brophy would state that Staal's Cup would "trump" Kessel's status as a better forward, having Kessel alongside Crosby or Malkin could have been ridiculous. Pittsburgh also passed up Jonathan Toews (3rd) and Nicklas Backstrom (4th), two centers that have become All-Stars and will only continue to become better. I'll throw Bryan Little and Michael Frolik into that list of better players as well. Tough luck Pittsburgh, have fun trying to win a cup with Crosby, Fleury, and Malkin... oh yeah, nevermind.
3. Petr Tatíček, drafted 9th overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2002 entry draft.
Who? Petr only played three games in the NHL before he made the move to HC Kladno, and then Davos. Surely he carried promise, but was it enough promise to become a top-ten draft pick? Keith Ballard (11), Alex Semin (13), Chris Higgins (14), Cam Ward (25), Duncan Keith (54!), Matt Stajan (57), and Dennis Wideman (241) all disagree. Hell, Florida drafted Gregory Campbell in the third round, so at least they can say that they didn't completely fuck things up.
2. Tie: Alexandr Svitov, drafted 3rd overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2001 entry draft. Stanislav Chistov, drafted 5th overall by the (then) Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the 2001 entry draft.
I have to say that both of these are equally bad, since Stephen Weiss was the only player drafted between the two. Aside from him, players drafted after these two include Mikko Koivu (6), Mike Komisarek (7), Pascal Leclaire (8), Dan Blackburn (10, this one's just a joke, but does anyone else remember him? I had his rookie card and it was supposed to be a huge deal. Oh well), Ales Hemsky (13), Derek Roy (32), Fedor Tyuin (40, bonus points for mentioning Tyutin and a Staal-brother in one blog post), Mike Cammalleri (49), and Patrick Sharp (95). Svitov played 179 NHL games, putting up 37 points, while Chistov faired a tad better, putting up 19 goals and 61 points in 196 games. Tampa can say that Svitov was essential in landing Darryl Sydor, who was a part of Tampa's 2004 Cup Championship team, while Chistov left the Ducks during the lockout, resigned with them in 2006, and was then traded to Boston for a 3rd round pick in the 2008 draft.
1. Hugh Jessiman, drafted 12th overall by the New York Rangers in the 2003 entry draft.
What, the, fuck. In what has become known as one of the deepest drafts in recent history, the Rangers find a way to trip on their own shoelaces. I would give you another list of players that could have made a better impact if drafted, but that would likely include every single player drafted after pick number twelve. Here are the important ones: Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook, Steve Bernier, Zach Parise, Eric Fehr, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, and Corey Perry are some of the first round picks that came after him. Later picks include Loui Eriksson, Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber, Patrick O'Sullivan, David Backes, and All-Star goaltender Jimmy Howard. I think I could have done a better job as the 14-year-old that I was at the time if I were drafted. Currently, we both have the same amount of games played and points in the NHL, and I think the only way that is going to change is if I find a way to become great at hockey. Thank you for giving me some confidence, you hack.
If anyone would like to share their version of biggest draft busts, please litter my comments box as much as you'd like. I tried keeping my examples from within the 21st century, so don't think I forgot about Patrik Stefan or Marcel Hossa.