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Nino Niederreiter: Coin Toss Part 1

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Taking a look at possible career trajectories for the new Wild player based on comparables from the last 20 years. Part one is 1993-1999.

If history taught us anything, it's that Isles cast-offs succeed. Ask Mike Milbury.
If history taught us anything, it's that Isles cast-offs succeed. Ask Mike Milbury.
Bruce Bennett

It's been a while. Again. On draft day, the Wild bade farewell to the beloved Cal Clutterbuck (whom we will probably all hate now) and said hello to Isles cast-off Nino Niederreiter (I will just call him Nino, because his last name is a pain and I'm not Spanish). We all know his story by now: Former #5 overall pick, was in the doghouse in Long Island, yadda-yadda-yadda, now he has a new lease on his career with the Wild, provided he isn't in fact a total bust.

Many have been in his situation before. Heck, some have been in this situation with the Wild before. I felt like taking a look at former Top 5 picks in the last 20 years (because I want to include Alexandre Daigle) who have started their NHL careers slowly, were traded early on and who have either turned out to be busts despite a change of scenery or became decent / great players after the move.

None of this has any incidence on what Nino's fate will be, because he'll need to make his own. I'm also fully aware that there are similar examples in other first round players, but I don't want to still be writing this article next week. Top 5 will do just fine.

I will list the Top 5 draft picks of every year from 1993 to 2010. It wouldn't do much good to talk about the picks from the last 2-3 years, because the jury is still is out on some of them. Part one will cover 1993-1999, part two will cover the rest and will be posted next week.


#1. Alexandre Daigle (Ottawa)

#2. Chris Pronger (Hartford)

#3. Chris Gratton (Tampa Bay)

#4. Paul Kariya (Anaheim)

#5. Rob Niedermayer (Florida)


#1 Ed Jovanovski (Florida)

#2 Oleg Tverdovsky (Anaheim)

#3 Radek Bonk (Ottawa)

#4 Jason Bonsignore (Edmonton)

#5 Jeff O'Neill (Hartford)


#1 Bryan Berard (Ottawa)

#2 Wade Redden (NYI)

#3 Aki-Petteri Berg (Los Angeles)

#4 Chad Kilger (Anaheim)

#5 Daymond Langkow (Tampa Bay)


#1 Chris Phillips (Ottawa)

#2 Andrei Zyuzin (San Jose)

#3 J.P. Dumont (NYI)

#4 Alexandre Volchkov (Washington)

#5 Richard Jackman (Dallas)


#1 Joe Thornton (Boston)

#2 Patrick Marleau (San Jose)

#3 Olli Jokinen (Los Angeles)

#4 Roberto Luongo (NYI)

#5 Eric Brewer (NYI)


#1 Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay)

#2 David Legwand (Nashville)

#3 Brad Stuart (San Jose)

#4 Bryan Allen (Vancouver)

#5 Vitali Vishnevsky (Anaheim)


#1 Patrik Stefan (Atlanta)

#2 Daniel Sedin (Vancouver)

#3 Henrik Sedin (Vancouver)

#4 Pavel Brendl (NYR)

#5 Tim Connolly (NYI)


#1 Rick DiPietro (NYI)

#2 Dany Heatley (Atlanta)

#3 Marian Gaborik (Minnesota)

#4 Rotislav Klesla (Columbus)

#5 Raffi Torres (NYI) (GROSS!)


#1 Ilya Kovalchuk (Atlanta)

#2 Jason Spezza (Ottawa)

#3 Alexandr Svitov (Tampa Bay)

#4 Stephen Weiss (Florida)

#5 Stanislav Chistov (Anaheim)


#1 Rick Nash (Columbus)

#2 Kari Lehtonen (Atlanta)

#3 Jay Bouwmeester (Florida)

#4 Joni Pitkanen (Philadelphia)

#5 Ryan Whitney (Pittsburgh)


#1 Marc-André Fleury (Pittsburgh)

#2 Eric Staal (Carolina)

#3 Nathan Horton (Florida)

#4 Nikolai Zherdev (Columbus)

#5 Thomas Vanek (Buffalo)


