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Seven players trying to avoid 'one-hit wonder' tag

Monday, 07.29.2013 / 11:55 AM / NHL Insider

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Seven players trying to avoid 'one-hit wonder' tag
Every year a few NHL players come out of nowhere to post unexpected performances. The challenge, then, is to avoid becoming a "one-hit wonder."

The music world calls them "one-hit wonders" -- artists that have a hit record but can't replicate their success.

The NHL has had its own version of one-hit wonders -- players who were in the right spot at the right time for one season but found out that doing it again wasn't as easy. The prototype is 1980s forward Warren Young, who had 40 goals playing with Mario Lemieux in 1984-85 but never came close to that total again (he finished his career with 72).

Every season a few players come out of nowhere to post unexpected performances. The challenge for those who did it last season is to show in 2013-14 that they've got what it takes to build from the numbers they put up in 2012-13.

Every year a few NHL players, such as Bobrovsky, Kadri and Tlusty, come out of nowhere to post unexpected performances. The challenge, then, is to avoid becoming a "one-hit wonder." (Photo: Jamie Sabau/NHLI, Getty Images, Gregg Forwerck/NHLI)

Here is a look at seven players who will try to replicate their surprising showings from last season:

Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks: Bickell was every bit as surprising during the Stanley Cup Playoffs as Bobrovsky was during the regular season. After scoring nine goals in 48 regular-season games for the Chicago Blackhawks, he matched that total in 25 games during the playoffs. The last one came with 1:16 left in regulation of Game 6 in the Final and tied the score 2-2; Dave Bolland's goal 17 seconds later gave the Blackhawks the Cup. The Blackhawks made a long-term commitment to Bickell this summer; now he has to prove he's ready to step into a more substantial role.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets: The goaltender known in Columbus as "Bob" faces an enormous task this season as he tries to live up to coming out of nowhere to win the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender in the NHL. Bobrovsky, traded away by the Philadelphia Flyers last summer, wasn't even the starting goaltender for the first month of last season, but grabbed the job when he got the chance and went 21-11-6 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .932 save percentage -- nearly carrying the Blue Jackets to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Matching those numbers won't be easy, but Columbus will need him to at least come close in order to make the postseason for only the second time in franchise history.

Lars Eller, Montreal Canadiens: Eller's third season with the Canadiens unquestionably was his best -- he had a career-high 30 points in 46 games, up from 28 points in 79 games a season earlier. Eller faces an additional challenge while trying to prove that he can build on those numbers -- he's coming back from a concussion and a broken nose sustained in Game 1 of the Canadiens' Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Ottawa Senators.

Viktor Fasth, Anaheim Ducks: No one, least of all the Ducks, could have expected Fasth to play the way he did last season. The 30-year-old first-year Swedish goaltender won his first eight regular-season decisions and finished with a 15-6-2 record, a 2.18 goals-against average and .921 save percentage, helping to carry the surprising Ducks to the Pacific Division title. The hard part for Fasth will be showing that he can do it again while battling Jonas Hiller for playing time.

Thomas Hickey, New York Islanders: The Los Angeles Kings waived Hickey, the fourth player taken in the 2007 NHL Draft, prior to the start of last season -- only to see him find a home on Long Island, where New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow has had great success with players no one else wanted. Hickey turned into a regular on defense, mostly paired with veteran Lubomir Visnovsky. He produced one goal and four points, but was a plus-9 while playing nearly 17 minutes a game, enough to earn a two-year contract -- and the opportunity to show last season wasn't a fluke.

Nazem Kadri, Toronto Maple Leafs: Maple Leafs fans must have felt as if they'd waited forever for Kadri to blossom. In reality, the seventh player taken in the 2009 NHL Draft needed about three years to show why the Maple Leafs were so high on him. He finished with 18 goals and 44 points in 48 games to help Toronto to its first trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2004. For the Maple Leafs to get back to the postseason, Kadri will have to build on his first big season rather than fall back.

Jiri Tlusty, Carolina Hurricanes: Toronto took Tlusty in the first round (No. 13) of the 2006 NHL Draft but wasn't as patient with him as it was with Kadri. The Maple Leafs traded him to the Hurricanes in December 2009, and he blossomed for Carolina last season, setting career highs with 23 goals and 38 points despite the shortened 48-game season. That's a 40-goal pace -- the kind of production the Hurricanes need to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic