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.
Thomas Vanek is probably best known for his time with the Buffalo Sabres where he racked up 254 goals and 497 points in 598 career games. With two 40-goal seasons, two 30-goal seasons, and eight straight campaigns with 20 or more goals, he was one of the Sabres’ most prolific goal-scorers. Like most players in the modern era, he did not finish his career in Buffalo. Before hanging up his skates at the end of the 2018-19 season, he played for seven more NHL teams including the Canucks where he played 61 games and scored 17 goals and 41 points.
Vanek Becoming a Canuck
Like our last forgotten Canuck, Mats Sundin, Vanek came to the Canucks in the twilight of his career. Still unsigned at the beginning of September after a 2016-17 season that saw him score 17 goals and 31 points split between the Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings, he settled for a one-year, $2 million show-me contract in Vancouver.
Before Vanek was traded at the deadline to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Tyler Motte and Jussi Jokinen, he played 61 games in a Canucks uniform.
Donning the Orca
Vanek was not expected to light the house on fire when he came to the Canucks. So when he started scoring at a clip not seen since his prime years with the Sabres, fans obviously got excited. Again, like Sundin, he also made a huge impact on a youngster still learning the game. This time, instead of Ryan Kesler, it was rookie Brock Boeser.
If I have a question, I’ll always ask him…If he has a thought, he’s not afraid to tell me so I can improve and be better. I think he’s a really good leader and, obviously, he’s a great player. He sees the ice well and is a really good playmaker. He always communicates. He’s always looking to help me.Brock Boeser on Thomas Vanek’s impact
A prolific goalscorer in his own right, Vanek was probably the perfect mentor for a burgeoning star in Boeser. At the time, he was already over 500 points in his career and knew what it was like to be a developing top-six player on an NHL team. Like Boeser with the University of North Dakota, he played two seasons in the NCAA with the University of Minnesota where he accumulated 57 goals and 113 points in 83 games. The chemistry between the two of them was evident throughout the season, as Vanek was the setup man to many of his 29 goals that year.
The Rest of Vanek’s Career
As for the rest of his career, Vanek made his NHL debut in 2005-06 as a 22-year-old with the Buffalo Sabres after they took him fifth overall in the 2003 NHL Draft. Over the course of his career, he played for eight teams – including the Sabres, Canucks, Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, and Florida Panthers.
Vanek finished his career with 373 goals and 789 points in 1,029 games. He also recorded 21 goals and 36 points in 69 playoff games. Unfortunately, the Stanley Cup eluded him as he only ever made it to the Eastern Conference Final during his playing days.
Being one of the best Austrian-born hockey players of all time, Vanek played a lot for his country on the international stage. Unfortunately never seeing much success at the Olympics or the main World Championship group, he still ended up walking away with a Division 1A gold medal and was surprisingly a runner-up at the 2017 World Cup of Hockey.
Vanek will likely never be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, but he will still go down as one of the most prolific Austrians to ever play the game of hockey. Unless Marco Rossi puts together multiple 100-point seasons in the next few years for the Wild, he will wear that crown for probably the next decade or so. Even though his time in Vancouver was short, he still made an impact on the team with his leadership and experience. Also, if it wasn’t for him, the Canucks would not have Motte on their roster right now.
All-Time Canucks’ Ranks
Games Played: 61 GP (T286th)
Goals: 17 G (T156th)
Assists: 24 A (T180th)
Points: 41 P (T175th)
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Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout 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.