#1 Alexander Ovechkin (Washington)

#2 Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh)

#3 Cam Barker (Chicago)

#4 Andrew Ladd (Carolina)

#5 Blake Wheeler (Phoenix)


#1 Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh)

#2 Bobby Ryan (Anaheim)

#3 Jack Johnson (Carolina)

#4 Benoit Pouliot (Minnesota)

#5 Carey Price (Montreal)


#1 Erik Johnson (St. Louis)

#2 Jordan Staal (Pittsburgh)

#3 Jonathan Toews (Chicago)

#4 Nicklas Backstrom (Washington)

#5 Phil Kessel (Boston)


#1 Patrick Kane (Chicago)

#2 James VanRiemsdyk (Philadelphia)

#3 Kyle Turris (Phoenix)

#4 Thomas Hickey (Los Angeles)

#5 Karl Alzner (Washington)


#1 Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay)

#2 Drew Doughty (Los Angeles)

#3 Zach Bogosian (Atlanta)

#4 Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis)

#5 Luke Schenn (Toronto)


#1 John Tavares (NYI)

#2 Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay)

#3 Matt Duchene (Colorado)

#4 Evander Kane (Atlanta)

#5 Brayden Schenn (Los Angeles)


#1 Taylor Hall (Edmonton)

#2 Tyler Seguin (Boston)

#3 Erik Gudbranson (Florida)

#4 Ryan Johansen (Columbus)

#5 Nino Niederreiter (NYI)

Let's start from the top, shall we?

1993 - Alexandre Daigle

Daigle is widely regarded as one of the biggest draft busts in NHL history, perhaps even the biggest. Heck, he might be one of the biggest in the history of any sport. Daigle never lived up to his status as a #1 pick, posting 51 points in his rookie year and matching it twice (once with the Wild in 2003-2004), which would be his career-high. If I'm to believe Wikipedia, Ottawa were accused of deliberately losing games to be able to draft him #1, and it lead to the implementation of the Draft Lottery. He also commanded the highest salary for a rookie at the time, 5 years, 12,25 million. He was that good.

But after a series of off-ice shenanigans, some of which involved a jealous Alexei Yashin unfairly being awarded less money than Daigle, as well as 4 sub-par seasons with the Sens, he was shipped to Philadelphia for Vaclav Prospal and other noted draft bust, Pat Falloon.

Revival OR bust? BUST

He posted 31 points over 68 games with the Flyers, got traded to the Edmonton Oilers and later that day to the Tampa Bay Lightning, posted a grand total of 327 points in 616 NHL games with the Senators, Flyers, Lightning, Rangers, Penguins and Wild.

In short, pretty ugly for a guy who was as hyped as anyone ever has in the league, with the possible exceptions of Gretzky, Lemieux and Crosby.

1994 - Jason Bonsignore

Drafted 4th overall in 1994 by our good friends, the Edmonton Oilers, Bonsignore is another famous bust. He played a grand total of 21 games in two seasons with the Oilers, posting 3 points, before being shipped off to Tampa Bay in a deal that brought 1992's 1st overall pick Roman Hamrlik to Edmonton for two years.

So what happened to Bonsignore after the Oilers gave up on him?


He bounced around between the AHL, IHL and briefly the NHL his entire career. He played 79 NHL games and posted 3 goals, 13 assists. Ouch. The only reason he wouldn't rate higher than Daigle in the bust-o-meter is because of hype.

Oleg Tverdovsky

Drafted #2 overall by the Anaheim Ducks, he was nicknamed ''Oleg Orr'' by his teammates. So much for that, he was traded two years later to the Winnipeg Jets along with someone I'll mention later to net Teemu Selanne.

Revival or Bust? Neither, really.

He wasn't really given up on, he brought Teemu friggin' Selanne to the Ducks, which would turn out to be one of the most important moves in their history. Tverdovsky returned with the Ducks for three seasons between 1999-2002, won a Stanley Cup with the Devils and another one with the Hurricanes and played 758 NHL games, playoffs included. Pretty successful career.

