Do you remember when Jonathan Cheechoo scored 93 points in a single season with the San Jose Sharks or when Cam Barker was selected third overall in 2004 and you were expecting them to be your team’s new shooting star? Suddenly those names have disappeared and you lost track of those guys. What are they up to and how have their careers worked out? Let’s have a look at some of those guys:
Matt D’Agostini (RW, Servette-Geneve, Switzerland)
Matt D’Agostini has been a well-travelled NHLer in the past years, spending time with five different NHL teams. D’Agostini has been playing the last two seasons with Servette-Geneve of the Swiss league where he has become the best player for the team of former AHLer Chris McSorley (head coach and general manager). Although his point production is not through the roof, he is a very constant contributor and the most important forward for Servette-Geneve. He has the hockey smarts, two-way game and skills to make a comeback as a solid bottom-six forward in the NHL one day.
Derek Roy (C, SC Bern, Switzerland)
I was quite excited when SC Bern announced the signing of Derek Roy in October after he failed to get a contract with an NHL team. Roy has definitely been one of the bigger names signed by a Swiss team in the past few seasons. However, he never really lived up to my high expectations. The NHL veteran, who has played in over 700 games and contributed over 500 points, did not play as dominant as I would have expected. Although his numbers were ok in his first season abroad, he often went unnoticed in games. His performance improved in the playoffs and he is currently playing in the final of the Swiss league. Given his experience and strong NHL resume, especially with the Buffalo Sabres, he could be bound for a comeback in the NHL soon.
Devin Setoguchi (RW, HC Davos, Switzerland)
Devin Setoguchi spent the best time of his career with the San Jose Sharks, where he was a constant scorer. In his best season with the Sharks, Setoguchi collected 65 points, but it somehow never really worked out for him after that. He has changed organizations nearly each season and played in four different NHL organizations overall. After being demoted to the AHL last season, he has decided to sign with current Swiss champion HC Davos. He did not really convince me in the regular season, but started to pick up his pace in the playoffs. It seems to me that the path back into the NHL is a very long and bumpy one.
Peter Mueller (W, Malmo Redhawks, Sweden)
Peter Mueller was a top-10 pick back in 2006 but could not confirm his productive rookie season with Phoenix and was therefore moved around to Colorado and later to Florida before signing with Swiss team Kloten. He had a strong first season in Switzerland, being the team’s top scorer in the regular season. However, his follow-up season was a tough one, both for Mueller and the whole team. He struggled because of injuries and couldn’t live up to the expectations in the second season and signed a contract with Malmo of Sweden. Mueller was once considered a promising prospect for the Coyotes, but he did not look like an NHLer anymore in his past two seasons.
Cam Barker (D, Slovan Bratislava, Slovakia)
It is hard to believe that Winnipeg-native defenceman Barker has been a third overall pick in 2004. It is even harder to believe that he has been selected ahead of players such as Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd, Travis Zajac and others. After a strong season with the Blackhawks, collecting 40 points, his point production went down. He was moved around in the NHL and finally left for the KHL in 2013 after some AHL stints. In the KHL, now playing for Slovakian team Slovan Bratislava, he is trying to rebound his career and probably gain some confidence to then potentially become an interesting option for an NHL organization to be signed as a free agent. Given that he is only 29 and doing well with Slovan, a return to North America can’t be ruled out.
Jonathan Cheechoo (RW, Dinamo Minsk, Belarus)
Hard to believe that 10 years ago, Cheechoo scored 93 points for the San Jose Sharks, netting an incredible 56 goals. He has surely benefited from line combos during that season which boosted his point production, but it seems like those times are from a different life.
— Darryl Martin (@Kingshark49) March 13, 2016
He could never really find this production again and had a steadily decline in points each year. In fact, he went from a 93-point player to an AHLer within only four seasons. After three full AHL seasons, he needed a change of scenery and signed with Zagreb and later Minsk. Although he has put up decent numbers since his arrival in the KHL, at 35-years old, it looks like his NHL days are labelled.
Maxim Afinogenov (RW, Vityaz Podolsk, Russia)
Maxim Afinogenov’s NHL career came to an end in 2010 where he finished the season with the Atlanta Thrashers, scoring 61 points. He has signed a contract with SKA St. Petersburg but could never really live up the expectations pointwise. At the age of 36 and a declining point production, it is pretty safe to say that he will not make a comeback in North America. He played a third season with Vityaz Podolsk, a team that has never made it into the KHL postseason. There are rumors that Afinogenov will sign a contract extension with Podolsk.
Michal Handzus (C, Banska Bystrica, Slovakia)
Michal Handzus‘ time in the NHL came to an end in 2014 when he joined his youth team in Slovakia, HC Banska Bystrica, after helping the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup in 2013 and advancing to the Stanley Cup Final the year after. He played in his second season with Banska Bystrica this year and has collected a World Championship gold medal with Slovakia as well as two silver medals. The defensively strong center has played in over 1000 NHL games for six different teams and has suited up in three Olympic Games for his country.
Tomas Kaberle (D, Kometa Brno, Czech Republic)
The 38-year-old veteran Czech defenceman has seen a lot in his long hockey career. He was drafted exactly 20 years ago by the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he spent the most time of his career. He won the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011, won a World Championship gold and silver medal, an Olympic bronze medal and participated in four NHL All-Star Games. There is not much Kaberle is missing in his trophy room and the veteran has also played a total of over 1,000 NHL games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens. This season, the defender played for HC Kometa Brno in the Czech Extraliga and has collected 20 points.
Leafs trade Tomas Kaberle https://t.co/rYTYNnT1AC
— Amelia (@Amelia_C_87) February 4, 2016
Jochen Hecht (C, Adler Mannheim, Germany)
Jochen Hecht is one of the most successful German-born hockey players to ever play the game and is second among NHL points for his country, only trailing Marco Sturm. He has played in almost 900 NHL games, most of them with the Buffalo Sabres, where he was a constant scorer in 10 seasons, once even wearing the “C” for this organization. The lockout season was the last campaign Hecht spent in North America and he signed a contract with his youth team, the Adler Mannheim. He won the German league last year with the club, which he already did in 1997 before starting his North America adventure.
- Marc-Andre Bergeron (D, ZSC Lions, Switzerland)
- Nigel Dawes (W, Barys Astana, Kazakhstan)
- Wojtek Wolski (W, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Russia)
- Niko Kapanen (C, Jokerit Helsinki, Finland)
- Henrik Tallinder (D, TPS Turku, Finland)
- Niklas Hagman (LW, Jokerit Helsinki, Finland)
- Steven Reinprecht (C, Nurnberg Ice Tigers, Germany)
Independent Scout covering European Hockey and Prospects for TheHockeyWriters. Located in Switzerland and blogging on www.scouting-factory.blogspot.com. Opinions on blog are my own