Welcome to Last Word on Hockey’s One-Hit Wonder series. Each day, we will take a look at a new team’s three biggest one-hit wonders. These are players that had one great season or playoff run but never did anything like that again. Join us every day for a new team! Today we take a look at the Carolina Hurricanes One-Hit Wonders.
The Carolina Hurricanes Top Three One-Hit Wonders
Jiri Tlusty was highly sought after in the 2006 NHL Draft, going 13th overall to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The scouting report indicated that he would be an offensive force in his career. However, like many prospects, there were questions about his defensive coverage. It was expected that he would take a year or two to develop his two-way game before getting to the NHL.
Tlusty would spend the 2006-07 splitting time between the AHL and the OHL. Accumulating 13 goals and 34 points in 37 games in the OHL was a good start. In the AHL he posted 10 goals and 22 points in 20 games. These numbers appeared to cement his position as a highly promising offensive talent.
He made his Leafs debut in 2007-2008. While he struggled defensively he managed to score 10 goals and 16 points in 58 games. These totals appeared to be a good start for the rookie, but in the next two years, he spent most of that time in the AHL as the team tried to fix his defensive game. When called up to the NHL he suffered offensively posting only four assists in 16 games. At this point, Toronto traded him to the Carolina Hurricanes for career AHL player Philippe Paradis.
After putting up better numbers in Carolina after the trade, Tlusty went back to the Czech Republic during the lockout during the 2012-2013 lockout where he posted 12 goals and 23 points in 24 games. But it was upon his return to Carolina to start the shortened season that he broke out.
Tlusty hit the ice that season like a man on a mission. Playing much better defensively, he used his speed to create the offence he had been known for prior to being drafted. Earning time on the top power-play unit also helped him to a career-high 23 goals and 38 points in just the 48 games of that shortened season. This put him on pace for 39 goals and 65 points in an 82 game schedule.
After The Wonder
The torrid pace he set during that lockout-shortened season was not meant to last. During the 2013-14 season, despite his power-play time usage continuing, Tlusty’s totals dropped to 30 points in 68 games. But it was the 2014-2015 season where it all came apart for good. Once again his defensive lapses caught up to him causing him to lose the faith of the coaching staff. Posting 23 points in 52 games, he was moved to the Winnipeg Jets for two draft picks, a third in 2016 and a conditional sixth in 2015.
Over the next two seasons split between Winnipeg and the New Jersey Devils, Tlusty would put in a mere three goals and 10 points over 50 games. He finished his career playing a single year for Karpat of SM-Liiga having never again approached the promise and finish he showed during the 48 games of the lockout-shortened season.
Shane Willis was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning 56th overall in the 1995 Draft but was unable to come to terms with that organization. Re-entering the Draft in 1997, he was taken 88th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes. Drafted as a solid prospect with good upside, Willis played one more year in the OHL before moving up to the AHL for the 1998-99 season with the New Haven Beast.
That year he exploded for 31 goals and 81 points in 73 games, winning the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award, given to the AHL top rookie. The next season he followed that up 35 goals and 60 points in 80 games. Over these two seasons in the AHL he made 11 appearances at the NHL level but failed to register a point in any of those games.
Willis made his full-time NHL debut in the 2000-2001 season. Starting strong with three points in his first game, he remained a consistent threat throughout the entire season. He was also a fixture on the power-play unit, chipping in nine goals and 18 points with the man advantage in total.
By the end of the season, he notched 20 goals and 44 points in 73 games. He was also averaging just under 16 minutes per game showing the limited faith the coaching staff had in him. These totals both boded incredibly well for Willis going forward.
In the playoffs, he fell victim to a devastating open-ice hit from Scott Stevens which resulted in a concussion that held him out for the rest of the year. Despite this injury, both management and fans were equally excited to see what he would produce the following season.
After The Wonder
Willis spent the offseason rehabbing his injury and was on the roster for opening night of the 2001-02 season. Right from the start, it was evident that he was not the same player that had dazzled in his rookie season. He played a more timid game and stayed out of the high danger areas.
With goalie Tom Barrasso heading into free agency that summer, Carolina needed a replacement going forward so they packaged up Willis and Chris Dingman for Kevin Weekes. Ironically, the trade sent Willis to the team that originally drafted him, Tampa Bay. In the final 12 games of the season, Willis put up six assists with his new team.
Willis spent the next season playing for Tampa’s AHL affiliate. Trying to recapture his past form and confidence, he put up 18 goals and 34 points in 58 games. The numbers were promising but the next year the NHL experienced a lockout which wound up canceling the entire season. Like many others Willis went to Europe to play, splitting the year between the Swiss and Swedish leagues.
Upon resumption of play in the NHL, Willis went back to the AHL where he would play 76 games over three seasons. He managed to put up 25 goals and 58 points but he would never play another game in the NHL. He retired following the 2008-09 season.
Frantisek Kaberle was a Czech born player who took a different route to the NHL. Turning pro at 18, he played for four seasons for Kladno of the Czech league. He followed that up with four more seasons playing for MODO of the Swedish Elite League. Finally, at the age of 25, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the 1999 NHL Draft going 76th overall in the third round.
Over the next five seasons split between Los Angeles and the Atlanta Thrashers, Kaberle would establish himself as a reliable two-way defenseman playing over 20 minutes a night on average. While he had shown the occasion offensive touch in his European pro career, this was not his strength. His career year during these years was three goals and 29 points in the 2003-04 season with the Thrashers.
Following the lockout season of 2004-05 Kaberle signed as a free agent with Carolina. His first year with them would prove to be his best year ever. Kaberle thrived, leading the team in points. He notched six goals and 44 points in 77 games, by far the highest single-year total of his career.
In addition to this outstanding regular season, Kaberle carried his success into the postseason. Playing in 25 postseason games that year he led the team in defensive scoring with four goals and 13 points. In the second period of the Stanley Cup Final’s Game Seven, he scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal. This would be the only Stanley Cup he would ever win.
After The Wonder
Kaberle elected to undergo shoulder surgery on September 11, 2006. This surgery forced Carolina to place him on the long term injured reserve. He scored a goal on his first night back from IR, giving fans hope.
Despite this positive return, Kaberle would never again come close to his Stanley Cup-winning season. Over the next three seasons with Carolina, he would play 137 games totalling only three goals and 38 points. After these three seasons, Carolina opted to buy out the final year of his contract making him a free agent.
With his North American career over, Kaberle would return to his homeland. He played three more seasons in the Czech league with Kladno, Pardubice HC, and Plzen HC. He retired after the 2011-2012 season.