|Captain Markus Naslund will reach an illustrious career milestone Thursday night in Detroit.
No, he’s not looking to become Vancouver’s all-time leader in goals, he already owns that record.
Naslund will play in his 1,000th career game when the Canucks battle the Red Wings to finish up a three-game road trip.
To put that in perspective, the 14-year NHL veteran played his first game the same season Vancouver faced New York in the Stanley Cup final. Everyone remembers how that series played out, but a phoenix rose from the ashes for the Canucks as Naslund began his outstanding career that same year.
The 6-foot, 185-pound native of Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, was drafted in the first round, 16th overall, by Pittsburgh in 1991, and he began his career as a Penguin in 1993-94. In 1996, after two and a half seasons, his game started to take flight and the Canucks jumped at the chance to acquire him. Vancouver sent Alek Stojanov, its first round pick in ’91, to the Pens in exchange for the skilled left winger.
Swapping first round draft picks seemed like a good idea at the time for Pittsburgh, but this will go down as one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history because of what Naslund has accomplished in Vancouver.
For twelve years Naslund has been the heart and soul of the Canucks, producing more memorable performances than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined.
He’s been such a staple in Vancouver that whale sightings off the coast haven’t compared to catching a glimpse of Snazzy Nazzy, on or off the ice, for some time.
This season Naslund is third in team scoring with 36 points (15-21-36) through 46 games, which includes two game-winners and a hat trick, his tenth as a Canuck. Despite Vancouver’s inconsistent play at times, Naslund’s value hasn’t decreased as the Canucks have 10 wins in 12 games when he scores, and 21 wins in 25 games when he records a point.
In 848 games as a member of the Canucks, Naslund has 737 points (336-401-737), including six 30-plus goal seasons, and too many highlight reel plays to count. He’s also suited up for 45 post-season games, recording 33 points (13-20-33) in leading Vancouver to the playoffs four times, with memorable runs in 2002-03 and 2006-07.
Naslund, who’s missed only 28 games in the last 10 seasons, enjoyed his best campaign in 2002-03, playing alongside Brendan Morrison and Todd Bertuzzi. All three players set new career highs for points that season, with Naslund leading the Canucks and finishing second in league scoring with 104 points (48-56-104), two shy of countryman Peter Forsberg. He was awarded the Lester B. Pearson Award as the NHL's outstanding player that season, becoming the first Vancouver Canuck to do so.
Since then Naslund’s led the Canucks in scoring twice, and despite decreased numbers offensively over the last three seasons, flashes of brilliance are always evident in his game and the leadership and expertise he is providing Vancouver’s young guns is second to none.
Naslund is working hard this season to help the Canucks make a strong run at the Stanley Cup, and even though he hasn't had an abundance of puck luck, he remains the heart and soul of the defending Northwest Division champions.
Heading into his 1,000th career game, Naslund still has a passion for hockey and the Canucks that is burning strong, and that’s not a flame that’s about to be extinguished anytime soon. There are still many more magical moments to come from #19.
1 - Lester B. Pearson Award
6 - 30+ goal seasons in Vancouver
33 - Career playoff points
104 - Points in 2002-03, a career high
336 - Career goals for the Canucks, a franchise record
737 - Career points for the Canucks
848 - Career games in Vancouver