Which Teams Missed on First-Round Picks Worse Than The Dallas Stars?
An exploration of the misfortune that actually can happen to other teams during the first round of the draft
The title is self-explanatory, but briefly: the Stars have seemed to have all their drafting success in the later rounds, as John Klingberg and Jamie Benn can attest. This has given rise to the notion that the Stars' drafting choices in the first round have suffered from legendary bad luck or woeful mismanagement, depending on whom you ask.
While the NHL results (or lack thereof) speak for themselves in most cases, I decided to go back to 2006 in an effort to find a team that pulled off an even worse first-round boondoggle of their own before the Stars had a shot at the fancy draft podium microphone. I would like to emphasize that "worse" is a relative term that should only be taken to measure NHL contributions, not necessarily the wisdom of the pick based upon a junior hockey career. Results are the thing, I am told. Also, I stopped at 2012 because Val Nichushkin is obviously the best choice of 2013, and who even knows what most of the non-Ekblad 2014ers will turn into?
Okay, let us away.
2006 - Ivan Vishnevskiy
Vish was hoped to be the next Zubov from the moment he was drafted, but it just never panned out. Vishnevskiy played all of five games for the Stars, and his only goal was one I've shared with y'all before:
You will remember, of course, that one of Joe Nieuwendyk's first moves upon becoming GM was to ship the young Russian to Atlanta for Kari Lehtonen, so all's well that ends well, I suppose. In fact, you could make the argument that this ended up being a fantastic first-round pick based on the eventual results. Go ahead, make that argument if you want.
Worse Pick: Way before Dallas, the Lightning stepped up to the plate and took goaltender Riku Helenius with the 15th pick. Helenius got into all of one NHL game with Tampa Bay and made two saves, which is pretty good relative to most other human beings on the planet. In February 2014 Helenius was waived by Tampa Bay, and that was all she wrote. I believe he now plays for Jokerit over in the KHL. This is good reminder about how risky it is to use high draft picks on goaltenders. Thank goodness the Stars nev- *transmission failure*
2007 - Nobody
That is because Dallas traded Mattias Tjarnqvist and their first-rounder to Phoenix for Ladislav Nagy. Nagy would score 14 points in the remaining 25 games of the regular season and add a single goal and assist during the Stars' first-round loss to the Canucks. So, basically this was what the Antoine Vermette trade will probably look like this summer.
(Note: I will always have a tiny soft spot for Nagy because he scored the GWSG in my first game at the AAC.)
2008 - Nobody, again
This time is was because they traded their first-rounder to Los Angeles as part of a big, complicated package for Mattias Norstrom. That pick eventually turned into Viktor Tikhonov, who is now in the KHL. Here's how that happened:
The Dallas Stars' first-round pick went to the Phoenix Coyotes as the result of a trade on June 20, 2008 that sent two second-round picks in 2008 (35th and 39th overall) to Anaheim in exchange for this pick.
Anaheim previously acquired this pick as the result of a trade on June 20, 2008 that sent Edmonton's first-round pick in 2008 (12th overall) to Los Angeles in exchange for Calgary's first-round pick in 2008 (17th overall) and this pick.
Los Angeles previously acquired this pick as the result of a trade on February 27, 2007 that sent Mattias Norstrom, Konstantin Pushkarev, a third-round pick in 2007 and a fourth-round pick in 2007 to Dallas in exchange for Jaroslav Modry, Johan Fransson, a second-round pick in 2007, a third-round pick in 2007 and this pick.
I don't even want to dig into all that, but I remember two things about this. First: Jaroslav Modry was notorious for somehow leading the team in plus/minus despite being, well, not good; Second, Mattias Norstrom didn't always score goals, but when he did, they were awesome.
2009 - Scott Glennie
I don't really need to rehash anything about Glennie here after Derek's piece on him last week. Time has become the enemy to his career--also, all the injuries--but the book hasn't been completely written just yet. That said, a team always hopes for more from its first-round picks than Glennie has so far been able to provide, although he was a key player in Texas's Calder Cup run last year. As the highest draft pick the Stars have had in a long time, Glennie's chance to meet even the most tempered expectations looks to be fading at this point. As for how much of the responsibility for this situation rests on Nieuwendyk, well, I suspect you already have your opinions about that.
Here is an unrelated interview he did after a game in March. (If you know what music is playing the background, you win something from the treasure cabinet at the front of the classroom):
Worse pick: Unfortunately, you have to go all the way down to #19 to really find another player of even moderately comparable irrelevance for the club that drafted him. Louis Leblanc was taken by Montreal, and he eventually put up 5-5-10 in 50 GP over two seaons before being shipped to Anaheim for a conditional 5th-round pick. He is still in Anaheim's system at the moment.
No, seriously, that draft was deep. Take a look. Yeouch, Joe.
