Sven Butenschon was born in Germany, but moved to Canada with his family as a youngster and played midget hockey with the Eastman Selects in Manitoba. In 1993-94, he joined the Brandon Wheat Kings and scored 22 points as a rookie. Butenschon was drafted 57th overall in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins after his strong rookie season in Brandon. After two more years of junior hockey in Brandon, he made his NHL debut on October 19, 1997 against the Florida Panthers.
In 1998-99, Butenschon played 17 games with the Penguins and was limited to just three games in 1999-00, playing the bulk of the season in the AHL with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
In 2000-01, Butenschon played five games with the Penguins before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers. Upon his arrival in Edmonton, the former Wheat King went on to play seven games. After one full season in the Oiler organization, Butenschon was dealt to the New York Islanders in October of 2002. Upon his arrival with the Islanders organization, Butenschon split his time between the parent club and the its AHL affiliate in Bridgeport Sound.
During the lock out season of 2004-05, Butenschon returned to his homeland and suited up for the Mannheim Eagles before having his NHL rights acquired by the Vancouver Canucks in the summer of 2005.