What started as a quick post to reminisce and hit the “where are they now?” curiosity itch about past NHL’ers turned into a full series as I kept finding more and more players who fit this category in some way.
Today, we cover someone involved in one of the worst trades in a franchise’s long history, someone who just never found sustained success in the NHL, a star in an expansion franchise’s inaugural season, and a goalie who got hot at the right time in a deep playoff run.
Without further ado, let’s jump into Part 2 of our NHL One-Hit Wonders series!
Although he might be best remembered for being a part of one of the worst trades in Maple Leafs, maybe even NHL, history, Andrew Raycroft’s career trajectory does land him on the list of NHL One-Hit Wonders. Originally drafted 135th overall in 1998 by the Boston Bruins, Raycroft spent the next handful of seasons working his way up through juniors, through the AHL, and slowly getting more and more time with the NHL’s Bruins.
Even though he played NHL games across 3 seasons prior to 2003-04, he didn’t cross the games played threshold and was still classified as a rookie for his one-hit wonder season. The Bruins lost a lot of goalies in the offseason leading up to this, which left Raycroft with a solid shot at the starter’s job, an opportunity he won. Andrew Raycroft then played 57 games in 2003-04, posting a 29-18-9 record, a 2.05 GAA, and a .926 SV%. His performance led him to the All-Rookie team and won him the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year. He also finished fifth in Vezina voting and thirteenth in Hart Trophy voting.
This led directly into the NHL lockout of 2004-05, and after the NHL returned to action for 2005-06, Raycroft was not the same. He only played 30 games, finishing with an 8-19-2 record, an abysmal .879 SV%, and 3.72 GAA.
Raycroft’s time in Boston was done. He was shipped to Toronto in a trade for Tuukka Rask (an elite goaltender you may have heard of over the past 15 years). This turned out to be one of the worst trades in NHL history, partly because Boston was prepared to release Raycroft (meaning Toronto could have had him for nothing), and because Toronto decided to send Rask back instead of Justin Pogge because Pogge had just won gold at the World Juniors.
Raycroft only had one full season with Toronto, where he started 72 games. Although he had a respectable 37-25-9 record, his .894 SV% and 2.99 GAA were not overly impressive nor were they helpful to the team as the Maple Leafs missed the playoffs anyways (though it was only by a single point decided at the very end of the season). The next season, Raycroft struggled again and eventually lost the starting job to Vesa Toskala. Raycroft only played 19 games in 2007-08 before being bought out.
The next four years, Andrew Raycroft jumped around to a few teams, spending a season with the Colorado Avalanche, a season with the Vancouver Canucks, and a couple of seasons with the Dallas Stars. The closest Raycroft came to regaining some of his Calder season form was the 2009-10 season with Vancouver, where he played in 21 games with a .911 SV% and 2.42 GAA. Still a far cry from the rookie year.
Andrew Raycroft, then unable to find a spot in North America, spent two seasons playing in Europe before retiring from professional hockey.
Cory Conacher fought and battled his way to the NHL as an undrafted free agent who starred in his four years at Canisius College. He became the team’s leading scorer with 62 goals and 147 points in 129 games. Conacher eventually found his way to the professional game after signing a contract with the Norfolk Admirals, the (at the time) AHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He impressed while he was there. After leading the team in scoring and participating in the AHL All-Star Game, he signed an NHL contract. To cap off this amazing rookie season, he was recognized as the league MVP, Rookie of the Year, and helped his team win the Calder Cup. Quite the impressive debut.
Conacher soon made his debut in the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season, where he kept up his impressive offense and recorded 24 points in 25 games. Oddly enough, he was traded at the deadline that season to the Ottawa Senators. I remember this being a head scratcher at the time for the Lightning to trade away a solid rookie that quickly. Turns out, that was a solid time to make that trade. Conacher finished out that season with 5 points in 12 games for a total of 29 points in 47 games.
Conacher was already well past his peak in the NHL. His next season, he scored 20 points in 60 games with the Senators before being waived right before the trade deadline and claimed by the Buffalo Sabres. He had 6 points in 19 games with Buffalo.
As a free agent in the following offseason, he signed with the New York Islanders where he began splitting time back in the AHL after only getting 3 points in 15 games.
After a couple of seasons fully in the AHL or playing in Europe, Conacher returned to the Lightning organization where he spent the next 4 seasons jumping back and forth between the Lightning and their AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch.
Currently, Cory Conacher plays for SC Bern in the Swiss National League.
