2011 NHL Entry Draft: Five Forgotten Picks
The 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul is notable for a number of reasons. First, it was the second of three straight drafts the Edmonton Oilers picked first overall, selecting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Second, it’s notable for being where True North Sports & Entertainment, which bought the Atlanta Thrashers a month earlier, revealed they would call their team the Jets and made their first-ever pick, selecting — controversially at the time — Mark Scheifele over Sean Couturier.
Third, it’s notable for the number of strong players selected outside the first round (as examples, Nikita Kucherov went 58th, Johnny Gaudreau went 104th and Ondrej Palat went 208th.)
However, in contrast to the many players — regardless of the round they were chosen in — making big impacts all over the NHL to this day, there were many who were selected high but had little to no impact on the league. Here are five of them.
Duncan Siemens: Colorado Avalanche, 11th Overall
It seemed as though Duncan Siemens, a hulking 6-foot-3, 210-pound defenseman, would be a great addition to a Colorado Avalanche blue line bereft of a major stud and staffed by either inexperienced youngsters such as Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie or serviceable, but unremarkable, veterans such as Ryan O’Byrne and Jan Hejda.
Siemens was coming off his third — and best — season as a member of the Saskatoon Blades, in which he tallied five goals and 38 assists for 43 points in 72 games. He was described by Hockey’s Future “a stay-at-home defenseman with a nasty streak,” and “the ability to contribute on (the offensive) front” and was rated fourth-best North American defenseman by NHL Central Scouting.
Siemens returned to the Blades and was named captain for the 2011-12 season, but suffered a concussion and was limited to 57 games. In 2012-13, the team stripped him of his captaincy.
Siemens turned pro full-time to begin the 2013-14 season and spent four seasons in the AHL with the Lake Erie Monsters and San Antonio Rampage, both Avalanche affiliates. In that span, he earned just a single NHL recall. He played one game in April 2015, after the Avalanche were already eliminated from playoff contention.
Siemens would play three more games for an abysmal Avalanche team in 2016-17 and 16 more in 2017-18. In the latter stint, he recorded his only two points and also appeared in six playoff games. After their first-round exit, the Avalanche chose not to tender him a qualifying offer, making him a free agent.
Attempting to catch fire somewhere else after playing only 20 NHL games in five seasons, Siemens attended the Calgary Flames’ 2018 training camp last September, but didn’t crack the club. In December, he signed a one-year AHL contract with the Milwaukee Admirals, but whether he will ever suit up for another NHL contest is questionable at best.
Mark McNeill: Chicago Blackhawks, 18th Overall
The early-to-mid 2010s presented a tough, tumultuous trek for any Blackhawks prospect who attempted to crack the team’s insanely deep roster. Mark McNeill’s journey was no exception.
The slick-handed (and slick-headed) centre was coming off a 32-goal, 81-point season with the Prince Albert Raiders and was touted by NHL Central Scouting as being “really composed and (possessing) a real pro-style game.”
“He has a nice touch, can dish, and has nice, soft passes,” Central Scouting continued. “His on-ice awareness is very good and he’s paid attention to detail at both ends of the rink.”
After two more successful season with the Raiders, McNeill made the jump to professional hockey. He flashed offensive flair in the AHL, tallying 37, 44 and 48 points in his first three full seasons with the Rockford IceHogs. Unfortunately, he was drafted in the middle of the Blackhawks’ dynastic three-Cups-in-six-years-run, and simply couldn’t carve out a roster spot.
After appearing in just a single NHL game through four seasons, the Blackhawks traded him to the Dallas Stars for Johnny Oduya in June 2017. McNeill played just one game for the Stars and was flipped to the Nashville Predators less than a year later.
Ironically for the Blackhawks, they could probably use McNeill presently as they are languishing in the Central Division’s basement. The McNeill pick marks the beginning of a dubious trend of mismanaging prospects — something that went unnoticed during their heady years but now looms large as their core has aged and they are no longer a juggernaut.
