Mats Sundin’s career with the Toronto Maple Leafs began exactly 18 years ago today; now, he’s arguably one of the most well-known players in recent Leafs and has earned an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, it was announced Tuesday.
Sundin’s NHL career begin in 1989 (before I was even born, oops!) when he was drafted first overall by the Quebec Nordiques.
Upon being drafted, he became the first European-born player to be selected first overall by an NHL team. However, despite his high rank and impressive prior statistics, Sundin didn’t join the Nordiques immediately and instead joined the Swedish Elite League.
The Swedish center played the ’89-’90 season with Djurgardens IF Stockholm of the Swedish Elite League before joining Quebec the next year for his first in a long line of NHL seasons.
Mark October 4, 1990 as the truly official beginning of Sundin’s NHL career. That’s the day he played his first NHL game, against the Hartford Whalers, and also scored his first NHL goal. That season, he had 59 points in 80 games.
Over four seasons with the Nordiques, Sundin played 324 games. He scored 135 goals and 199 assists, averagng 1.03 points per game with Quebec.
As has been proven throughout NHL (and hockey) history, no player is ‘untradeable.’ Quebec proved this on June 28, 1994 with a stunning trade. To Quebec: Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson and a ’94 first-rounder; to Toronto: Sundin, Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner and a ’94 first-rounder.
This would prove to be a momentous trade, and Sundin would spend nearly the rest of his NHL career in Toronto. His premiere with the Leafs was delayed by the ’94 lockout, during which he returned to Swedish to play twelve games there. In his first season with Toronto, Sundin scored 47 points in 47 games and 9 points in 7 playoff games.
Sundin would play the next twelve seasons with the Leafs, captaining the team from 1997 until his departure from the team in 2008.
His end statistics with Toronto? 981 games played, 420 goals, 567 assists, 987 points. (That’s 1.006 points/game.)
Sundin played about 73% of his NHL career with the Leafs, joining the Canucks halfway through the 2008-09 season after not playing at all for the first portion. He’d play 41 games there before announcing his retirement in September 2009.
His jersey #13 was finally retired by the Leafs in February of this past season.
The 41-year-old may not have a Stanley Cup to his name, but he has a number of impressive awards and records achieved throughout his career, including:
- Olympic Gold Medal, 2006 (captain)
- World Championships Gold Medal, 1991, 1992, 1998
- World Championships Silver Medal, 2003
- World Championships Bronze Medal, 1994, 2001
- Only Swedish player to reach the 500-goal mark
- First Swedish player to reach 1,000 NHL points
- NHL All-Star, 1996-2004
The next natural step is of course, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and it’s exactly where Sundin is headed. In his first year of eligibility, he’ll be inducted along with Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Pavel Bure.