As I started putting this together, I realized there are a lot more players that could fit this category than I thought. So this is going to be part 1 of a series as I uncover more players who fit this category. Keep checking back for the next part with more NHL one-hit wonders!
Some players have lengthy careers in the spotlight. Some players have successful careers but never gain much attention. And some others have these stretches that are just major anomalies, blips in the radar, glitches in the matrix where they come out of nowhere to look like the next superstar but then just…fade away.
Today I’m going to reminisce about some of the biggest One-Hit Wonders that have come through the NHL over the years.
Any list about one-hit wonders has to include Jonathan Cheechoo, even though he did have a few good seasons in a row. Cheechoo, the 29th overall pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, spent a few years developing in the OHL and AHL before finally becoming an NHL regular in 2002-03. In his rookie season, he recorded 16 points (9 goals and 7 assists) in 66 games.
He experienced a huge jump in his next season, finishing with 28 goals and 47 points in 81 games. Coming back after the lockout season, 2005-06 was an absolutely amazing season for the scoring winger. Playing mostly alongside Joe Thornton, who won the Art Ross Trophy that season with 125 points, Cheechoo scored an incredible 56 goals and 93 points. Jonathan Cheechoo won the Rocket Richard Trophy that season as the NHL’s leading goal scorer.
Each season after 2005-06 showed major regression for Cheechoo. 2006-07 was still a good performance overall, as Cheechoo had 37 goals and 69 points (with 69 PIMs, double nice). But this is where Jonathan’s physical style of play really started to catch up to him, as injury issues began taking their toll.
The year after that, Cheechoo dropped to 23 goals, then 12 goals the season after. Just before the 2009-10 season, Cheechoo was traded to the Ottawa Senators where he split time that season between the NHL and AHL’s Senators. In Ottawa, Cheechoo had 5 goals and 14 points in 61 games.
This was Jonathan Cheechoo’s last season in the NHL. After spending the next 3 seasons jumping around the AHL, Cheechoo spent 4 more seasons in the KHL where he was a consistent scorer, getting about 20 goals and 40 points per season.
Jonathan Cheechoo is maybe the most prolific one-hit wonder with his 50-goal season and Rocket Richard Trophy, but don’t let that detract from his career as a whole, as he spent 15 seasons as a solid professional player.
Jim Carey blazed onto the NHL scene back in the mid-90’s. Drafted 32nd overall in 1992, Carey spent his developmental years playing for the University of Wisconsin-Madison before jumping to the pro game in 1994-95.
He split his first professional season between the AHL’s Portland Pirates and the Washington Capitals. In the AHL, he spent 55 games and had a 34-14-11 record with a 2.76 GAA and .909 SV%. And with the Capitals, he played 28 games with an 18-6-3 record, a 2.13 GAA, and 2.13 SV%. This amazing debut season put him in the spotlight. He made the NHL’s All-Rookie Team, finished third in voting for the end-of-season All-Star Team, placed second for the Calder Trophy, and third for the Vezina Trophy. Those are some insane accolades for a 20-year old rookie goalie.
His next season was even better. Jim Carey played 71 games with a 35-24-9 record. He led the league with 9 shutouts. And, he had a .906 SV% with a 2.26 GAA, which weren’t outstanding numbers, but still top 10 in the league. Jim Carey won the Vezina Trophy, was named to the First All-Star Team, and finished eighth in Hart Trophy voting.
After that, Carey had a sudden and immediate drop-off happens. In the 1996-97 season, Jim Carey played 40 games with the Washington Capitals. He had a 17-18-3 record, an .893 SV%, and a 2.75 GAA. He was then traded to Boston, where he put up a 5-13-1 record to close out the season with an .871 SV% and 3.82 GAA.
The next season he fared even worse. In 1997-98, he split time between the NHL and AHL, getting demoted for part of the season and only playing 10 games in the NHL. The 1998-99 season was his last in professional hockey. He spent most of it in the minors, playing 30 games with the Providence Bruins and 2 with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the IHL. Carey also played his last handful of games in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues. He made 4 appearances, got a 1-2-0 record with an .829 SV% and 3.87 GAA.
There are many theories as to what caused this sudden change in performance. Some suggest that his goaltending style was not going to hold up to the direction of the position at the time, with Carey being more of a stand-up style at a time when the butterfly was gaining popularity. Another theory is that teams had just figured him out, which is entirely possible as opponents learn his weaknesses. And yet another is that some injury issues caught up to him and ultimately he lost his passion for the game. This Flashback Friday article on Carey suggests that he made his money, had some injury issues and hits to his confidence that he could never recover from and moved on to different ventures that were more appealing to him.
