Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Born on this date in 1984, Thomas Vanek grew up in Austria before coming to the United States at age 14, where he played three seasons of junior hockey for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL. During this the 2001-02 season he would also skate for Austria at the Division 1 World Junior Championships, hosted by his native Austria. Vanek would finish second in tournament scoring with 11 points in five games and lead Austria to the Championship Final, coming away with a silver medal after a loss to Germany.
He next played for the University of Minnesota, starting in the 2002-03 season when he led the Golden Gophers in goals, as well as the nation, with 31, assists (31) and points (62) during the regular season, becoming the first freshman to lead Minnesota in scoring in 33 years. He followed up his successful regular season by being named the MVP of the Frozen Four as he scored the game winning goals in both the semi-finals and finals as Minnesota captured the 2003 national championship in Buffalo, New York.
He must have made an impression on the Sabres staff, as Buffalo took Vanek fifth overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft later that year, the highest ever draft position by an Austrian.
After another year at Minnesota where he led the team in goals (26) and points (51), Vanek would compete for Austria first at the 2004 World Junior Championships in January and then the World Championships, where he led the team with seven points in six games.
The NHL lockout of 2004-05 ensured that Vanek would spend the entire season with the Rochester Americans of the AHL, where he amassed 42 goals (leading all rookies and placing second in the league) and 68 points in 74 games to finish second in team scoring, as the Americans finished with the best record in the league.
Vanek moved up to the NHL for the 2005-06 season and scored 25 goals and 48 points in his rookie season. 2006-07 proved to be his finest season to date, with 43 goals and 84 points as well as having the best plus/minus rating that year with a +47. In the postseason, Vanek would contribute ten points in 16 games as the Sabres make a deep playoff run, making it to the Eastern Conference Finals in their final season in the black and red jerseys.
In 2008-09, he would score the 10,000th goal in Sabres history on December 13 and be named to his first NHL All-Star Game in 2009. He finished the season with 40 goals despite missing nine games after suffering a broken jaw after being hit by a slapshot.
Today's featured jersey is a 2004 Austria National Team Thomas Vanek jersey as worn in the World Junior Championships in Finland. While Austria's performance at the 2004 World Juniors was not a very memorable, we chose to replicate Vanek's jersey from this tournament due to his wearing the captian's "C" and his familiar college and NHL #26, rather than the #15 he wore with the senior team at the World Championships.
Two distinctive features of this jersey are the fine details of the trim running down the arms and the unique font for the numbers on the back, which are much more at home on a soccer jersey.
Our first video is an interesting interview with Vanek discussing his journey from Austria to the NHL followed by a compilation of Vanek goals from his time with the University of Minnesota and the Buffalo Sabres, which gives a nice retrospective of the jerseys Vanek has worn throughout his career, as Buffalo has had quite a number of jerseys during Vanek's first few NHL seasons.
Here is Vanek being taken by the Sabres in the 2003 draft with commentary by Pierre McGuire and Bob McKenzie, who seems more excited than usual.
Now on a roll, we present a pair of goals by Vanek from the 2008 World Championships, a Vanek seems to have located a weakness in the Dutch goalies game on his glove side that you could drive a truck through.
We are going to post this one as an example of how NOT to do a youtube video. First, never, ever interrupt a Rick Jeanneret call of a goal. Never.
Next, where's the replay up close so we can see exactly what happened? C'mon, youtube gives you ten minutes to work with and you give us 20 seconds? People, work with us here…