The NHL Draft is always a date that hockey collectors circle on the calendar. Pundits and analysts will try to grade the draft – who were the winners, who were the losers, and who graded a B-minus or a C. Of course, there is no way of knowing how any draft plays out for at least a few years.
The NHL Draft is not like the NFL or NBA Drafts. In those leagues, players go straight to the pros. Baseball’s draft, on the other hand, picks in mid-season because no one goes straight from the draft to the major leagues. The hockey draft is somewhere in between. You might get a couple or even a handful of picks a year crack NHL line-ups and end up with rookie cards. The first pick in 2020, Alexis Lafreniere of the New York Rangers, and third overall pick Tim Steutzle of the Ottawa Senators jumped right into the NHL. Second pick Quinton Byfield signed an autographed memorabilia deal with Upper Deck, but he was not called up to the Los Angeles Kings until late in the 2020-21 season. He will have rookie cards in the fall.
While we like to look at the hidden gems, like 1998’s 171st pick Pavel Datsyuk, we also like to look back at some players who caused a stir among hockey card collectors as prospects but never reached star status as pros.
Here is our look at ten of the biggest hobby busts in the NHL Draft since 2000.
10. Rick DiPietro
DiPietro’s 15-year, $67.5 million contract is one of the most cringeworthy in hockey history. After injury problems derailed his career, his buy out was even more ridiculous than the contract. DiPietro will get $1.5 million a year from the Islanders through 2028-29.
Essentially, he is the Bobby Bonilla of hockey.
Although he is considered a bust, he did have some good years. He had a solid 2003-04 season, starting 50 games and posting a 23-18-5 record, which was his first .500 season as an NHL goalie. After the NHL lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season, along with all NHLPA hockey card licenses except for Upper Deck’s, DiPietro strung together three straight seasons with more than 60 starts. He played in the 2008 NHL All-Star Game, and he was the starting goalie for the US at the 2006 Torino Olympics.
After the 2007-08 season, he had knee surgery to repair a meniscus, and he also had hip surgery to repair a torn labrum. He had injured his hip the year before, but aggravated it during the NHL All-Star Skills Competition shootout. After that, he only played more than eight games in a season once in his career.
So why is Rock DiPietro a hobby bust? He has a respectable 130 NHL wins, with a 2.87 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. The problem is that after his amazing showing at the World Junior Championships and then being the first goalie ever picked first overall, nothing short of a Ken Dryden, Billy Smith, Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur type of career could match the hype.
I spent some time with DiPietro at the 2001 NHL Draft. I was the VP of Marketing at Pacific, and the NHL mandated in our contract that we spend $50,000 in marketing to sponsor an event. There was no trading card show to go with the fanfest at the draft, so that’s what we created. We spent a week in Fort Lauderdale with the top prospects for the 2001 NHL Draft, and Rick DiPietro, still only 19, was there as the TV host for NHL coverage on ESPN.
Sure, young Rick DiPietro was cocky and brash, but he was a natural with a microphone and was absolutely hilarious. The most priceless moment was when he opened up some packs of 2000-01 Pacific Titanium hockey cards on camera with goaltending prospect Pascal Leclaire.
He looked at the cards and then, on camera, asked the perfect question. “Pascal, do you think these cards are actually made with real titanium?” It was priceless.
It’s no surprise that DiPietro has found a career as a talk show host in New York on ESPN 98.7, and that he will be a TV analyst when ESPN returns to hockey. His cards are cheap, but it will be interesting to see if some up arrows appear beside his name as he gets a chance to shine in those national TV broadcasts.
9. Andrei Medvedev
Let’s go back to that 2001 NHL Draft. Among the couple dozen prospects that were being paraded around Fort Lauderdale, including Ilya Kovalchuk and Jason Spezza, there was this fat kid hanging around with the group. Mike Monson and I were there from Pacific at all the events and we kept trying to figure out who he was. He must be someone’s cousin, or maybe a translator for the Russian players because we heard him speak Russian.
Our jaws dropped when we found out it was the top Russian goalie and their goalie at the World Junior Championships, Andrei Medvedev. He was their best young goalie since Nikolai Khabibulin, and despite being listed at 6’1”, 249 pounds – he weighed more than that – he started in goal for the Russians in three straight World Junior Tournaments.
