5 FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICKS THAT HAVEN’T PANNED OUT, PART 1
With the 2016-2017 NHL season just around the corner, talk of this year’s first round draft picks is heating up. Most pundits are predicting big things for Matthews, Laine and Puljujärvi, 3 players taken in the top 10. High expectations for highly-touted draft picks isn’t uncommon; after all, there’s a reason these players were selected in the first round. They’ve had stellar junior or college careers and set themselves up for successful NHL careers. In nearly every draft, however, there are usually players who surprise and disappoint. Let’s take a look at 5 former first round draft picks that haven’t panned out.
Jordan Schroeder—Drafted 22nd Overall by Vancouver in 2013
Burnsville, MN native, Jordan Schroeder was a Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) standout with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He spent two seasons with the Gophers and in 2009 he won the WCHA Rookie of the Year. The 25 year-old also suited up for the US in 3 World Junior Championships where he set records for most assists and points ever by an American. This pedigree followed him to the 2013 NHL Entry Draft where the Vancouver Canucks selected him 22nd overall and believed they were getting the big, scoring centre they needed to replace an aging Ryan Kesler. Schroeder’s tenure with the Canucks started off badly as he had shoulder surgery in the offseason then fractured his ankle in the first preseason game of the 2013-2014 campaign. He returned to the line-up in mid-October before fracturing the same ankle. At the time of the injury, he only managed to score 6 points in 25 games and after playing parts of two seasons with Vancouver, the team opted not to re-sign him, thus making him a free agent.
Prior to the 2014-2015 season, Schroeder signed a two-year, two-way deal with the Minnesota Wild. With Schroeder playing for his hometown team and no longer behind Kesler and Sedin on the depth chart, it was expected that he would flourish and find his scoring touch. However, he bounced between the AHL and NHL and didn’t play more than 26 games in a season with the Wild. On July 19th, 2016, the Wild placed Schroeder on waivers prior to his salary arbitration hearing, a common strategy by teams. When he passed through the waiver wire unclaimed, he signed a one-year, two-way contract with Minnesota worth $650,000 at the NHL level.
Cody Hodgson—Drafted 10th Overall by Vancouver in 2008
Another Canucks first round draft pick, Hodgson garnered praise for his play with the Brampton Battalion of the OHL. In 2009, he won the William Hanley Trophy (Most Sportsmanlike Player), the Red Tilson Trophy (OHL Player of the Year) and the CHL Player of the Year. He also won a gold meal with Canada at the World Junior Championships that year while leading the team in scoring. Hodgson appeared to have outgrown junior hockey and looked poised to excel at the NHL level. While training for the 2009-2010 season, he injured his back and a series of misdiagnosis and tension with then-head coach Alain Vigneault contributed to Hodgson being sent back to his junior team. Another injury soon followed, a broken toe, and the Toronto native’s budding career kept stalling. Finally, fully healthy in 2010, he challenged for a spot on the Canucks roster but was ultimately sent down to the AHL Manitoba Moose. It wasn’t until Ryan Kesler injured himself in the 2011-2012 season that Hodgson got a shot to play top 6 minutes in the NHL and he flourished, ranking 5th among rookie scoring by January 2012. When Kesler returned from injury, Hodgson was once again buried on the depth chart and Vigneault only played him 10-12 minutes on average per game.
At the deadline that season, then-GM Mike Gillis traded Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres, along with Alexander Sulzer in exchange for bruising forward Zack Kassian and defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani. The move was a considered a head-scratcher by most as Hodgson had shown signs of offensive prowess and it was speculated that Hodgson’s rocky relationship with Canucks brass led to his asking for a trade. Hodgson finished his first full NHL season with Sabres, registering 41 points in 83 games. Leaving Vancouver gave Hodgson a larger on-ice role, earning nearly five minutes more ice time per game and resulted in him signing a six-year, $25.5 million extension with the Sabres on September 11, 2013. The 2013-2014 season saw Hodgson put up a respectable 44 points in 72 games but the following season, Hodgson had the worst outing of his professional career, registering a mere 6 goals and 13 points in 78 games. On June 29, 2015, the Sabres, in the midst of a rebuild, placed Hodgson on unconditional waivers for the purpose of a buyout. The following season, Hodgson signed a one-year contract with the Nashville Predators and made the opening day roster, being used mainly as a depth-centre. After posting 8 points in 39 games, Hodgson was placed on waivers by the Predators on January 13, 2016. Hodgson passed through waivers unclaimed and was subsequently assigned to AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. The 26 year-old Hodgson was not offered a new contract and is currently an unrestricted free agent.