Over their 50-year history, the Vancouver Canucks have had many players come through the doors of Rogers Arena and the Pacific Coliseum. It’s hard to remember them all, especially when they are more well-known in another jersey. In this series, we are going to look back at some former NHLers that played for the Canucks, but do not come to mind as such when we think of their NHL careers.
Mats Sundin is probably best known for being the Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs for 13 seasons after he was acquired from the Quebec Nordiques in a package that included Wendel Clark. He ended up becoming the face of the franchise and is now part of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He never ventured outside of Canada and played for three different Canadian teams before hanging up the skates in 2009. Wait, you said three Canadian teams? Yes, that’s not a typo, Sundin did play for one other team before he retired. That team was the Canucks.
Sundin Becoming a Canuck
At the ripe age of 36 and with the Maple Leafs wanting to move on from their aging core, Sundin became an unrestricted free agent (UFA) in the summer of 2008. Contemplating retirement for six months, then-Canucks general manager Mike Gillis convinced him to join his countrymen Henrik and Daniel Sedin in Vancouver to close out his career.
Signing a one-year pro-rated $10 million deal just before the calendar turned to 2009, he ended up playing 41 games in a Canucks uniform.
Donning the Orca
Even though Sundin was only part of the Canucks for a short time, he made a huge impact on the young core that eventually made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. Ryan Kesler, who became one of the best two-way centers in the NHL, learned a lot from the future Hall of Famer on how to become a consistent top-six producer when he played on a line with him and Pavol Demitra during the 2008-09 season. Kesler himself credited Sundin with challenging him to take his game to next level. He, of course, did as he scored 41 goals just a season later.
That’s when Burr was coming into his own and our third-line guys were turning into first- and second-line guys. Mats really helped. Not only my career, but he had a big impact on the Sedins’ career too. I wish he would’ve stayed one more year, because I think we possibly would have won it, but that’s hindsight. I think 2009 was the time I was like, “Okay, we can do this.”Ryan Kesler
Sundin may have been a legend in Toronto for his offensive production, but he deserves some praise for the work he did in Vancouver too. His experience and presence in the locker room around all those developing stars proved to be invaluable, as the Canucks ended up with one of the best teams in franchise history only a couple of seasons later.
The Rest of Sundin’s Career
As for the rest of his career, Sundin made his NHL debut in 1990-91 as a 19-year-old with the Quebec Nordiques after they took him first overall in the 1989 NHL Draft. Over the course of his career, he played for three teams – including the Nordiques, Maple Leafs, and Canucks.
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Sundin finished his career with 564 goals and 1,349 points in 1,346 games. He also recorded 38 goals and 82 points in 91 playoff games. Unfortunately, the Stanley Cup eluded him as he only ever made it to the Eastern Conference Final during his playing days.
Like the Sedins, Sundin had a lot of success internationally with Team Sweden. By the time he hung up his skates in 2009, he had two gold medals, two silver medals, and two bronze medals at the World Championship, and a gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Sundin was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and IIHF Hall of Fame in 2012 and had his number 13 jersey retired by the Maple Leafs in 2016. He will forever be known as a Maple Leaf by most fans and historians, but he is still a part of Canucks history, even though he only played 41 games with the Orca on his chest.
All-Time Canucks’ Ranks
Games Played: 41 GP (T335th)
Goals: 9 G (T223rd)
Assists: 19 A (T214th)
Points: 28 P (T222nd)
Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.