Throughout the history of the NHL, over 7,000 athletes have managed to get into a regular season game. Most of them come and go without ever really making an impression and are forgotten about. A few of them go on to have long, successful, and storied careers. Those guys wind up in the Hall of Fame, never to be forgotten. If they’re lucky, maybe a city mayor will name a street after them.
Then there’s the next level of players. They play for a while with some level of success and consistency, peaking as a good player who sticks around for several seasons.
Others though, make it to the big leagues and give fans a glimpse of dominance, before disappearing from the NHL without ever living up to the promise they displayed.
Some of these players were forced to withdraw from the game because of injuries, some left the NHL to go on and star in rival leagues (remember the World Hockey Association?). Whatever the reason, here’s a list of 15 players who got to live the dream of playing in the NHL.
These players had a breakout season and accumulated a pile of goals and points, but for whatever reason, they didn’t last.
Now they’re remembered as players who quickly faded out of the limelight.
15 David Clarkson
Alright, he’s still active, that’s fair, but it was just in 2011-12 when Clarkson scored 30 goals for the New Jersey Devils. Following the lockout shortened 2012-13 season, Clarkson signed a massive contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, which is a contract he’d never live up to.
Clarkson scored 15 goals in 118 games with the Leafs before he was traded for Nathan Horton, who is physically unable to play hockey.
14 Eddy Beers
First of all, acknowledge the great hockey name that is Eddy Beers. Beers split his rookie season between the Calgary Flames and the AHL. In 1983-84, his second season, Beers averaged more than a point per game, scoring 36 goals and 75 points in 73 games.
He followed his breakout season with 28 goals and 40 assists in 74 games.
Unfortunately, 1985-86 would be Beers’ final NHL season. During pre-season, he suffered a herniated disc causing chronic back pain. The Flames traded the injured player to St. Louis, where he’d play just 24 games before retiring.
13 Steve Penney
Steve Penney, like a many other Montreal Canadiens goaltenders, broke into the league during the playoffs. In 1983-84, Penney got the call just in time for the postseason, winning nine games including three shutouts.
The following season, as the new starter, Penney appeared in 54 regular season games, winning 26, and he was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team.
As quickly as he rose, he fell. He played in 18 games the next year as the Habs’ backup, and then was traded to the Winnipeg Jets, where he played in 15 games over the course of two seasons before retiring.
12 Dan Labraaten
Dan Labraaten began his North American career playing two seasons in the WHA, after playing in his hometown of Leksands, Sweden for six years. Labraaten finally broke into the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings in 1978-79, scoring 19 goals and 38 points, then scoring 30 goals and 57 points the next season.
His struggles began the next year and he was eventually traded to the Calgary Flames after 44 games. He improved after the trade, but he still only managed to score 12 goals on the year.
He played one more year in the NHL, scoring only 10 goals in 43 games, and at the age of 31, he went back to Europe to finish off his career.
11 Tom Webster
Tom Webster played parts of two seasons in the Boston Bruins organization before being claimed in the 1970 Expansion Draft by the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo then traded him to the Detroit Red Wings in time for the 1970-71 season. During his rookie season, Webster scored 30 goals, 37 assists, and finished in fourth place for the Calder Trophy.
Webster split the next season between the Wings and the California Golden Seals, but only managed to score three goals in 12 games. Webster, along with many other NHLers, left the NHL in 1972 to join the newly formed WHA, where he would spend six seasons with the New England Whalers.
In 1979-80, Webster dressed for the Red Wings for one last game. He was inducted into the WHA Hall of Fame in 2012.
10 Fernando Pisani
Fernando Pisani was never a great NHLer, but he did score over 10 goals per season for four years with the Edmonton Oilers. It was his playoff performance in 2006 which qualifies him for this list.
In the 2006 playoffs, the Oilers went on a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Final, and during the run, Pisani scored 14 goals and 18 points in 24 games.
The next season, Pisani went back to his ‘normal’ play, scoring 14 goals and 28 points.
Before the 2007-08 season, Pisani was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, which caused him to miss more than a quarter of the season. Injuries plagued him for the rest of his career, except for his final one with the Chicago Blackhawks, but he never returned to his playoff form.
9 Norm Ferguson
Ferguson joined the Oakland Seals as a rookie for their second season in the NHL in 1968-69. He made an immediate impact, scoring 34 goals and 54 points, and was also runner-up for the Calder Trophy.
Hopes were high going into his second season, but Ferguson wasn’t able to build on it, scoring 11 goals. He rebounded slightly in his third and fourth seasons, with 14 goals each year.
In 1972, he was selected by the New York Islanders in the Expansion Draft, but Ferguson had already signed to play for the New York Raiders of the WHA.
