Before he was injured late in the 2000-01 season, right-winger Markus Naslund emerged as one of the NHL's elite players as well as the on-ice leader of the improved Vancouver Canucks. After entering the league in 1993-94, he showed glimpses of his potential and eventually became an above-average scorer before taking his game to the next level.
Born in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, Naslund starred for three years with MoDo AIK beginning in 1990-91. After his rookie year as a pro he was chosen in the first round, 16th overall, by the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. Naslund was a solid role player for the Swedes at the 1992 World Junior Championships then exploded for 24 points in seven games at the 1993 tourney playing with Peter Forsberg. Sweden won the silver medal in 1993 and Naslund was placed on the tournament All-Star team. A few months later, the talented young forward helped his country win silver at the World Championships.
In 1993-94 Naslund made the jump to the NHL and was a solid role player on the highly-skilled Penguins over the next two years. During his third big league season, in 1995-96, Naslund was given more ice time and responded with 52 points in 66 games before he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for power forward Alex Stojanov. Naslund played well for his new team and helped Vancouver extend the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche to six games in the first round of the playoffs. Following the Canucks' elimination, Naslund joined the Swedish team at the World Championships. A few months later, he played for his country at the inaugural World Cup of Hockey.
Naslund was a solid offensive player on Vancouver with 21 goals in 1996-97 and 14 the next year while playing in support of high priced stars Pavel Bure, Mark Messier, and Alexandre Mogilny. By the 1998-99 season, the Canucks were in transition with Naslund as a key component of their future. He scored 36 goals that year and was selected to play in the NHL All-Star Game. In 1999-2000 he slipped to 27 goals as the Canucks' failed to make the post-season. The club was rejuvenated in 2000-01 and Naslund was enjoying his finest NHL season with 41 goals in 72 games when he went down with a season-ending knee injury.
Coming off a season ending injury in 2000-01, Naslund rebounded with a career high 90 points and represented his homeland at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Following a strong regular season the previous year, Naslund was paired with Todd Bertuzzi and Brenden Morrison in 2002-03 and became the most productive trio in the NHL. Naslund broke the 100-point barrier for the first time, finishing the season with 104 points, only two behind his World Junior linemate Peter Forsberg, and was second in goal scoring with 48. Naslund was voted as league MVP (Pearson Trophy) by his peers, and finished second to Forsberg in Hart balloting.
In 2003-04, Naslund point totals dropped to 84 (35-49-84) yet he managed to finish third in league scoring and lead the Canucks to first place in the Northwest Division before falling in seven games to the upstart Calgary Flames in the first round of the 2004 playoffs.
Following the lock out, Naslund would return to the Canucks line-up for the 2006-07 NHL regular season. However his point production would yet again drop with the club. That season, Naslund represented his country in the Winter Olympics and earned his first Gold Medal. He returned to Captain the Canucks in 2007-08 and went on to record only 55 points, his lowest point total in nine seasons. As the Canucks failed to qualify for the NHL playoffs, Naslund went into the off-season set to become and unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2008.
On July 3, 2008 Naslund signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the New York Rangers, leaving the Cancuks as the club's all-time leading point and goal scorer.