Cheechoo train bound for Russian league
Former NHLer and one-time leading goal-scorer Jonathan Cheechoo has signed to play overseas this upcoming season.
The Moose Cree First Nation member has signed with Medvescak Zagreb of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Russia’s national league, according to multiple reports.
The move comes after the 32-year-old spent the last three seasons playing in the minors in North America.
Last season, he scored 13 goals, 32 points in 35 games for the Oklahoma City Barons, the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate for the Edmonton Oilers.
He also played for the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis) in 2011-12 and the Worcester Sharks (San Jose) in 2010-11, where he combined for 103 points in 125 games.
A second round draft pick in 1998, Cheechoo has struggled to regain his form that saw him score 56 goals during the 2005-2006 season with the San Jose Sharks, which earned him the Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal-scorer.
He followed up that effort with 37, 23, and 12 goals respectively the following three seasons.
He was traded to the Ottawa Senators in 2009 and played 61 games, tallying five goals and 14 points, before being demoted to the minors. The Senators bought out the remaining year of his five-year contract that summer, rendering Cheechoo a free agent. He has not played in the NHL since.
Hockey fans and analysts alike speculate injuries he suffered during the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons – including a concussion – have contributed to his declining play.
Cheechoo joins a 25-player roster composed of nine fellow Canadians and seven Americans. The other players are from either Croatia or other European countries.
Based in Zagreb, Croatia, Medvescak Zagreb will make its debut in the KHL this season after being part of an Austrian league since 2009 and Croatia’s own league since 1991. The team was founded in 1961.
The KHL is a Russian-based league founded in 2008 and is considered the second-best hockey league in the world after the NHL.
Cheechoo’s only other experience playing overseas came when he played for HV 17 of the Swedish Elite League during the 2004-05 NHL lockout, where he scored five goals in 20 games.
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