Thomas Vanek

Last updated

Thomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek-2011.jpg
Vanek with the Buffalo Sabres in 2011
Born (1984-01-19) 19 January 1984 (age 36)
Baden bei Wien, Austria
Height 6 ft 2 in (188 cm)
Weight 218 lb (99 kg; 15 st 8 lb)
Position Left wing
Shot Right
Played for Buffalo Sabres
Graz 99ers
New York Islanders
Montreal Canadiens
Minnesota Wild
Detroit Red Wings
Florida Panthers
Vancouver Canucks
Columbus Blue Jackets
National teamFlag of Austria.svg  Austria
NHL Draft 5th overall, 2003
Buffalo Sabres
Playing career 20042019

Thomas Vanek (born 19 January 1984) is an Austrian former professional ice hockey left winger. He played fourteen years in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets. Vanek was drafted by the Sabres fifth overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, making him the highest-drafted Austrian in NHL history.


Early life

Vanek was born in Baden bei Wien, Austria, to Slovak mother Jarmila and Czech father Zdeněk, [1] who emigrated from the Czechoslovakia to Austria in 1982. [2] He grew up in Zell am See (Salzburg) and in Graz (Styria), where his father played professional ice hockey. [3]

As a youth, he played in the 1997 and 1998 Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournaments with a team from Austria. [4] In 1998, at the age of 14, he moved to Canada. [5]

Playing career

Pre-NHL years

Vanek with the Sioux Falls Stampede in 2002 Thomas Vanek (2002) Sioux Falls Stampede.jpg
Vanek with the Sioux Falls Stampede in 2002

After playing junior hockey for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League (USHL), Vanek joined the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, leading the team in goals (31), assists (31) and points (62) in the 2002–03 season. In part due to his prolific scoring touch, the Golden Gophers won the 2003 NCAA National Championship. Vanek was named MVP of the Frozen Four tournament, [6] scoring the game-winning goals in both the semifinal against Michigan in overtime and in the final against New Hampshire. [7] He was also named Minnesota's team MVP for 2003, becoming the first freshman to receive the honor. He scored the most points by a Golden Gopher freshman in 2003 since Aaron Broten who scored 72 total points in 1979–80. [7] He was the first freshman to lead the team in scoring since Mike Antonovich in 1969–70. His 31 goals also led all NCAA freshmen in goal scoring, and was fourth in the entire country. He was also the 2003 WCHA Rookie of the Year, the third Golden Gopher to win the award. [8]

Vanek was a member of the Austrian national team in the 2004 IIHF World Championships, where he collected seven points in six games (two goals and five assists). Vanek led the Golden Gophers in goals (26) and points (51) for the second-straight season and finished fifth in points among Division I leaders with 51. Vanek was the Twin Cities Best College Athlete for 2004. [9]

Vanek spent 2004–05 with the Sabres' American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Rochester Americans, recording 68 points in 74 games and helped Rochester to the best record in the AHL. Vanek finished second on the team in points, 11 points behind Chris Taylor, but led the team in goals with 42 and in power play goals with 25. He finished second among rookies in points and led all rookies in goals scored, the latter of which was second in the league among all players.

Buffalo Sabres

Vanek signed a three-year deal with Buffalo on 3 September 2004, [10] and began playing for the Sabres in 2005–06 after a season with their AHL affiliate. He had a promising rookie season with 25 goals and 48 points in 81 games for the Sabres. His performance tailed off in the playoffs, managing two goals in ten games.

Vanek recorded his best statistical season, the following year in 2006–07. He played in all 82 regular season games for the Sabres, scoring 43 goals, tied for fifth in the league, and 41 assists. He also finished an NHL best +47, earning the NHL Plus-Minus Award. Upon the expiration of his entry-level contract during the 2007 off-season, Vanek signed a seven-year, $50 million offer sheet from the Edmonton Oilers. [11] The Sabres, having lost Chris Drury and Daniel Brière as free agents that off-season, immediately matched the offer sheet, thus keeping Vanek under contract until at least the end of the 2013–14 season. [12] Despite his lucrative new contract, Vanek's production dipped to 64 points in 2007–08.

