Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Näslund had played 9 seasons for the Vancouver Canucks as of 2004. The Pittsburgh Penguins originally drafted Naslund in the first round, 16th overall, in 1991. He was acquired, in what many Canucks fans believe as being the best trade in the organization's history, in exchange for virtual unknown Alek Stojanov on March 20, 1996. Näslund's first two complete seasons with the Canucks were largely uneventful, and he was not a favorite of brief coach Mike Keenan. At the start of the 1997-98 season Keenan scratched Näslund while healthy, and the winger eventually asked the team to trade him; a request, fortunately for Canuck fans, which was never honored.
The following season, Näslund surprised many people by leading the Canucks in scoring during a rebuilding year for the franchise. His team-high 36 goals and 66 points were vast improvements over the 14 goals and 34 points from the previous season, and would serve as the starting point for Näslund's ascent to NHL superstardom. His breakthrough season would arrive in 2000-01 when, in a press conference at the Canucks' training camp held that year in Sweden, Näslund was appointed team captain by general manager Brian Burke. He set what were then personal highs (since surpassed considerably) that season in goals and points, and led the Canucks to their first playoff appearance since 1996. His 41-goal, 75-point campaign would be cut short late in the season, however, by a broken leg, which all but shattered the Canucks' hopes of making any headway in the post-season.
Näslund rebounded astoundingly well (stastically) from his injury the following season, however, breaking his personal record with a 90-point season which included 40 goals. The season also marked the emergence of new linemate Todd Bertuzzi and the two would go on not only to become close friends, but also arguably the most prolific duo in team history. Once centerman Brendan Morrison became the normal third member of Näslund and Bertuzzi's forward line in 2002-03, the combination formed what was widely considered the top line in the NHL that season, being dubbed the "West Coast Express" (named after Vancouver's commuter rail service of the same name). The line earned the Canucks a great deal of attention during the season, and Näslund would finish 2002-03 with career highs of 48 goals and 104 points, to finish second in NHL scoring.
That season, stastically Näslund's best, culminated with him winning the prestigious Lester B. Pearson Award, and finishing as first runner-up for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the player deemed most valuable to his team. However, the season also had its share of disappointments for Näslund and his teammates. Fellow countryman Peter Forsberg of the Colorado Avalanche edged out Naslund for the overall scoring title with a slim margin of 2 points, with each finishing with 106 and 104 points respectively. Also, Forsberg's linemate, Milan Hejduk claimed the Rocket Richard Trophy, finishing with 50 goals to Näslund's 48. Further adding to the disappointment of many Canucks fans, the Vancouver Canucks lost their final game of the regular season to the Los Angeles Kings, and along with it the Northwest Division Championship, which the Avalanche were awarded for an amazing ninth consecutive season. Näslund apologized after the game in front of a sellout crowd, going as far as saying that the team 'choked.' However, the second-place finish may have been a temporary blessing in disguise, as the Avalanche would be ousted from the playoffs in the first round at the hands of the Minnesota Wild. Vancouver, by contrast, knocked off the St. Louis Blues in seven games to advance a round, before being defeated by the same Minnesota squad.
Näslund led the Canucks in scoring again in 2003-04, the sixth straight season he had done so, finishing with 35 goals and 84 points. He has inched his way up Vancouver's all-time scoring records, and is easily one of the most popular players in franchise history.
- Played in NHL All-Star Game 5 times (1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
- Lester B. Pearson Award (2003)
See also: List of Swedes in sports
Played for Sweden in:
- Naslund World - Unofficial fan site about Markus Näslund
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