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Biggest draft busts since 1990

12/27/2011
While he has time to turn it around, Kyle Turris has fallen far short of expectations. Dave Sandford/Getty Images

It doesn't take long before analysts begin throwing the B-word around: bust. Take the recently traded Kyle Turris, for example. He was drafted in 2007 and thus far he's severely underperformed on expectations as a No. 3 pick. So much so, in fact, that he ranks as one of the biggest busts since 1990 -- so far.

But even so, the luster of being a talented top prospect doesn't wear off quickly. In fact, the Ottawa Senators traded a good -- and potentially great -- defenseman, David Rundblad, to Phoenix for Turris, showing that there are some around the league who still think Turris can be a good player.

However, at some point a player is a bust and there's no way around it. So let's take a look at where Turris ranks (hint: It's nowhere near Alexandre Daigle territory) as we rank the biggest draft busts since 1990.

First, some ground rules: We're only looking at players drafted from 1990 to 2008 to give time for development. Also, we're using Tom Awad's Goals versus threshold as our performance metric. I've calculated the expected GVT per season for each draft slot and compared it with a player's actual performance.

With that as the backdrop, here's how the top 10 biggest busts break down.

10. Thomas Hickey, Los Angeles Kings

Pick: No. 4, 2007

Expected GVT/season: 5.5 | Actual GVT/season: -- | Difference: minus-5.5

Here's the thing: When you draft a player in the top five, you expect him to be in the NHL within two years. But it's been four years for Hickey and he still hasn't sniffed any NHL action. Now the small defenseman has been plagued by injury throughout his career, and there's a very good chance he'll find his way off this list. But so far, the Kings haven't gotten the return on investment they'd hoped for.

9. Kyle Turris, Phoenix Coyotes

Pick: No. 3, 2007

Expected GVT/season: 6.7 | Actual GVT/season: 1.1 | Difference: minus-5.6

Turris was selected right before Hickey in the 2007 draft, but as a forward, he should've been a slam dunk. High in the draft, forwards are much easier to peg than defensemen, so the Coyotes expected to get a lot more out of Turris, who was ranked as the No. 1 North American skater by NHL Central Scouting -- one spot ahead of Patrick Kane. But as we know, his holdout caused much drama in Phoenix and recently ended with Turris being traded to the Senators.

8. Alexandre Volchkov, Washington Capitals

Pick: No. 4, 1996

Expected GVT/season: 5.5 | Actual GVT/season: -0.4 | Difference: minus-5.9

The Capitals have taken many chances with international players -- especially Russians -- and they've often been rewarded for it. Some scouts thought Volchkov was by far the most talented player in the draft. But questions about his attitude scared off the first three clubs because, frankly, Volchkov was a potential bust they saw from miles away.

7. Andrei Zyuzin, San Jose Sharks

Pick: No. 2, 1996

Expected GVT/season: 8.6 | Actual GVT/season: 2.7 | Difference: -5.9

This defenseman with a killer shot was drafted out of Russia in a time when it wasn't as risky to draft Russians, and Zyuzin's attitude was a plus, especially contrasted with Volchkov, a fellow Russian in the same class. But there were many reasons to be concerned from the beginning. First off, history shows us that Russian defensemen rarely pan out in the NHL. Secondly, the Sharks really had nowhere else to go with this pick; many considered 1996 to be one of the weakest drafts in years and they were right.

6. Jason Bonsignore, Edmonton Oilers

Pick: No. 4, 1994

Expected GVT/season: 5.5 | Actual GVT/season: -0.5 | Difference: minus-6.0

Bonsignore was considered a potential No. 1 pick leading up to his draft year, but the big forward slipped to No. 4 and never really got a foothold in the NHL. The Oilers were victims of a bad draft year, though Bonsignore was the only player in the top six not to make an All-Star Game.

5. Chris Phillips, Ottawa Senators

Pick: No. 1, 1996

Expected GVT/season: 11.7 | Actual GVT/season: 5.6 | Difference: minus-6.1

Phillips is the head of the worst draft since 1990. Any other year, he may have slipped out of the top five but in 1996, he was the top pick. This is seriously bad fortune for the Senators because, in most years, the No. 1 overall pick is significantly more valuable than those following it. But they had to settle for Phillips, who was thought to have limited potential on offense. As the Vancouver Sun's Elliott Pap wrote before the draft, "Phillips wasn't even good enough to take a regular shift for the gold-medal winning Canadian team at last winter's World Junior Championships."

4. Alexander Svitov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Pick: No. 3, 2001

Expected GVT/season: 6.7 | Actual GVT/season: 0.1 | Difference: minus-6.6

Svitov never adjusted well to the NHL and eventually went back to Russia, which is interesting because his tough style of play was considered a fairly good fit for the NHL.

3. Alexandre Daigle, Ottawa Senators

Pick: No. 1, 1993

Expected GVT/season: 11.7 | Actual GVT/season: 3.4 | Difference: minus-8.4

This is the name that gets brought up most often when talking about NHL busts. Sure, he played 616 NHL games. And sure, he had 51 points in his rookie season, and two more 50-point campaigns later in his career. In addition, he had the pure talent to be a No. 1 overall pick -- and to live up to the expectation. But he just wasn't that interested in hockey, which started showing after a few years in the NHL. If Daigle was drafted outside the top two, he wouldn't have made this list. But being drafted No. 1 overall comes with incredibly large expectations, and he just didn't meet them.

2. Patrik Stefan, Atlanta Thrashers (Winnipeg Jets)

Pick: No. 1, 1999

Expected GVT/season: 11.7 | Actual GVT/season: 2.7 | Difference: minus-9.0

Much like Daigle, Stefan wasn't bad; it's just that he never lived up to the expectations of a No. 1 pick. In 2009, he told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun, "As a No. 1 overall pick, you should show that you are one of the best and you try to become one of the best players in the NHL. I was trying to do that, but some things happened. I had a couple of injuries. I didn't live up to the potential of where I wanted to be. But that's life." After a nagging hip injury, he retired and became a player agent.

1. Rick DiPietro, New York Islanders

Pick: No. 1, 2000

Expected GVT/season: 11.7 | Actual GVT/season: 2.1 | Difference: minus-9.6

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a public service announcement: If you have a No. 1 pick, please do not use it on a goalie. Why? First off, goalies are incredibly hard to project, no matter how far along or how good they are. Second, the No. 1 pick is so valuable that risking it on a goalie is just silly -- especially since the chances of landing a franchise forward are pretty decent in most drafts. Third, an above-average goalie can be acquired at a much better price almost every year on the free-agent market.

These are lessons the Islanders learned after selecting DiPietro. Not only did he fail to develop into a goalie worthy of the No. 1 pick. He's also had nagging injury problems that have kept him off the ice altogether. In addition, the picks right after DiPietro were Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik (see the second point above).

That said, many would still argue Daigle or Stefan is the worst of the bunch. But the numbers say otherwise. And frankly, having 300-some games (and counting) of mediocre goaltending is the polar opposite of what the No. 1 pick should yield.