Vanek in October 2006 playing for the Buffalo Sabres Thomas Vanek.jpg
Vanek in October 2006 playing for the Buffalo Sabres

In the midst of a more productive year, however, Vanek was named to his first NHL All-Star Game in 2009 in Montreal. [13] He helped the East to a 12–11 shootout victory over the West. Earlier in the season, on 13 December 2008, Vanek helped the Sabres reach a milestone by scoring the 10,000th goal in franchise history. Following the All-Star Game, on 4 February 2009, Vanek made NHL history by becoming only the second player to score four consecutive natural hat-trick. [14] He recorded his fourth natural hat trick, and fifth overall, in a 5–0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in HSBC Arena. [14] It was also Vanek's fourth consecutive natural hat-trick, matching an NHL record set by Cy Denneny between 1923 and 1924 with the old Ottawa Senators. Later that week, on 7 February, Vanek took a slapshot from Anton Volchenkov of the Ottawa Senators, fracturing his jaw. He underwent surgery the next day and was announced to be out of the lineup for three-to-four weeks. [14] At the time of the injury, Vanek was third in the league goal-scoring. At the end of the 2008–09 season, Vanek would score a total of 40 goals with 24 assists, totaling 64 points. He led the NHL in powerplay goals with 20. [15]

The 2009–10 season also started on a sour note, as Vanek sustained an upper body injury after scoring two goals in a 6–2 win against the Detroit Red Wings on 13 October. [16] Vanek had scored three goals in four games up to that point. On 10 April 2010, he scored four goals against Ottawa (one on a penalty shot) in the first two periods. [17]

On 1 October 2012, Vanek signed with the Graz 99ers in Austria to play for them until 4 November 2012, during the 2012–13 NHL lockout. [18] [19]

On 1 October 2013, the Buffalo Sabres names Vanek and Steve Ott captains; Vanek would wear the "C" for home games while Ott would wear the "C" for road games. [20]

New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens

On 27 October 2013, Vanek was traded to the New York Islanders for Matt Moulson, a conditional 2014 first-round draft pick and a 2015 second-round draft pick. [21] He immediately joined the team's top line alongside John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, which Vanek said later was the best line he ever played on. [22] [23] On 4 February 2014, Vanek confirmed that he had turned down a contract extension offer from the Islanders. The contract was reportedly for seven years and $50 million, with Vanek stating that the Islanders move to Barclays Center was one of his primary reasons for leaving the team. [22] [24]

On 5 March 2014, Vanek was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Sebastian Collberg and a second-round draft pick. [25] On 19 March 2014, he scored his first three goals for the team – a hat trick in a game against the Colorado Avalanche that they went on to win 6–3. [26] However, Vanek was noted for his lackluster performance during the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, including scoring just five even-strength points over 17 games. [27] In late June, Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin announced that the team would not be re-signing Vanek, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. [27]

Minnesota Wild

On 1 July 2014, Vanek signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract with the Minnesota Wild with a no-trade clause, turning down a three-year, $21 million offer to return to the Islanders. [28] [29] The signing reunited Vanek with former Sabres teammate Jason Pominville.

With the Wild up against the salary cap and Vanek having endured an unsuccessful stint with the Wild, Vanek's last year of his contract was bought-out by Minnesota on 24 June 2016. [30]

Detroit Red Wings

On 1 July 2016, Vanek signed a one-year, $2.6 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings reuniting him with Co-Captain Steve Ott when a member with the Sabres. [6]

Florida Panthers

With the Panthers looking to make a playoff push, on 1 March 2017, Vanek was traded to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Dylan McIlrath and a conditional third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. [31] [32] Vanek recorded 10 points in 20 games with Florida, but ultimately the Panthers did not qualify for the post-season.

Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets

On 1 September 2017 Vanek signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks. [33] On 20 December 2017, Vanek recorded his 10th career hat trick in a loss to the Montreal Canadiens. [34] On 26 February 2018, the day of the trade deadline, Vanek was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Jussi Jokinen and Tyler Motte. [35] He recorded his 11th career hat trick in the same season on 27 March 2018, in a game against the Edmonton Oilers. [36]

Return to Detroit

On 1 July 2018, Vanek signed a one-year, $3 million contract for a second stint with the Red Wings. [37]


On 25 February 2020, Vanek announced his retirement. [38]

Personal life

Vanek and his wife Ashley have three sons. [39] They live in Stillwater, Minnesota.

