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In the 1999 NHL Draft, the New York Rangers selected a “can’t miss” prospect with the fourth overall pick. His career will infamously live on in Rangers’ lure, however as one of the biggest draft busts in NHL history.

Star in the Making

Leading up to 1999 draft, Pavel Brendl was looked as if he would emerge as one of the next best players in the NHL. After scoring 134 points in 68 games as a 17 year old in the Western Hockey League (WHL), scouts were sure Brendl had what it took to become the next star of the league. The Hockey News ranked him as the #1 prospect in his class.

Brendl accomplished a multitude of accolades at such a young age. He set single-season record for most goals (73) and points (134) in a WHL season. Additionally, he scored 21 goals and 25 assists in 20 playoff matches, leading the Calgary Hitmen to a WHL title. In his three seasons in the WHL, Brendl posted 320 points, playing only 178 contests, earning the WHL and Canadian Hockey League Rookie of the Year awards.

Build-up to the Draft

Upon the beginning of the draft, the Rangers were sure Brendl was the next-big-thing to take the NHL. They acquired the fourth overall selection from the Tampa Bay Lightning to select him. After trading Dan Cloutier, Niklas Sundstrom, and their first and third round picks, the Rangers thought they had got a steal.

Scouts and general managers raved about Brendl, complementing his skating ability, scoring prowess, and hockey IQ. Although Brendl’s scouting report contained some red flags, such as his eating habits and work ethic, several teams, including the Rangers, were willing to overlook them.

The Downfall

After selecting Brendl with the 4th pick, the Rangers went into training camp with high hopes for a successful season. However, Brendl showed up to training camp overweight. Slow on the ice and out of shape, Brendl struggled to keep up with the rest of the team. This is largely due to his major red flag pre-draft: bad eating habits. To make up for his poor showing, Brendl claimed to have the flu.

After failing to get over his “flu-like symptoms,” Brendl was sent back to the WHL. Most notably, he never played a single game for the Rangers.

Déjà Vu?

Winning the draft lottery this year, the Rangers are in a perfect position to build a contending roster, with Alexis Lafrenière at the forefront.

Lafrenière is no secret to success. In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Lafreniere scored 112 points and won CHL MVP, and was MVP of the Under 20 World Junior Championship, leading team Canada to Gold.

With an incredible skill set, and to the best knowledge of scouts no bad eating habits, Lafrenière seems to be the real “can’t miss” prospect that the Rangers need.

Photo: Getty Images