Conacher is a prime example of an NHL/AHL tweener, someone who is a great AHL player but just can’t find his game consistently in the NHL. He has 330 points in 354 games in the AHL but only 75 in 194 NHL games. His peak, where he looked insanely impressive, was that initial 25 game stretch with the Tampa Bay Lightning. But, he could never replicate it. Which is why he finds himself on this list of NHL One-Hit Wonders.
Okay sure, William Karlsson is still playing and could very easily return to something closer to the level he saw in his first season with the Vegas Golden Knights. But as of now, that season’s results in his career trajectory place him in One-Hit Wonder territory.
Karlsson’s professional career began in Sweden, where his performance led him to get drafted 53rd overall in 2011 by the Anaheim Ducks. He made his debut in North America a couple of seasons later with a few games for the Norfolk Admirals. His NHL debut came the next season with Anaheim, recording 3 points in 18 games.
He was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets later that season. He spent the next 2 full seasons in Columbus, playing 81 games both seasons and putting up 20 points in his first season and 25 in the second. After the 2016-17 season, Karlsson was left exposed in the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft, where he was subsequently selected by the new team.
2017-18 was Karlsson’s one-hit season. The inaugural year for the Golden Knights, that miraculous run to the Cup Finals, and a ton of players taking advantage of a new situation to make a name for themselves. Karlsson was one of them. William Karlsson joined up with Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault to form Vegas’ first line, which turned out to be one of the best in the NHL, both offensively and defensively.
All three set career highs offensively but Karlsson stood out. He scored 43 goals and had 35 assists for 78 points in 82 games. He finished third in NHL scoring, he won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, and he was voted as the top Swedish ice hockey player for the season.
Karlsson’s next few seasons are not overly disappointing, but he has regressed each year since. The following year, he dropped to 24 goals and 56 points. Then in 2019-20, he got 15 goals and 46 points in 63 games. And in 2020-21, 14 goals and 49 points in 56 games.
Now, we’re into this season. William Karlsson has 6 goals and 15 points in 31 games. He has been dealing with injuries and missed some time, however.
It is hard to foresee that Karlsson will return to his 2017-18 pace. That is not to say that Karlsson is not a productive and useful player. Although his offense may not be where it was, he is regularly in contention for the Lady Byng Trophy and has received Selke votes on a couple of occasions.
Over Michael Leighton’s nearly 20 year professional career, he played for 17 different teams. His career is basically the definition of journeyman. Leighton spent a lot of time in the minors, regularly putting up great numbers. But he could never really stick around in the NHL, only playing over 30 games in a season twice over 10 years.
After being drafted 165th overall in 1999, Leighton spent the remainder of his junior career in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires. He then jumped up to the professional game, splitting time between the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals and NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. His peak with Chicago was in 2003-04, where he played 34 games with a .900SV% and 2.98 GAA.
He spent a few years in this organization before beginning to jump around. Between 2004-05 and 2009-10, Leighton played for 3 different NHL teams (including 2 stints in Philadelphia) and 6 different AHL teams.
Hitting his second stint in Philadelphia beginning in 2009-10 is where Leighton went on the hot streak that landed him on this list. In the regular season, Leighton put up a 16-5-2 record with a .918 SV% and 2.48 GAA as the Flyers just made the playoffs as the 7th seed, tied with 8th seed Montreal Canadiens and 1 point above the 9th seeded New York Rangers.
Going into the playoffs, Brian Boucher was the starter. But in game 5 of the second round against Boston, Boucher got injured and Leighton came in to take over. The Flyers won game 5, then Leighton backstopped them to victories in the next 2 games to complete the reverse sweep.
Leighton took over from there. In the third round against Montreal, he opened the series with shutouts in games 1 and 2 and another shutout in game 4. The Flyers won the series in 5 games with Michael Leighton having given up 7 goals in the series. This series was the peak of Leighton’s one-hit wonder stretch through the 2009-10 season and playoffs. The Cup Final was a bit tougher, as even though Leighton started all 6 games, he was pulled in 2 of them and the Flyers lost the series in Game 6.
Leighton, to this point mostly relied on as a depth goalie and occasional backup, took over the crease through the 2009-10 regular season and helped bring the Flyers to the Cup Finals.
This was the best season of his career and the last time he was able to stick around in the NHL on a regular basis, as he only had 7 more NHL appearances. Leighton mostly played in the AHL, making 3 more stops over the next 7 seasons, as well as spending a season in the KHL.
Michael Leighton got hot and peaked at just the right time to put his name on centre stage and giving him an extremely high peak over his lengthy professional career.
That is everyone I’ll cover in Part 2 of my NHL One-Hit Wonders series. Check back in here to see when Part 3 is up, or you can find us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter! Let us know there if you have any one-hit wonders we should write about.
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