Last July, McNeill signed a two-way contract with the Boston Bruins and is currently playing for the Providence Bruins.
Tyler Biggs: Toronto Maple Leafs, 22nd Overall
Selecting Tyler Biggs 22nd overall is just one of countless brutal picks Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke made during what were some of the leanest Leafs times in their more than 100-year history.
Burke inexplicably selected Biggs despite the right winger having played just 40 games for U.S. National Development teams in the two years preceding the draft combined. They even traded their 30th-overall pick they got from the Bruins and a 39th-overall second-round pick to the Anaheim Ducks so they could move up and select Biggs.
Related: Maple Leafs Top NHL Draft Busts
Biggs would go on to play single seasons for Miami University and the Oshawa Generals before turning pro full-time in 2013-14. He played two seasons with the AHL Toronto Marlies and recorded just 14 total points in that span. On July 1, 2015, the Maple Leafs sent him to the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of the Phil Kessel trade.
Biggs was just the leader of the parade of dreadful picks Burke made in 2011. Of his nine picks — which included Stuart Percy, Tom Nilsson and David Broll — five have never appeared in an NHL game, Biggs included.
Since 2015-16, Biggs has mainly played in the ECHL and is currently a member of the Kalamazoo Wings. As an aside, with the two picks the Ducks received from the Maple Leafs, they selected Rickard Rakell and John Gibson.
Zack Phillips: Minnesota Wild, 28th Overall
You can excuse the Wild if they were excited to be able to grab Zack Phillips 28th overall. The right-handed centre had just put up an outrageous 95 points in just 67 games for the Saint John’s Sea Dogs. He was described by Hockey’s Future as a “cerebral offensive forward and primarily a playmaker” with “great on ice vision and loads of hockey sense with the ability to anticipate the play.”
Phillips returned to the Sea Dogs and put up an additional 80 points in 60 games before turning pro prior to the 2012-13 season. However, the offensive instinct he showed in juniors never really materialized at the professional level. In his first two seasons in the Wild farm system, he tallied 27 and 33 points, respectively, but in 2014-15, his production dropped to a paltry 15 in 49 games before the Wild traded him to the Bruins in March 2015.
Phillips would find himself on the move again a year later. After spending the rest of 2014-15 and part of 2015-16 in the Bruins farm system — which included a stint in the ECHL — the Bruins traded him to the St. Louis Blues in March 2016.
After the summation of the 2015-16 season, without ever having played an NHL game, Phillips decided to pursue a hockey career in Europe. He’s currently a member of the Austrian League’s Szekeshfehervar Alba Volan HC.
Magnus Hellberg: Nashville Predators, 38th Overall
The first two goalies of the draft were chosen back-to-back. The man chosen first, Magnus Hellberg, did not achieve the same success as the man chosen after, John Gibson.
The monstrous, 6-foot-5, 210-pound butterfly goalie returned to his home country of Sweden the season after being drafted. Coming to North America, he excelled in his rookie season with the Milwaukee Admirals, going 22-13-0 with a minuscule 2.14 goals-against average (GAA) and a sparkling .924 save percentage (SV%). His 2014-15 AHL season was similarly strong, where he went 15-10-6 with a 2.33 GAA and a .913 SV%.
Unfortunately for Hellberg, the Predators crease was crowded: they had Pekka Rinne, Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec. This hamstrung his chances and made him expendable. Ergo, in the summer of 2015, he was traded to the New York Rangers.
Between 2015 and 2017, Hellberg made just three appearances for the Rangers, and captured a win in his only NHL start — a 22-save performance against the Penguins on April 9, 2017.
Hellberg went to Europe after that and is currently a member of SKA St. Petersburg. In the 2018-19 KHL season, he posted a 24-7-3 record, a minuscule 1.32 GAA, and a sparkling .943 SV%.
Honourable Mentions: David Musil, Alexander Ruutuu, Brody Sutter
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