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 Los Angeles Kings One-Hit Wonders.
The Los Angeles Kings Top Three One-Hit Wonders
Brian MacLellan went completely undrafted through the late ’70s. This led him to pursue the college hockey route, starting at Bowling Green State University in 1978-79 alongside childhood friend George McPhee. In their freshman season, McPhee and MacLellan would dominate. McPhee led the team in scoring with 88 points in 43 games, while MacLellan ranked fourth with 63 points in 44 games.
The two were terrific as freshmen but weren’t able to match their freshman-year performance in their remain three seasons at Bowling Green. MacLellan in specific would go on to score 23, 25, and 32 points in his final three years respectively. In a sense, he established himself as a one-hit-wonder even before his NHL days: a terrific foreshadowing of what was to come when he was signed by the Kings immediately following his senior year.
One Hit Season
MacLellan spent his first year of professional hockey in the minor league, setting a modest 26 points in 71 AHL games in 1982-83. He also saw eight NHL games but only managed three assists.
But he fought his way into the NHL for the 1983-84 season. In fact, he fought his way right up to being linemates with the Hall-of-Famer Marcel Dionne. It was Dionne’s ninth season in LA and he entered the year having topped 100 points in each of the previous five years; and in seven of the previous nine.
MacLellan was in very good hands, playing alongside an established hockey legend. And, as a result, MacLellan’s number shot up. In 1983-84, he scored an impressive 54 points in 72 games, alongside a Dionne that scored only 92 points. But in 1984-85, Dionne shot back up to the over-100 tally, ending the year with a terrific 126 points.
MacLellan fed off of this success, setting 85 points – the highest of his career – in 80 games. This included a terrific 31 goals. Both of these tallies would rank fourth on the Kings that year. Simply put, MacLellan was one of the best players on a Kings team that would burst into the postseason, only to be swept by the 200-point-scoring-Wayne Gretzky and his Edmonton Oilers.
After the Wonder
Still, MacLellan made his mark in 1984-85. He thrived off of the success of his teammates and set a high bar… one that he’d never again reach.
In the 1985-86 campaign, MacLellan was traded to the New York Rangers after only 27 games, and 13 points, with the Kings. He’d go on to finish the season with a combined 45 points in 78 games. This sudden drop was largely thanks to New York’s void of a true star, like Dionne in LA or McPhee in Bowling Green, for MacLellan to benefit off of.
MacLellan rebounded slightly after being traded to the Minnesota North Stars for the 1986-87 season, where he scored 63 points alongside the 103-point-scoring Dino Ciccarelli. But he’d again falter the following year, ultimately never topping 50 points again. MacLellan’s decline continued through the final five years of his career – despite winning a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames – ultimately ending his career as an emphatic one-hit-wonder.
Mike Donnelly followed a very similar path as MacLellan. After not being drafted in the late-70s, Donnelly attended Michigan State University starting in 1982-83. There, he scored at just below a point-per-game average through his first three years. In his senior season, he exploded, scoring an incredible 59 goals and 97 points in only 44 games. This terrific showing ranked third in the entire CCHA in scoring that year. His 59 goals also set the single-season CCHA record, with only one NCAA player topping this tally. These feats nearly guaranteed Donnelly an NHL contract following year’s end.
Sure enough, the Rangers inked Donnelly out of free agency in the following August. But after appearing in a combined 22 NHL games between 1986 and 1988, Donnelly was traded to the Buffalo Sabres alongside a fifth-round pick – a pick that would go on to select should-be Hall of Famer Alexander Mogilny.
Donnelly played in 40 games in 1987-88, setting his rookie season, but struggled to hold an NHL role. He was traded to the Kings in September of 1990 and finally managed a full NHL season, with 29 goals and 45 points, in 1991-92.
One Hit Season
But it was the 1992-93 season that truly saw Donnelly burst onto the scene. Much like MacLellan, Donnelly thrived off of the star power around him. He was featured on an offence that included Luc Robitaille, Tony Granato, Jari Kurri, and Gretzky. The defence of Rob Blake, Paul Coffey, Marty McSorley, and Charlie Huddy rounded out the seriously strong lineup.
Donnelly thrived alongside his Heaven-sent peers. He matched his goal-scoring total of the previous year but added on 40 assists, 24 more than the previous year. This gave him 69 points in 84 games, fourth on the team.
Donnelly’s name was stamped alongside some of the best names in 90’s hockey. It was an exhilarating time for the Kings and Donnelly’s 1992-93 season made him a strong part of that.
After the Wonder
But his stardom was short-lived. In the 1993-94 campaign, Donnelly only scored 42 points. He was traded to the Dallas Stars in February of the following year, ending the year with a combined 27 points in 44 games. But his career fizzled out in the following two years. By 1996-97, Donnelly was forced out of the league. He’d play a handful of games in the IHL, and five games in Switzerland, before his career officially ended after the 1997-98 season.
Unlike MacLellan and Donnelly, Steve Bozek actually was drafted. The Kings took the forward in the third round of the 1980 NHL Draft, following his 89-point sophomore season at Northern Michigan University.
Bozek scored 90 points in his junior season, far-and-away the best in the league. He was college hockey’s star, leading Northern Michigan to a championship title and exciting the Kings.
One Hit Season
With Charlie Simmer injured for most of the season, the rookie Bozek was able to slot into one of the best lines in NHL history, right alongside Dionne and Taylor. As apart of the infamous ‘Triple Crown’ line, Bozek burst onto the scene. By year’s end, Bozek had a then-LA rookie-record 33 goals and 56 points. He added an additional six points in the 10 playoff games LA played that spring.
Like MacLellan and Donnelly, Bozek banked off of the seriously terrific talent around him. And like MacLellan and Donnelly, Bozek’s terrific season set the bar high; especially since it was his rookie year, only one year removed from a historic college performance.
After the Wonder
But it wasn’t meant to be. Bozek’s goal-scoring talent that he was so renowned for slowly tapered off. He played 53 games and scored 26 points in the 1982-83 season before the Kings shipped him to the Calgary Flames. He’d spend the next four years in Calgary, only scoring more than 20 goals once, in the 1985-86 season where he ended with 43 points.
Those 43 points would be the closest Bozek ever got to his rookie season glory. He bounced from Calgary to the St. Louis Blues, to the Vancouver Canucks, and then finally to the San Jose Sharks, never mounting more than 35 points 1986. He’d be booted from the league after 1992, playing one year in Itay before hanging up his skates; never touching the glory he set in his rookie season.