Medvedev hung with the group for a week. Imagine Engelberg from the Bad News Bears spending a week with the MLB’s top prospects. The Calgary Flames burned a second round pick on him. Perhaps their scouts were going to hire Jenny Craig as his personal nutritionist, or at least show him what a salad is.
Not surprisingly, Medvedev never played in North America. He only played two pro seasons in Russia, with Moscow Spartak of the KHL. After appearing in 21 games in 2004-05, his pro career was over at the age of 22. And although he is one of the only goalies ever to start in three straight WJC tournaments, he has only ever had five cards made – all of them are Russian – and none are listed by Beckett at more than $4. We found one listed on Amazon.
8. Dan Blackburn
Like Rick DiPietro, Dan Blackburn’s crash in the hobby was 100 per cent because of an injury and not because of inability.
The New York Rangers drafted him 10th overall in the 2001 NHL Draft, and he was so good in training camp that he made the team as an 18-year-old right out of junior with the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League. Backing up Mike Richter, he played in 31 games as a rookie and 32 games the following year.
While the future was bright for Blackburn, a shoulder injury suffered while weight training in 2003 put him out for an entire season. That, combined with a knee injury suffered in training camp two years later, forced him into retirement. He played in his last NHL game before his 20th birthday.
Blackburn went back to school and became the Manager of Business Development for the Goaltender Development Institute. He appeared on quite a few cards, especially in the early 2000s.
7. Hugh Jessiman
If you were a collector or even a fan in 2003, you will remember the hype around Hugh Jessiman. He was a 6’6” right winger who played with an edge and could score. He was also the first player born in New York City to be drafted by the New York Rangers.
Collectors, especially those in New York and Rangers fans everywhere, were waiting anxiously for his rookie card. And they waited. And they waited some more. In the Game produced a card of him in their 2005 and 2006 Heroes and Prospects sets.
Finally, in 2010-11, Jessiman got a call up from the Florida Panthers and played in two games. It was enough to get him into a handful of base sets in 2011. While the 2003 NHL Draft was loaded with stars, Jessiman had the fewest number of NHL games played among first rounders. Jessiman’s career NHL stats read two games, no goals or assists, a mins-one rating, and a fight.
6. Nikita Filatov
The first decade of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ foray into the NHL featured multiple draft busts. Filatov may have been the biggest.
A budding superstar from Russia, Filatov had an electric offensive game as a junior and was considered the top European player in the 2008 draft. Collectors were fully aware of him through his dynamic performances in the U18 World Championships and World Junior Championships.
Filatov was criticized for his lack of skill and effort on the defensive side of the game. He reportedly told the Blue Jackets coaches, “Filly don’t do rebounds,” which led to his trade to Ottawa. He played nine games in Ottawa before going back to Russia. His NHL career netted just 14 points in 53 games. He was a bust in Russia as well, as in a decade of play in the KHL, he managed more than 22 points in a season only once.
Filatov’s image can be found on a number of products from when he was a hot name. His 2008-09 SP Authentic signed patch RC has a high Beckett value of $100. But remember, someone has to be willing to pay that to make it actually worth that much.
5. Stanislav Chistov
It’s hard to believe that Chistov, selected fifth overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2001 NHL Draft, actually played 196 NHL games.
A projected superstar, Chistov drew many comparisons to Paul Kariya when he was drafted. I was working for Pacific at the time, and I remember meeting him in our photo room and he was so excited. When you meet a kid like that, you want him to do well. And there was so much hype around him, we wanted to get him in as many sets as possible.
He had 12 goals and 18 assists for 30 points as a rookie. All of those totals were career highs. Chistov spent two years with Anaheim, went back to Russia for year, and then the 2006-07 season with Boston, where he had 13 points in 60 games. He spent the next 11 seasons in the KHL in Russia, scoring more than 30 points in a season only once.
Today, most of his earliest cards can be had for next to nothing.