1995 - Chad Kilger

Drafted #4 overall by the Anaheim Ducks, he was another part of the aforementioned Selanne trade with Winnipeg. He had made the Ducks squad, posting 12 points in 45 games, but it was hard for the Ducks to pass up an opportunity to get Selanne, so Kilger was made expendable.

Revival or Bust? BUST

Kilger played 39 games for his new franchise (29 with the Jets, 10 with the Coyotes), posting 6 measly points. He was then traded to the Chicago Blackhawks and his career seemed to be taking off, but he was traded again to the Edmonton Oilers, where he sucked, to the Montreal Canadiens, where he was merely ok, and to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he finally posted a career-high....28 points. Twice. He played 714 games, which isn't bad, but didn't even crack the 200 point mark, which is horrible for a #4 overall pick.

His career ended on a sour note to boot. He was traded to the Florida Panthers and he refused to report, retiring a year later during the 2008-2009 season. Oh well.

Bryan Berard and Wade Redden: There was a special situation surrounding the 1995's top-2. #1 overall Bryan Berard never played for Ottawa, the team that drafted him. This is because he refused to report, so the Senators were forced to trade him. Where? For whom? Well, Berard's rights, Don Beaupré and Martin Straka were traded to the New York Islanders for Wade Redden, who was #2 overall in that same draft, and Damien Rhodes.

It was a curious situation, but I can't really include them in this list because it's not really that the teams gave up on their players, it was just about necessity. Berard and Redden were both crucial parts of their new teams for the years they played there.

1996 - Andrei Zyuzin

Strangely enough, I didn't find much dirt on the former Wild player. He was drafted #2 overall by the San Jose Sharks in 1996, played 81 games with them over two seasons and was shifted to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Revival or Bust? Meh...

He did better with other teams than he did with the Sharks, but I'd say it's a wash. He wasn't a bust, but he wasn't exactly a world-beater either. It's a shame I don't really know anything about what led to his trades, but then again, do we actually care? He played two seasons with the Wild and I found he was o.k. Nothing more. Certainly not #2 overall material.

J.P. Dumont

He was one of my favorite players growing up because I liked Dominik Hasek and his Buffalo Sabres. Dumont was drafted by the Islanders #3 overall. The Islanders are going to come up quite a lot in this two-part series. Pretty much all Mike Milbury and the Isles' lousy ownership group that shackled Milbury a lot decision-wise. A contract dispute two years after he was drafted led to Dumont being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks before even playing a single game with his drafted team. The trade was Dumont and a fifth rounder for Dmitri Nabokov, the #19 overall pick in 1995. He turned out to be quite the bust himself, playing a grand total of 55 NHL games. I guess the joke was on the Islanders on that one.

Revival or Bust? REVIVAL.

While he didn't do much in his two years with the Chicago Blackhawks, his career took off when he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres, in what has to be one of the strangest, most lopsided trades in the history of the sport. J.P. Dumont, DOUG FRIGGIN' GILMOUR and a draft pick to the Buffalo Sabres...for Michael Grosek. He of the 221 career points. Grosek was the one who demanded a trade too. How the hell were the Sabres able to net all that for a player who demanded a trade? The mind boggles. Sure, Gilmour didn't stay for long and he was aging, but he was still close to a point per game player as a Hawk and still netted a decent 55 points in 82 games with the Sabres, including 17 in his first 11 games.

Meanwhile, Dumont went on to post 223 points in 362 games with the Sabres and another 267 in 388 games with the Nashville Predators.

Alexandre Volchkov

This will be short. Drafted #4 overall by Washington, he was supposed to be the next big Russian superstar. Instead, he played 3 games with the Capitals and was shipped off to Edmonton.

Revival or Bust? One of the biggest busts in history.

He played a grand total of, hold your breath.....3 games in the NHL. No points. That's right, he never played in the NHL after his trade. He had big attitude issues, notably walking away from his team MID-PLAYOFF GAME with Portland of the AHL. He went back to Mother Russia and... I guess that's where he is now.

He's very likely one of the biggest reasons teams tend to find Russian players more risky to draft, so I guess he had an impact in the NHL?

