Thursday, June 27, 2024

Who was the worst pick of the cap era, based on the players drafted right after?

It’s time for this year’s draft week time-waster, the annual tradition in which we spend a day arguing about one of the most intriguing events on the NHL calendar. This year, let’s take a new angle on an old question: What was the worst draft pick of the cap era?

It’s a question that comes up often enough that you can probably recite the usual suspects. Nail Yakupov in 2012. Nikita Filatov in 2008. Gilbert Brule in 2005. That bum that your favorite team took instead of the stay-at-home defenseman your uncle wanted.

But are some of those names fair? Yakupov was a bust, sure, but the 2012 draft was a mess. If the Oilers had somehow had a premonition from the future and shocked us all by passing on Yakupov, who would they have taken instead? The next player picked was Ryan Murray. The next forward was Alex Galchenyuk. The fourth overall pick was Griffin Reinhart, and the Oilers are probably glad they never acquired… OK, bad example maybe, but you get the idea. In 2008, Filatov was picked ahead of Colin Wilson, Mikkel Bødker, Josh Bailey and Cody Hodgson, who all had better careers by far but weren’t exactly franchise players. Brule went just ahead of Jack Skille, Devin Setoguchi and Brian Lee.

There were better plays available later in those drafts, of course, but it hardly seems fair to say a team whiffed on a top-ten pick because they should have taken a guy who ended up going 173rd. Clearly, that player was never a realistic option. It’s easy hindsight, but it’s not real criticism.

Today, let’s look at the problem a different way, by rephrasing the question: Who was the worst pick of the cap era, judged by how good the players taken right after him turned out to be? It’s one thing to pick a bust who’s only slightly worse than the picks who followed. It’s another entirely to watch a cast of all-stars immediately go off the board.

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