4. Alexander Svitov
Svitov and Chistov are almost interchangeable when it comes to draft busts. They were both projected superstars from Russia taken in the 2001 NHL Draft. Svitov was selected third overall, two picks ahead of Chistov. At third overall, he was the player drafted after first pick Ilya Kovalchuk and second pick Jason Spezza.
Unlike Chistov, Svitov was a big, physical center who drew misguided comparisons to Eric Lindros. He and Chistov were both overhyped in the hobby, and their career paths were identical. Svitov went back to Russia after totaling 37 points in 179 NHL games with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets.
In Russia, Svitov played 14 seasons in the KHL. Only once did he manage to score more than 10 goals in a season, netting 12 for Traktor Chelyabinsk in the 2014-15 season.
As a high draft pick, he’s in several 2002-03 and ’03-04 sets.
3. Petr Taticek
There was a lot of hype and excitement around Petr Taticek at the 2002 NHL Draft. He was a gifted playmaker with size and a good scoring touch. The scouts we talked to while I was at Pacific were comparing him to Adam Oates and Jason Spezza.
After leaving the Czech Republic to play junior hockey with the Soo Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League, he averaged more than a point per game for two seasons. At the 2002 draft, the Florida Panthers were thrilled that he fell to them with the ninth pick in the first round. Our photographer took a boatload of shots of him as we prepared to make a mountain of rookie cards of him.
Taticek finished his junior career, went to the minors, then the NHL lockout happened. In 2005-06, with hockey back on, Taticek was called up for three games with the Panthers. Upper Deck was able to squeeze him into their products that year, and he has eight different rookie cards. His most valuable are in the 05-06 Upper Deck Trilogy and Ultimate Collection products. Both have a Beckett high value of $8.
Taticek was traded to Pittsburgh and then Washington, but he never got back to the NHL. He has been playing in Europe for None of those Pacific draft day photos were ever used.
2. Rob Schremp
This guy had superstar written all over him when he was tearing up junior hockey.
Schremp is from the Syracuse area, and was highly talked about at a young age with the Syracuse Crunch youth program. He played in the Ontario Hockey League, splitting time with the Mississauga Ice Dogs and the London Knights.
In four seasons of Major Junior hockey, he scored 154 goals and had 230 assists for 384 points in 247 games. In the 2005-06 season, Schremp scored 57 goals and 88 assists for 145 points in just 57 games. He added 47 points in 19 playoff games.
Not only did he put up big numbers, but he was one of the most exciting players to watch in all of hockey. He was already a fixture in In the Game’s prospect card sets. But like many other first round selections of the Edmonton Oilers in the last 20 years, it just didn’t work out for him.
Schremp made it to the NHL for one game in 2006-07, which got him into all 2007-08 card sets as a rookie. In three years in the Oilers organization, he played just seven NHL games. He then spent a year-and-a-half with the New York Islanders and half a season with the Atlanta Thrashers before heading to Europe, where he spent the next seven seasons.
In 114 NHL games, he scored 20 goals and had 34 assists for 54 points.
1. Nail Yakupov
Yakupov’s projected superstardom coincided with a window when the hockey card market was a little big stagnant.
Still, those of us who stuck with collecting were expecting a franchise player and someone who would be in the Sidney Crosby or John Tavares level of collectability. In his first year of junior hockey with the Sarnia Sting, Yakupov had 49 goals and 52 assists for 101 points in 65 games. He had scouts saying he was as good as the last Sarnia Sting player to go first overall in the draft, Steven Stamkos.
Edmonton picked him first overall in 2012. After a lockout caused the cancellation of the first half of the 2012-13 season, Yakupov joined the Oilers as a 19-year-old. It looked promising, as he scored 17 goals and had 14 assists for 31 points in 48 games during the shortened 2012-13 season.
However, Yakupov never matched those numbers and became one of the biggest busts in NHL Draft history.
Panini and Upper Deck both made a lot of rookie cards of Yakupov for the 2013-14 season. His most valuable card is his Panini National Treasures autographed jersey RC.
Yakupov played four seasons in Edmonton, one in St. Louis and one in Colorado before going back to Russia, where he has played in the KHL for the last three seasons. In 350 NHL games, he had 62 goals and 74 assists for 136 points. In his six NHL seasons, he did not play in a playoff game.