Aidan Battley The Hockey Writers
5 CHL Stars Who Became NHL Flops: 2000s
My first article discussing players who I deemed to be ‘Flops’ from the CHL who were drafted in the 2010s was a success as it stimulated interesting discussion. From that discourse, I decided it would be interesting to go deeper and look to players who never lived up to their incredible potential from the 2000s.
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In this article, we will be discussing players drafted in the 2000s from the CHL who never met the potential of where they were selected. This list may include established NHL players, but to qualify for this unfortunate list, one must be a player who was elite in Junior, but never showed the same prowess/skill-set in the pros. With all that out of the way, let’s get started!
1. Keaton Ellerby
Keaton Ellerby was never an offensive juggernaut in Juniors, but that’s okay because of the way he played. He was a solid, stay at home defenceman; who from his rookie season with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL was not afraid to shove his body around.
Over his three pre-draft seasons with the Blazers, he only put up 40 points but 300+ PIM. Due to his size and excellent defensive play, he was a top-10 pick to the Florida Panthers in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
After another solid season in major junior, he spent a year in the AHL before finally making his NHL Debut. During the 2009-10 season, he split time between the Panthers and their AHL affiliate but failed to score a point in his 22 games in the Big Leagues.
After his mediocre debut season, he continued to spend time as a seventh defenceman, never playing more than 54 games in the NHL during a single season.
Two hundred-plus games in the NHL is never something to scoff at, especially from my position as a blogger. Nonetheless, it’s one of those scenarios where you certainly expect more from where he was drafted. One of the last old-school defensive defencemen, Ellerby certainly did not live up to his potential as a top-10 pick.
2. Alexandre Picard
Alexandre Picard of Les Saules, Quebec, is a player I wish I saw play in Juniors. A two-way forward who was an elite scorer, Picard had every reason to make a strong showing at the NHL level.
In his first two seasons of Junior with the Sherbrooke Castors, he did not make much of an impact, failing to amass 30 points in either season, but moving to the Lewiston MAINEiacs this drastically changed.
During his time with the MAINEiacs, (I love that name), Picard amassed 165 points in two full seasons. In his first and draft-eligible season, he put up 39 goals, making him one of the leading scorers going into the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
These performances led him to be selected eighth overall by the Colombus Blue Jackets. In his last season in Junior, he amassed 85 points in 65 games, and 165 PIM in a single season which is almost more impressive than the point tallies.
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After his run of consistent form, he spent the next-season split between the AHL and the Blue Jackets, in what was a season of two stories. In the AHL he had 30 points in 45 games but was unable to find a single point in the NHL during his 17 games with the big club.
From there on in, he continued his decent performances in the AHL but failed to make an impact in the limited NHL opportunities he got. He ended up playing just 67 games in the NHL leading everyone to wonder, just where it all went wrong.
3. Peter Mueller
Peter Mueller probably has the most perplexing narrative on this list, as he did not perform poorly in the NHL by any means. But I would still characterize him as a flop. A Bloomington, Minnesota native, Mueller was once a 20 goal scorer in the NHL, but his success was short-lived at the top level.
Mueller had a strong, but not otherworldly, draft-eligible season in the WHL where he got 58 points in 52 games for the Everett Silvertips. These numbers were made more impressive by the fact that it was his rookie season in the WHL and was transitioning from the NAHL.
The optimism stirred by his promising start led to him getting selected eighth overall by the then-Phoenix Coyotes in 2006. The promise initially paid off, with him getting 78 points in 51 games, during his second and final season in Major Junior.
From these two strong campaigns, Phoenix decided Mueller was ready for the NHL. Initially, he did not disappoint. In his rookie season, he played all 82 games and amassed 54 points. These statistics put him fifth in Calder voting and amassing the third highest point totals for a teenager that season.
With the initial triumph, much was expected of Mueller heading into his sophomore season. He performed alright, with 37 points in 72 games. He played two more short seasons in the NHL, failing to amass 20 points or play more than 43 games during a single season. After his failed stint with the Florida Panthers, he ventured to the Swiss League and started a brief journeyman career across Europe.
As I have said before, what makes Mueller unique is just how much promise he showed in his first couple of seasons. He looked to be a tremendous second-line scoring option in the late 2000s, but when 2014 came around, he completely fell out of the league.
4. Zach Bogosian
In what I believe to be my first controversial selection of this list, Zach Bogosian is not a bad NHL player by any means. The issue I have with Bogosian is the potential he had, and the high expectations that were put on him as a top player in junior.
With 61 points in 60 games for the Peterborough Petes, Bogosian’s offensive contributions made him definitively the best defensive prospect for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Related: 5 Forgotten Picks of the 2005 NHL Draft
Bogosian went third overall to an Atlanta Thrashers who desperately needed an elite defensive presence. In his first season, he split time between the Thrashers and the AHL Chicago Wolves, where he played solid defensively but failed to make a real offensive impact.
In his sophomore season of 2009-10, he played his career-high 81 games and put up 23 points. The year after, he regressed and held a plus/minus of minus-27 and only managed 17 points on 65 games. This was a long way out from the totals he managed in Junior and represented a career that has been average and underwhelming for a third-overall pick.
As of writing this, Bogosian has played 644 games in the NHL for 196 points. Now a seventh d-man on the Tampa Bay Lightning, it’s hard to see Bogosian becoming a star defenceman in the NHL.
5. Thomas Hickey
This is another incredibly contestable pick for the list as Thomas Hickey did have substantial time in the NHL. That being said, being selected as the top defenceman in a draft that had Ryan McDonough, Kevin Shattenkirk and P.K. Subban to me is already enough to put him on this list. Considering he was indeed a top-player in the WHL, Hickey has underperformed relative to his draft class.
In a first-round that included many premiere defencemen, Hickey deserved to be on the top of the pile. In his draft-eligible season for the Seattle Thunderbirds, he managed 50 points in 68 games and put up another seven points in Seattle’s brief playoff run. He led the backline of the team and was about to be rewarded.
In the NHL Draft, the Los Angeles Kings liked him enough to select him fourth overall, the top d-man in the draft. A couple more seasons in Seattle saw him continue his strong offensive performances, but not enough to gain a spot on the NHL roster.
Related: CHL Stars Who Became NHL Flops
Five seasons in the AHL, Hickey put up steady numbers but nothing elite as his development stagnated along with his offensive production dwindling.
Selected off of waivers by the then-struggling New York Islanders, the Isles saw a player who had the skill to contribute at the NHL level. Hickey had a strong-start at the NHL level, with his first full season with the team arguably being the best of his career. In that season, he had 22 points in an entire 82-game season and solidified his roster spot for the next few seasons upcoming.
Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances and some health issues, Hickey has found himself on the outside looking in. Spending the last couple of seasons with the Islanders AHL affiliate, it leaves a big question on whether or not Hickey will ever see time in the NHL again.
Is There Anyone I Missed?
The best part about these articles is the discussion that comes from them, and how fans and analysts alike can have different opinions. This piece is only a brief list of five players who were once top-prospects and have failed to find their full potential in the NHL. That is more than enough from me, and now I wonder what you, the reader, think! Drop a comment below, and I would like to start a conversation with you on anything prospects or hockey in general.
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