On 21 July 2014, Vanek's name was listed in records seized from The Marina Restaurant & Bar, a Rochester, New York, facility suspected of running an illegal gambling ring. For his part, Vanek denied all wrongdoing, cooperated with authorities and was not charged with any crime. [40]

Career statistics

Regular season and playoffs

Regular season Playoffs
Season TeamLeagueGP G A Pts PIM GPGAPtsPIM
1999–00 Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 351518331230118
2000–01Sioux Falls StampedeUSHL201910291585492
2001–02Sioux Falls StampedeUSHL534645915430009
2002–03 Minnesota Golden Gophers WCHA 4531316260
2003–04 Minnesota Golden GophersWCHA3826255172
2004–05 Rochester Americans AHL 7442266862523510
2005–06 Buffalo Sabres NHL 8125234872102026
2006–07 Buffalo SabresNHL824341844016641010
2007–08 Buffalo SabresNHL8236286464
2008–09 Buffalo SabresNHL7340246444
2009–10 Buffalo SabresNHL712825534232132
2010–11 Buffalo SabresNHL803241732475050
2011–12 Buffalo SabresNHL7826356152
2012–13 Graz 99ers EBEL 11510154
2012–13 Buffalo SabresNHL3820214120
2013–14 Buffalo SabresNHL134594
2013–14 New York Islanders NHL4717274434
2013–14 Montreal Canadiens NHL18691581755104
2014–15 Minnesota Wild NHL8021315237100442
2015–16 Minnesota WildNHL7418234122
2016–17 Detroit Red Wings NHL4815233816
2016–17 Florida Panthers NHL2028106
2017–18 Vancouver Canucks NHL6117244128
2017–18 Columbus Blue Jackets NHL197815861122
2018–19 Detroit Red WingsNHL6416203626
NHL totals1,0293734167895476921153626
Medal record
Ice hockey
Representing Flag of Austria.svg  Austria
IIHF World Championships
Gold medal icon (G initial).svg 2008 Austria Division I Group A
IIHF World U20 Championships
Gold medal icon (G initial).svg 2003 Slovenia Division I Group B
Silver medal icon (S initial).svg 2002 Austria Division I Group A
Representing Team Europe
World Cup
Silver medal icon (S initial).svg 2016 Toronto


2002 Austria WJC D1 556112
2003 AustriaWJC D15941310
2004 AustriaWJC631437
2004 Austria WC 62570
2005 Austria OGQ 31010
2008 Austria WC D1 555106
2009 AustriaWC61342
2013 AustriaWC74262
2014 AustriaOG40114
2016 Team Europe WCH 60112
Junior totals1617112849
Senior totals3713173016

Awards and honours

All-USHL First Team2001–02
All-WCHA Rookie Team 2002–03
All-WCHA Second Team 2002–03
All-NCAA All-Tournament Team 2003 [41]
All-WCHA Second Team 2003–04
AHCA West Second-Team All-American 2003–04
NHL YoungStars Game 2006–07
NHL Plus-Minus Award 2006–07
NHL Second All-Star Team 2006–07
NHL All-Star Game 2009

See also

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  14. 1 2 3 "Buffalo Sabres LW Thomas Vanek out a month with fractured jaw". National Hockey League. 8 February 2009. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
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Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Grant Potulny
NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Succeeded by
Adam Berkhoel
Preceded by
Daniel Paille
Buffalo Sabres first round draft pick
Succeeded by
Drew Stafford
Preceded by
Benjamin Raich
Austrian Sports Personality of the Year
Succeeded by
Thomas Morgenstern
Preceded by
Wade Redden and Michal Rozsíval
Winner of the NHL Plus-Minus Award
Succeeded by
Pavel Datsyuk
Preceded by
Jason Pominville
Buffalo Sabres captain
with Steve Ott

Succeeded by
Steve Ott