Richard Jackman

So yeah, 4 of the top 5 players drafted in 1996 were worth mentioning here. Yeesh. This d-man was drafted #5 by Dallas, played two seasons with them and was traded to Boston

Revival or Bust? REVIVAL

While he didn't become a superstar, he did do a lot better than he did with the Stars, where he managed only 3 points in 38 games over two seasons. A career highlight for him was posting 24 points in 25 games in his first season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, which is great for a d-man. He only played 2 games with Boston, but ended his NHL career with 231 games played, 77 points.

He has represented Canada thrice in the Spengler Cup, winning it once in 2007. Right now, he's playing in an Asian league.

1997 - Olli Jokinen

I actually didn't even know Jokinen was drafted by the Kings #3 overall. I thought he was drafted by the Islanders, and you'll see why later. Jokinen played 8 games in his first year with the Kings, was sent back to the SM-Liiga had being held pointless and won the championship over there as well as the Liiga's equivalents of the Hart and Conn Smythe trophies. Not too shabby. He played one more season with the Kings before being traded to the New York Islanders in a deal that sent Zigmund Palffy, whom Mike Milbury (hello again) was forced to trade because ownership were unwilling to pay his high salary, to Los Angeles, where he became one of their greats.

Revival or Bust? REVIVAL

Despite holding one of the longest playoff-less careers in history along with ex-teammate Jay Bouwmeester, Jokinen has had a pretty good career. A few point-per-game breaking seasons with the Panthers, decent seasons altogether, his worst post-Kings-and-Isles seasons were his first year with Florida and this year with the Jets.

The reason I thought Jokinen was drafted by the Isles was because of the infamous trade that saw Mike Milbury receive Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish for.... Olli Jokinen and Roberto Luongo. Speaking of which...

Roberto Luongo.

No question that being sent to Florida did wonders for his career, I don't really even feel the need to talk about him very much. We all know him well enough. Say what you will about him, but he's been one of the NHL's best goalie for a while now. Mike Milbury was really the champion of ill-advised trades.

And guess what: Olli Jokinen and Roberto Luongo weren't even the only 1997 top 5 picks Milbury mishandled.

Eric Brewer.

Picked just after Roberto Luongo by the Isles. Here's what I read on Wikipedia (By the way, a lot of my info comes from Wikipedia. That's not usually how I roll, but it's quicker and there tends to be more info anyway. If I'm wrong on anything, feel free to non-assholely tell me in the comment section):

''Brewer was considered an integral part of the Islanders' defence, and, along with Zdeno Chara, Kenny Jonsson and Roberto Luongo, was considered untouchable by management at the 1999 NHL trade.''

Hahahaha, oh man! At least Milbury kept his promise and waited until the 2000 NHL entry draft to trade Brewer. He also traded Chara at the 2001 draft along with a pick that became Jason Spezza for Alexei Yashin, a guy they're still paying despite him not having played there for like 70 years. Milbury traded Luongo shortly after drafting Rick Dipietro (He chose...poorly.)

Revival or Bust? REVIVAL

Part of why Brewer was traded was because he was called lazy...after one game in which he didn't beat icing. That's all it took. Imagine if the Habs traded P.K. Subban because of the one or two times he was benched for his attitude, immaturity and poor judgement on the ice (They damn near did too.) Brewer was then shuttled back and forth between the NHL and AHL club before the ''potential Norris candidate'' was traded and went on to have a decent NHL career. He has played 888 games so far, posting 243 points. He is currently a Bolt.

It is fascinating how bad Milbury was at his job. I will never bitch and moan about DR again.

No players of note in 1998.

1999 - Patrik Stefan

I'm cheating here, because I can't just not talk about one of the biggest busts in NHL history on a post about busts and revivals. He actually played 6 seasons for the Atlanta Thrashers, who drafted him #1 overall in 1999, so it's not like the Thrashers gave up on him too soon. He was traded to the Dallas Stars after posting a disappointing 177 points in 414 games. He only played 41 games with the Stars, but it proved to be long enough for him to commit one of the biggest mistakes ever made in an NHL game. It's a mistake that basically ended his career, as that was his last NHL season. It's not enough that he will go down as one of the biggest #1 overall busts, he also has to be remembered for this:

Patrik Stefan bungles, Hemsky scores (via Scott Rollans)

Sure the Stars ended up winning the game, but that is unforgiveable. The announcer said it best: ''That does not belong in the National Hockey League''. Not only does he foolishly try to walk into the net with the puck, when he does fall, instead of running out the 10 seconds that were left, he tried a blind pass to get someone to score an ultimately unnecessary goal, given the time that was left on the clock. That was pretty much his career in a nutshell.

