It begins with Daigle, and then ...
Every draft provides a whole host of busts, but some are much more spectacular and painful than others.
I've been covering junior hockey and NHL draft selections for decades, and I can't say why a vaunted prospect busts and another seemingly less talented one prospers, but the one thing that every bust comes with is a backstory.
Here's a list of my "favorite" busts from 1994 through 2004. I'm going to hold the busts to an awfully high (or should it be low?) standard: the picks all fell in the top 12 of a draft and the players must have played fewer than a full season's worth of games in the NHL.
Caveats: I'm reluctant to declare anyone who suffered an injury that cut his career short a bust -- that stuff is unfortunate and impossible to anticipate. A bust also need a we-should-have-known-better aspect to it.
I'm starting in 1994 for symbolic reasons. The year before featured the player whose name became synonymous with bust: Alexandre Daigle. Daigle was selected first overall by Ottawa from Victoriaville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, ahead of Chris Pronger and Paul Kariya, among others.
Though he never lived up to his billing and certainly provided almost no returns on a $12.5 million contract, it's hard to call a guy who played in 616 NHL games a complete bust. He scored 20 goals a couple of times, once at age 21 with an awful Ottawa team and later in his career with offensively-challenged Minnesota. In the end, Daigle was too good and too accomplished to be a bust. He was a big disappointment, yes, but not a bust.
But Daigle does provide an example of what to look for in players who bust. In his case, he simply didn't like hockey that much. He liked it enough to play it sometimes, but not enough to hang out with his teammates. He's probably the only player in recent history who would leave the arena after a practice to go socializing at a nearby college campus. He had enough talent to actually overcome his reluctance sometimes -- enough to catch your eye, but no will to grow as a player.
Let's keep going.
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