Joel Dorcas | April 30th, 2020
Mats Sundin was the first European born player to be drafted first overall in the NHL and shares the distinction as one of the longest-serving captains born outside of North America. He became the first European captain in Toronto Maple Leaf history in 1996-1997 and will go down in Leaf history as one of their best ever. Let’s dig into another Blast From the Past and take a closer look at the great career of 6’5″ center, number 13 Mats Sundin.
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Draft: First round, first overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1989
NHL Clubs: Quebec Nordiques, four seasons-1990-1994. Toronto Maple Leafs, 13 seasons-1994-2007. Vancouver Canucks, 1 season-2008
NHL All-Star Appearances: 8
Tournament: 2006 Olympique Gold medal
Awards: Mark Messier Leadership-2007-2008
Hall of Fame Induction: 2012
A Steady Force From Bromma Sweden
From a team perspective, Sundin’s first pro season wasn’t one to remember. The Quebec Nordiques were amongst the league’s worst clubs having won just 16 times in 80 games upon Sundin’s initial campaign. Statistically, on a personal level, Sundin started off his career on the right track. He scored 23 goals and 59points. Two seasons later, Sundin would reach what would be his career-high in points with 114 points and 47 goals in 80 games. The Nordiques would also finally enjoy some success improving dramatically, increasing their win totals to 47. Sundin would play four excellent seasons with Quebec, kick-starting a great NHL career.
The Leafs Trade Wendel Clark??
In what was thought to be an inconceivable move, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded beloved fan-favorite Wendel Clark to the Nordiques(who would soon relocate to Colorado) for Mats Sundin. The deal also included complimentary players and draft picks. It took some time for the fan base to adjust to life without Clark but Sundin proved to be an incredibly smart acquisition. Sundin led the Leafs in scoring right out of the block and would end up being the team’s leading point-getter in 12 of his 13 seasons with the organization.
Leading the Leafs to the Promise Land?
The 1998-’99 season was a special one for the Maple Leafs. The Leafs rekindled some playoff magic making it all the way to the Conference Finals. Sundin was instrumental in the surge, scoring 16 points in 17 games. The “Buds” would once again reach the Conference Finals in 2001-’02 after another 100-point regular season. Sundin once again led the way with 80 points and 41 goals in 80 games.
Between 2002 and his last with the Leaf organization in 2008, the team made some valiant efforts but ultimately fell short at capturing the Stanley Cup. Sundin was a fantastic performer and an incredible leader during his full tenure as a Maple Leaf. He scored 30 goals in 10 out of the 12 full seasons he played. To this day he remains as the franchise leader in goals(420) and in points(984).
Leaving Toronto, One Last Chance
Uncertainty loomed large during his final year in the League. His contract with Toronto expired before 2008-’09 was to kick off. He hinted towards retirement during his hold out but winded up signing with the Vancouver Canucks midway through the year. His quest for a Cup once again fell short, the final chapter was complete, an impressive career had come to a close.
The final body of work is undoubtedly impressive and consistent. Sundin finished with almost exactly a point in every game he played, 1,349 in 1,346 games played which ranks 28th all-time. He also goes down in history as the 23rd best goal scorer of all-time with 564. Perhaps most impressive, and what we should remember Sundin the most for is his 96 career game-winning goals which rank 12th all time. Mats Sundin will forever be held in high regard throughout Leaf Nation and the entire hockey world.
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Main Image Credit:Embed from Getty Images