2010 - Jack Campbell
I'll just paste in what Wes said in his piece last September:
...but when discussing Jack Campbell’s place in the Stars organization, context is critical. He was a big swing by a team in transition. As GM Joe approached that offseason, Jere Lehtinen retired, Marty Turco was not re-signed, and Mike Modano was preparing to don the Winged Wheel. To pick a goaltender with other, more pressing needs could only be a sign the Stars had absolute faith in the young American stopper.
At the time, it felt a little bit like putting money away for a new house while the roof on the old one began to collapse. The way the next few years unfolded has done little to change that opinion. Which means Campbell sort of has to be it, doesn’t he? Otherwise, every shift Fowler takes and every game Dantopher Thomstorpcroft costs the team are shots to the gut.
This year has seen Campbell be reassigned to the ECHL, which speaks volumes. Yes, Campbell has been battling something like "the flu" or "it's totally mono, right?" for a good chunk of the season, but his inability to step up and stop pucks at the AHL level for more than a small stretch at a time has been concerning. The big club's well-documented struggles in goal this year only shine more light on this pick as each day passes.
Worse Pick: Wouldn't you know it, the New York Rangers also signed up for the "Cam Fowler is not my president" Facebook group in 2010, taking another defenseman by the name of Dylan McIlrath instead. McIlrath still may contribute, as the Rangers' blue line is apparently too crowded for McIlrath right now, leading to some trade speculation. He's an RFA this summer, and he could still turn into something, but the Rangers have to still be kicking themselves that they passed on Fowler in favor of a defenseman who has played all of three NHL games in his career thus far.
2011 - Jamie Oleksiak
Again, I could just steal from Wes's recent article on Oleksiak like I always do, but the biggest thing to remember about Oleksiak is that the Stars' defensive corps is not all that conducive to patiently bringing along even the best young defenders. John Klingberg has been eating some minuses lately, and a good chunk of those had nothing to do with him. Oleksiak was promoted to the NHL much too early (in my opinion), and he's had to adjust his game a bit with each successive callup. Perhaps Oleksiak will finally be able to put things together, but Jokipakka certainly seemed to win the battle for ice time this season, and that should be concerning for the big defender.
Worse Pick: Three picks earlier at number 11, Colorado took Duncan Siemens, who has yet to see an NHL sheet of ice in his career. He's with the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters this year, but Siemens has battled injuries for the last couple of seasons, and he is currently on the shelf yet again. Next year will be the final one of his entry-level contract, so if he isn't able to make it to the big club at that point (which, frankly, should be pretty easy to do considering how bad Colorado is), then Colorado will have some tough questions to answer. Perhaps the one advantage he has at this point is that he is still relatively young:
In comparison to other defensemen in his draft class, Siemens is the only one among the top nine who has yet to make his NHL debut. But he is also the youngest, and he was one of the few 17-year-olds drafted in his entire 211-member class. He turned 21 on Sept. 7.
"My whole game has progressed," said Siemens, who molds his play around toughness, a la Adam Foote. "Confidence is a huge thing for the way that I play. Being physical at this level is very physically demanding."
2012 - Radek Faksa
Ah, yes. Faksa. After an impressive training camp, nasty injuries came in and short-circuited the Czech center's season with Texas. He had some good stretches, but 10 points in (only) 32 games isn't usually going to get you rushed to the big club. It's possible that Faksa could have been the callup instead of Travis Morin in mid-February if not for a season-ending shoulder injury, but at this point Faksa will have to hope he can impress at next fall's training camp (again) and stay healthy for another shot with Dallas.
Worse pick: It's still early, so it's tough to get a read on most prospects' careers; but Slater Koekkoek hasn't sniffed the NHL for Tampa Bay yet after being picked three spots ahead of Faksa at #10. Now, part of that is the fact that Tampa Bay is deep on their back end right now, and part of it is that defenseman are generally given more time to develop before promotion to the bigs. Will Koekkoek see his NHL debut before Faksa? Well, he's on the right track after some injury hiccups, per HF:
The biggest positive from Slater Koekkoek’s game so far this season is his ability to stay healthy. Playing in 50 of 51 games for the Syracuse Crunch, Koekkoek has been a fixture among the team’s top four defensemen. His shooting percentage has not been great—with just three goals on 92 shots from the back end—but his 14 points tie him with Nikita Nesterov for the team lead in scoring by a defenseman.
Koekkoek missed parts of his past three seasons—including his draft year—with injuries, primarily a recurring shoulder injury. That he has been able to stay healthy in his first year of pro hockey is a positive sign moving forward.
Much like Radek Faksa, the big club's depth at the position means that any minutes he gets in the NHL will have to come at the expense of someone currently ahead of him on the depth chart. Like most of life, it's all about seizing the opportunity when it comes along--whenever that might be.