It seems like it was just yesterday when Thomas Vanek was drafted 5th overall in the illusive 2003 NHL entry draft. Darcy Regier pulled the trigger on the Austrian sniper and it turned out to be a heck of a pick. Night in and night out, Vanek would be scoring clutch goals in all three phases of the game. Whether it was on the powerplay, the penalty kill or simply just five on five, Vanek was always a dominate force on the ice. With the Sabres in the early stage of a rebuild, it was time for Vanek to move onto the next chapter in his career.
Vanek began his North American hockey career in the USHL, where he spent three seasons with the Sioux Falls Stampede. In his final year, he recorded a whopping 91 points in 53 games. Vanek then went on and attended the University of Minnesota for two years, where he led the team in scoring in back to back seasons. During the lockout in 2004-05, Vanek spent the year playing with the Rochester Americans in the AHL, where he recorded 68 points in 74 games. Numbers don’t lie, and at this point it was obvious that Vanek was ready to make the transition to the NHL.
Although it took Vanek a while to get his first career NHL goal, once he scored it, he never looked back. Vanek finished his rookie campaign with 25 goals and 48 points, to go along with 72 PIMs. However, it was the next season where Vanek turned the heads of all fans and insiders with his play in the 2006-2007 season. In 82 games, Vanek amassed 43 goals and 41 assists finishing with an astounding 84 points. Aside from his amazing offensive production, Vanek went on to win the Bud Light Plus-Minus Award, finishing plus 47 on the season. Even though Vanek has had a number of great seasons in the NHL, the 2006-07 season stands out as his best NHL season to date.
In his Buffalo Sabres career, Thomas Vanek totaled 598 career games with 254 goals, 243 assists and 497 points. Vanek ranks 5th with the franchise in total goals, 10th in total points, and 4th in game winning goals. These are obviously eye opening numbers that truly show how good Thomas Vanek really was. Arguably the most impressive part about Vanek’s game was his skill in the shootout. His famous “around the world” or slap shot uaually paid dividends for the Sabres. Vanek finished a career 37% in the shootout, which is a very respectable number.
It was an emotional day for some Sabres fans when the news broke out that Vanek was dealt to the Islanders; however most fans felt that it was time for Vanek to move on. Thomas Vanek had an amazing career with the Buffalo Sabres. It was extremely sad to see the sniper go. The sky is the limit for Vanek, now playing on a line with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Who knows what kind of numbers that Vanek can now amass playing on a line with one of the leagues best players. Sabres faithful wishes Vanek the best throughout the rest of his career. There is no doubt at this point in time, Vanek is a top 10 Sabre of all time.