Great NHL Underachievers: Jason Bonsignore

Sebastien TremblayCorrespondent IDecember 4, 2008

Did you think there were only three underachievers to talk about?


Certainly not!


I’m far from done with these articles! So here is another that many might’ve forgotten about, a very high draft pick and very big disappointment—Jason Bonsignore.


During his high school years, Bonsignore was a 13 year old star with Greece High in suburban Rochester, New York. During his two seasons there, he played 36 games, scoring 57 goals and 108 points.


A year later, he played in the Eastern Minor Junior Hochey League, notching 31 goals and 60 points in 60 games.  At this point, a lot of scouts had noticed him, and he was already being mentioned as a high draft pick.


He arrived in the OHL at 16 years old with the Newmarket Royals. As he got older and the level of competition got higher, his production started dropping significantly. But somehow, scouts remained confident. They were sure Bonsignore was a "can't miss" prospect and with more experience, he would start producing again.


Jason was drafted fourth overall in 1994. In Junior, Bonsignore averaged just a bit over a point per game but it’s his size that made scouts think he would become great. At 6'4" and 220 pounds, he definitely had the size for the NHL.


Jason scored a goal in his first game with Edmonton, and then had two more—in the next 78 games he played in the NHL.  So we can accurately call him a draft bust.


Bonsignore was perhaps the biggest bust in Edmonton’s draft history. But how could Edmonton misjudge him so badly?  Simple—having similar style and size, he was constantly compared to Mario Lemieux very early in his career.


Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, should be compared to either Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux or Bobby Orr. These 3 guys were unique and we’ll probably never see that kind of excellence ever again in the NHL. Okay, Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin are close—but no cigar.


Obviously, any team in their right mind would try to draft a new version of Mario Lemieux.


The entire 1994 draft was pretty average, the first-round picks being anywhere from first- to fourth-line players. Edmonton also drafted fan favorite Ryan Smyth sixth overall that same year, and we all know how he turned out.


Funny anecdote—Chicago decided to use the 14th pick in 1994 to draft Bonsignore’s teammate Ethan Moreau.  Not only was Moreau doing better in the WHL at the time, but in a bizarre twist, he is now captain of the Edmonton Oilers that drafted Bonsignore!


Other notables from that year would be Ed Jovanovski, Radek Bonk, Jeff O’Neil, and Mathias Ohlund in the first round.  But it's the later rounds that you need to watch for. Guys like Daniel Alfredsson, Thomas Holmstrom, and Steve Sullivan were real steals.


Jason Bonsignore remained in the Oilers organization for a while, until a blockbuster trade sent him to the Tampa Bay Lightningand Roman Hamrlik to Edmonton. And again, Bonsignore failed to impress and got bounced around in the minor leagues.

Apparently, it was his on-ice attitude that killed his hockey career. After leaving hockey for two seasons, he was unable to crack another NHL roster. His bad performances and apparent lack of motivation got him a trip to the ECHL, Switzerland, and Finland where he was released again. He later tried out with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2003 but looked out of place and was released once more.

Jason Bonsignore is now 32 and technically, has not announced his retirement yet. He has yet to play a game in 2008, but he could try a comeback with his former ECHL team. Unfortunately, he was never good enough for NHL duty.


Jason actually has two websites under his name. This website is tracking his hockey career, which at this point is most likely over. You can find pictures, statistics. and a bit of history about his career.


And as for the other—well, want to know what Jason is up to now? I was extremely surprised to learn Jason Bonsignore is dirt-biking! Yes, the website actually carries his name!


Take a look at either "What is JBR" or "rider profiles," and you can see No. 64, Jason Bonsignore from Rochester, NY. If you remember, Bonsignore did wear No. 64 during his hockey career. So that’s where Jason has been since his days in the ECHL.


It doesn’t mention if he plans a return to hockey, I’ve tried to contact him through his website, but unfortunately, I've gotten no answer as of yet…