Regardless, Jim Carey’s year and a half of absolute dominance in the crease for the Washington Capitals made him one of the most surprising Vezina Trophy winners over the last few decades. And his exit from the league just a few seasons later regularly gets him on these lists of NHL One-Hit Wonders.
Nikolai Borschevsky spent most of his professional career playing in Russia, split between Dynamo Moscow and Spartak Moscow. He enjoyed some slow growing but great success in his last few seasons with Spartak Moscow, leading the team in scoring and winning a gold medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics.
His performance over these years drew NHL attention, where the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted him 77th overall in 1992. Now 27, Borschevsky made his NHL debut the very next season where he made an immediate, massive impact. Nikolai played in 78 games, scoring 34 goals and recording 74 points. He was perhaps most notable for his playoff overtime heroics, scoring the Game 7 Overtime Winner in a series against the Detroit Red Wings. Borschevsky sustained an injury earlier in the series and wasn’t even supposed to play in this game. But he came back early and made a huge impact.
Injuries limited Borschevsky to just 45 games the next season, though he did have 34 points. Nikolai was a hard-nosed, energy player who was physically involved, battled, and extremely talented. After the injuries, he had to adjust a bit and lost a lot of what made him stand out.
He played 19 games in 1994-95 with Toronto, recording 5 assists, before being traded to Calgary, where he had another 5 assists in 8 games. Borschevsky spent one more season in the NHL, with the Dallas Stars, where he had 4 points in just 12 games due to injuries.
He then played a few games in Germany before finishing his career with 2 more seasons at Spartak Moscow. He regained a bit of his scoring touch, as he scored 71 points in 88 games over those two seasons before retiring.
Borschevsky’s electric style of play endeared him to Maple Leafs fans as they fondly remember his 74 point rookie season, but the injuries caught up to him. His standout rookie season places him as one of the more noteworthy one-hit wonders in the NHL.
Fernando Pisani has placed himself in Edmonton Oilers lore with his out-of-this-world performance in the 2005-06 playoffs. He was a beloved role player in the organization over his tenure in Edmonton, but he peaked in this playoff run.
Pisani was an 8th round draft pick (195th overall) in 1996. As a hometown kid, Pisani had played in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, spending parts of 3 seasons with the St. Albert Saints. After being drafted, Pisani spent 4 great years with Providence College, playing at a point per game pace in his tenure there.
After graduating from college, Pisani spent two-and-a-half seasons with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL. Fernando scored 60 points in 79 games in his second full season there before being called up to the NHL partway through the 2002-03 season.
Pisani’s NHL debut came at the age of 27. He spent the remainder of the 2002-03 season with the Oilers, getting 13 points in 35 games. His first full season, Pisani scored 30 points in 76 games, then in 2005-06, he had 37 points in 80 games.
The playoff run for the Oilers in 2006 is where Pisani exploded. He finished the run with 14 goals and 18 points in 24 games as the Oilers fought their way to the Cup Finals. Not only did Pisani score a lot of goals, he scored BIG goals. 5 of his 14 goals were game winners. In the first round against Detroit, Pisani scored 2 third period goals in the series clinching game. In the second round against San Jose, Pisani scored the game winner in game 5 to give the Oilers a 3-2 series lead. Fernando Pisani then scored the game winner in games 2 and 3 in the third round against Anaheim. And, in the Cup Finals against Carolina, Pisani scored a shorthanded overtime winner, the first in Stanley Cup Finals history.
This playoff run was miraculous and Pisani put up one of the most clutch performances ever from start to finish.
Pisani had 14 goals and 28 points in the next season. In the following offseason, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and missed the start of 2007-08. He played 56 games that season, recording 22 points.
The last few seasons of Pisani’s career were a lot quieter than his breakout playoff run. He played in 78 more games with the Oilers, recording 37 points. Then his final NHL season with Chicago he had 16 points in 60 games.
The crazy breakout playoff run was a very high peak for Pisani, endearing himself to the Oilers fanbase. But because he never really found that level of success any other time, he does fall under the category of NHL One-Hit Wonders.
That is everyone I’ll cover in Part 1 of my NHL One-Hit Wonders series. Click here to read Part 2!
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