8 Sergei Berezin
Sergei Berezin was able to enjoy several good years with the Toronto Maple Leafs, peaking in 1998-99 when he scored 37 goals and 59 points. He followed that up with a solid playoff, scoring 12 points as the Maple Leafs reached the Eastern Conference Final.
Berezin left the Leafs for the Coyotes after the 2000-01 season and from there, his point total and goal scoring plummeted, due to injuries and inconsistent play, only scoring seven goals in his Phoenix tenure. He was traded to the Montreal Canadiens where he continued to struggle. Berezin would play out the 2002-03 season with the Blackhawks and the Capitals, playing for four teams in two seasons. He would then leave for the KHL, his career ending pretty abruptly for a guy that was an established top six winger.
Career (NHL) totals: 502 games played, 160 goals and 126 assists for 286 points.
7 Ken Hodge Jr.
Hodge Jr. came into the NHL with some big shoes to fill, his father was an all-star with the Boston Bruins during the 60s and 70s, and won two Stanley Cups. Hodge started his career with the Minnesota North Stars, before a trade sent him to the Bruins. In his first full season, Hodge scored 30 goals and 59 points in 1990-91, finished in third for the Calder Trophy, and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team.
His play fell off the next season, and he was subsequently sent to the AHL. In the offseason, he was traded to the new Tampa Bay Lightning, where he lasted on season.
6 Dmitri Kvartalnov
Kvartalnov had a long successful career, but his stint in the NHL was short-lived. A product of the USSR, Kvartalnov lit up the IHL before being drafted by the Boston Bruins. In 1992-93, Kvartalnov scored 30 goals and 72 points in 73 games playing alongside Adam Oates, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
In his second season, Kvartalnov, scored 12 goals and 7 assists while he struggled to find a spot in the lineup.
In 1994, Kvartalnov headed back to Europe, where he played for another 10 seasons.
5 Jonathon Cheechoo
In his second full season with the San Jose Sharks, Cheechoo demonstrated his ability to finish, scoring 28 goals and 47 points. Following the 2004-05 NHL lockout, Cheechoo exploded while playing with Joe Thornton. He won the Maurice Richard trophy scoring 56 goals and 93 points. Then, in 2006-07, he slipped to 37 goals and 69 points.
Cheechoo’s production continued to drop from there. In 2007-08, he scored 23 goals. In 2008-09, he scored 12 and then was subsequently traded to the Ottawa Senators. In 2009-10, his last in the NHL, he scored only 5 goals.
4 Kjell Dahlin
Dahlin cracked the Montreal Canadiens roster in 1985-86 and broke out immediately. In his first season, he tied the record for rookie scoring by netting 32 goals and 71 points. He was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team, and finished third in the Calder Trophy race that season while helping the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup.
Dahlin couldn’t stay healthy though. He scored 25 goals and 20 assists while he missed half of the next two seasons. In 1988-89, Dahlin decided to leave the NHL and returned to Sweden and played out his career there.
3 Chris Valentine
A 10th round pick by the Washington Capitals, Valentine scored 30 goals and 67 points in 60 games during his rookie season in 1981-82.
Valentine followed up his impressive rookie year, by spending the majority of it in the minors. He still managed to score 7 goals and 10 assists in 23 games for the Capitals.
In his third year, his play was once again limited, as he appeared in 22 games and scored 11 points. In the offseason, Valentine bolted to play pro in Germany where he starred for 11 seasons.
2 Jim Carey
The second goalie on the list, Jim Carey’s start with the Washington Capitals was amazing. In 1994-95, he went undefeated in his first seven games, eventually winning 18 out of 28 games, boasting a .913 SV% and averaged 2.13 goals allowed per game. He was named runner-up for the Calder Trophy, finished third in the race for the Vezina Trophy and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team.
The following season, his first as a full-time starter, Carey played in 71 games, winning 35 with 9 shutouts. He won the Vezina and was selected to the NHL First All-Star team.
In his third year, he was off to a rocky start, winning 17 of 40 games, before he was traded to Boston. After the trade, he played in a total of 33 games (four of them with St. Louis), and only won nine of them.
1 Nikolai Borschevsky
A smallish forward, Borschevsky came to the NHL after starring in the USSR. In 1992-93, Borschevsky scored 34 goals and 74 points as a rookie for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The following season, injuries forced Borschevksy miss half the season, but he still managed to score 14 goals and 34 points. After the 1994 NHL lockout, he was traded to the Calgary Flames and appeared in eight regular season games. He signed with Dallas in the offseason, but again, injuries limited him to 12 games, before he left the NHL for good.
Career totals: 162 games played, 49 goals and 73 assists for 122 points.
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