Thanks to a final month where he registered 11 goals in 10 games, right wing Jonathan Cheechoo captured the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, given to the National Hockey League’s top goal scorer. This marks the first time a Sharks player has won the NHL’s goal scoring title.
The 25-year-old Cheechoo, who ended the 2005-06 regular season with a franchise-record 56 goals, is the third San Jose Shark to win a major NHL award.
Cheechoo edged out New York Rangers winger Jaromir Jagr, Washington Capitals rookie phenom Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers to become the seventh winner of the Richard Trophy. The award is named after the Montreal Canadiens legend, who was the first player to score 50 goals in a season and 500 in his career.
Cheechoo capped off his outstanding 2005-06 season with his fifth hat trick of the campaign and his third against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on April 15. After being held scoreless Monday in the team’s regular season finale against the Los Angeles Kings, the Moose Factory, Ontario native waited for Jagr, Ovechkin and Kovalchuk to play their last regular season games on Tuesday before winning the award.
In addition to setting a team record in goals scored, Cheechoo’s 93 points (37 assists) also established a Sharks standard. Scoring in pivotal moments, Cheechoo led the NHL in game-winning goals (11), home-ice goals (31) and divisional goals (29). His five-point performance (3-2=5) on April 15 was a Sharks season-high. Cheechoo became the first player to record five or more hat tricks in a season since Mario Lemieux notched six in 1995-96.
Cheechoo became just the second aboriginal player to score more than 50 goals in a season, joining former Philadelphia Flyer and California Golden Seal Reggie Leach. Since 2003-04, Cheechoo has scored the most game-winning goals in the NHL (20) and has the most goals among any player entering the NHL since 2002-03 (93).
During the 2005-06 season, “Cheech” was selected Seagate Technology “Sharks Player of the Month” for the month of November and January and was named the NHL Offensive Co-Player of the Week with teammate Joe Thornton
(week of April 10-16). The six-foot-one, 195-pound winger was also named the winner of the PlayStation “Three Stars of the Game Award,” while earning a star in 23 games this season.
Cheechoo joins current Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov (2001 Calder Memorial Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year) and former left wing Tony Granato (1997 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for best exemplifying the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey) as Sharks major NHL award winners.