Vanek Signs with Buffalo
Vanek was the Inside College Hockey Rookie of the Year in 2003
while leading Minnesota to a national title.
Ewell and Jess Myers
the fifth overall choice in the 2003 NHL Draft, has decided to forgo
his final two years of eligibility at Minnesota and sign with the
head coach Don Lucia with the news Thursday night.
for Thomas," Lucia told Inside College Hockey Friday morning.
"He worked very hard to put himself in this position."
ends Vanek's college career after two years of often scintillating
– but occasionally frustrating – play. He had the talent to single-handedly
dominate games, as he did over the Frozen Four weekend in 2003,
leading Minnesota to its second straight national champoinship and
earning NCAA Tournament MVP honors. But opposing coaches and scouts
often marveled at his tendency to disappear for long stretches.
his drawbacks, Vanek's loss is a significant one for the Gophers,
who have already seen defensemen Keith Ballard and Jake Taylor depart
for the professional ranks this summer. In all, Minnesota loses
its top four point-scorers (Vanek, Ballard, and the graduated Troy
Riddle and Matt Koalska) and its tpo four goal scorers (Vanek, Riddle,
Koalska and Grant Potulny).
College hockey fans – especially Gopher fans – won't soon
forget Vanek's heroics in Buffalo.
big loss for us, but we're thankful for the great impact Thomas
made on our program," Lucia said. "We wouldn't have won
a Frozen Four without him.
that it was a situation where if the numbers were right, he'd sign,
and he called yesterday to tell me that the numbers were right."
The Sabres were
understandably excited about the addition.
great," said Sabres center Chris Drury, in Minnesota Friday
playing for Team USA in the World Cup. "I've seen him play
a little bit at Minnesota. He's done all he can in college, and
we're certainly glad to have him in Buffalo."
Vanek was the
WCHA Rookie of the Year and the Inside College Hockey Rookie of
the Year in 2002-03. He was an American Hockey Coaches Association
second-team West All-America selection this past season. In 83 career
games with the Gophers, Vanek had 57 goals and 56 assists for 113