Every year, professional sports leagues hold their annual player drafts with the hopes that superstars are born and championships are eventually brought to the city and team you cheer for. The NHL Draft is no different in this case.
And with every draft, there are highly-touted players that, for whatever reason, be it injury or inability to adapt to the professional game, don’t quite live up to the billing they were presented with based on their draft position.
And as you probably guessed based on the headline, we’re going to look at some of the names that come to mind and make you think ‘what could have been.’
For myself, being a younger Penguins fan, there are two names that instantly pop up in my head that fit this description.
I was just a tiny tot when Bennett was drafted 20th overall in the 2010 Draft, still trying to figure out the ins and outs of shooty-puck, but I gravitated towards Bennett, like many, with the hopes that he would play on the wing with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin for years to come. I even went so far as to buy one of Bennett’s “player name” t-shirts and got a puck autographed by the SoCal skater.
Bennett’s Pittsburgh Penguins tenure is probably best summed up in one word: injury. To no fault of his own, Bennett could never escape the injury bug, with the curse going so far as getting him injured while celebrating a goal.
The potential was always there, but Bennett’s on-ice absences were likely too many for the Penguins to justify keeping him around. So they traded him to the New Jersey Devils in the summer of 2016 for a third-round pick in that year’s Draft, where the Pens selected d-man Connor Hall.
Bennett is still in the NHL picture, currently playing for the Tucson Roadrunners, the AHL affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes.
Ah, Derrick Pouliot. A supposed future staple on the Penguins’ blue line behind Kris Letang. Again, what could have been. Taken 8th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, Pouliot was given his first taste of the NHL in December 2014, where he scored on Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo.
Pouliot’s time in the black and gold is probably best described as a shaky, on-again-off-again relationship, with many thinking he was never given a fair chance to develop after being called up and sent down quite frequently within the organization. It never felt like the team had full faith in the defenseman, either. But for being a top-10 draft pick and currently playing in his third organization since being drafted, it’s safe to say this one didn’t work out.
Angelo Esposito? Craig Hillier? Keep the discussion going down below and let me know some of the prospects you thought were going to be the next big thing, but ended up being the exact opposite.