Jonathan Cheechoo retired from professional hockey Tuesday after a career unlike any other. The 37-year-old forward won the NHL’s Rocket Richard Trophy as a member of the Sharks with a league-leading 56 goals during the 2005-06 season, but found himself out of the league and in the KHL less than five years later.
In his retirement, Cheechoo will be remembered as one of the biggest one-hit wonders in recent memory. He went from fringe player to top NHL goal scorer to the AHL to playing in Russia over the course of a decade. At his ever-so-brief peak, he became one of just 31 players in NHL history to score 56 or more goals in a season.
That’s an astonishing legacy that puts Cheechoo alongside a long list of Hall of Famers and legendary scorers. Yes, he owes a lot of it to skating next to Joe Thornton at the peak of his powers, and he followed up that 56 goals with another 37 the next year, so it’s not like he immediately fell apart.
Still, only 25 players in NHL history have scored more goals in a season than a guy who’s also played for the Kentucky Thouroughblades, Cleveland Barons, HV71, Birmingham Senators, Worcester Sharks, Peoria Rivermen, Oklahoma City Barons, Medvescak Zagreb, Dinamo Minsk, and HC Slovan Bratislava.
Cheechoo may be the king of recent one-hit wonders, but he’s far from alone. In honor of the former San Jose winger, here are the other biggest flashes in the pan of the 2000s.
Andrew Raycroft, 2003-04 Bruins
Raycroft won the 2004 Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year with a performance he would never repeat. The Bruins goaltender posted a .926 save percentage and 2.05 goals allowed average in 57 appearances for the division champions, then continued to stay hot with a .924 save percentage in seven playoff games.
Boston was still eliminated in the first round by the Canadiens, and Raycroft would never regain his form. The following season, his save percentage plummeted to .879. Outside of that breakout season, he posted a .893 save percentage in 223 games with five different teams before leaving the NHL in 2011.
Fabian Brunnstrom, 2008-09 Stars
It was a big deal when Brunnstrom, a talented Swedish forward, chose Dallas over other suitors back in 2008. He then proceeded to play well as a rookie with 17 goals and 12 assists in 55 games with the Stars. At that point he was just 23 years old, and it seemed like he had a bright future ahead of him.
However, Brunnstrom would record just nine points in 44 NHL games the following season before he found himself stuck in the AHL. He’d play just five more games in 2011-12 as a member of the Red Wings before returning to Europe after a disappointing career.
Ville Leino, 2010-11 Flyers
For just over a year early in the decade, Leino was a two-way beast for the Flyers. After recording just 11 points in 55 games during the 2009-10 regular season, the forward exploded in the 2010 playoffs with 21 points in 19 games as Philadelphia reached the Stanley Cup Final.
The following season, Leino continued his strong performance with 53 points in 81 games, which earned him a six-year, $27 million contract from the Sabres that would prove to be quite regrettable. His NHL totals over the life of that deal? Ten goals and 36 assists in 137 games.
Marek Svatos, 2005-06 Avalanche
Svatos finished fifth in 2006 Calder Trophy voting after recording 32 goals in 61 games, then came to life again a couple years later with 26 goals in 62 games. However, his career quickly slowed down from there as he headed overseas. In 2016, Svatos died of a drug overdose at the age of 34.
Petr Prucha, 2006-07 Rangers
Over the course of his first two seasons with New York, Prucha recorded 52 goals in 147 games, a pace of 31 goals per 82 games. After that came just 26 goals in 199 games before he found himself in the AHL, then the KHL. Only six rookies in New York Rangers history have scored more goals than Prucha’s 30 in 68 games.
Devin Setoguchi, 2008-09 Sharks
We’ll just call this the Jumbo Joe Effect because Setoguchi, like Cheecho before him, had a season unlike any other when paired with Thornton. The winger recorded 31 goals and 34 assists in 81 games, then never topped 41 points again in his career.