Pavel Brendl

Haven't found all that much information on him, but long story short, the #4 overall pick by the New York Rangers never played with his original team and only managed 22 points in 78 NHL games split between The Flyers, Hurricanes and Coyotes, so... BUST.

Tim Connolly

Another former favorite from my Buffalo-fan days. The #5 pick by, guess who, the New York Islanders, was traded two years after his NHL debut to Buffalo for Michael Peca, a trade that devastated me and turned me into a temporary Isles fan. Then, I found out they sucked because they were basically a boxing team with no talent and they had stolen my favorite player. Luckily for me, Connolly turned out quite good, that is, when he was healthy.

I hesitate to call this a revival because he actually did ok with the Isles too. Milbury basically traded young talent for much needed leadership. Not all that uncommon. I don't feel he was necessarily given up on. Connolly flirted with the point-per-game mark a few times but constant injuries ruined what could have been a great career for him. He is now a Toronto Marlie, and who knows, maybe we'll see him in the NHL again once that albatross contract is over.

Just for fun, I'll include some of the similar situations the Wild have encountered.

Jared Spurgeon: Fun fact: Spurgeon is married and has a kid. He's a few months younger than I am. Let that sink in. The kid probably looks older than his dear ol' dad does.

He was far from being a top five pick, actualy drafted 156th in 2008, but I'm including him because he has something in common with Nino: The Isles didn't find a use for him. Of course, he wasn't traded, he was invited to the Wild's training camp, got a three-year entry deal, spent a few games in the AHL and boom, he became the Wild's pleasant surprise of 2010-2011. It could easily be argued that on another team, in another situation, he may not have had his shot in the NHL, or at least not that soon. Once he got it though, he never let go, and he is now a very solid #3 defenseman for the Wild, against pretty long odds. He's pretty much impossible to hate. REVIVAL.

Guillaume Latendresse: We all know the story with him: Under-utilized by the Canadiens, got the occasional shot on the first line when injuries would strike, but would be sent back down to the bottom-six despite his success and returning players' failures. Then he got traded for Benoit Pouliot and the Canadiens just handed Pouliot the 1st line spot right from the get-go. That just had to piss Latendresse off. Lats made his way from 4th line to 2nd line with Martin Havlat and became a 25-goal scorer. Then, injuries, injuries, more injuries and injuries for dessert. It's a shame fragility derailed what could have been a beautiful career for him, but right now, you'd have to think he's close to being phased out by teams unwilling to gamble on him.

Thanks anyway, Lats. BUST.

Patrick O'Sullivan: Drafted 56th overall, there were high hopes for this kid after he broke Aeros' scoring records for a rookie. However, He Who Shall Remain Nameless had Pavol Demitra in his sights during the 2006 NHL draft and he went ahead and traded the promising player to LA and a pick that became Trevor Lewis. Demitra played two seasons with the Wild, was part of a dynamic duo with Marian Gaborik and helped the Wild net their first and only Northwest Division title. Patrick O'Sullivan had three decent seasons with the LA Kings, got traded to the Edmonton Oilers and the decent began. He played briefly for the Hurricanes, got a second chance with the Wild in which he started well but was ultimately useless and ended his NHL career with the Phoenix Coyotes 2 seasons ago.

O'Sullivan was actually projected to be a first rounder in 2003 but almost fell to the third round. I guess we know why. Something was just missing. BUST.

R.I.P. Pavol Demitra.

I guess I could talk about any of the Wild's first round busts and Nick Palmieri. I could, but I won't. Screw those guys.

Surely I missed some, but we can talk it out in the comments section. Why do you guys think?

P.S. I know I say this every time, but it feels good to write about hockey after a two-month break!