Arguably the best defenceman in Canucks history is going to be honoured on Friday, as Mattias Ohlund becomes the sixth inductee into the Ring of Honour. Vancouver will be playing the team that Ohlund ended his career with, the Tampa Bay Lightning. To mark the occasion, Canucks players will wear navy orca jerseys, the one that Ohlund played most of his career with, in warmup.
The burly defenceman played 11 seasons in Vancouver, and was a steadying influence on the back-end from day one.
A first round pick by Pat Quinn in 1994, Ohlund made his debut for the Canucks in 1997. He finished as a runner-up to Sergei Samsonov in rookie of the year voting in 1998, after putting up 30 points (7-23-30) in 77 games.
Ohlund remains the franchise leader in both goals (93) and points (325) by a defenceman. That’s extra significant because his career nearly ended not long after it began.
The big Swedish defenceman suffered a serious eye injury after being hit with a puck during a preseason game in 1999.
Ohlund was a complete player, usually matched up against opposing team’s top lines. He was skilled, but physical; strong defensively, while to contribute in the offensive end.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 14, 2016
“I don’t know if I had a lot of great games, but I was able to not have a great amount of really bad games,” Ohlund told Canucks TV. “I had some type of consistency and I think that’s work ethic.”
The understated Swede was supremely consistent and ranked eighth all-time in games played for the franchise.
“He was the ultimate teammate and gave everything he had every night managing the backend,” says Todd Bertuzzi.
Ohlund eventually became an assistant captain with the team, and has been credited with mentoring his countryman, Alex Edler.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 15, 2016
“The best defenceman in Canucks history bar none,” his longtime teammate Sami Salo said. “A true leader on the backend by example and voice.”
Ohlund was a part of good Canucks teams under Marc Crawford, and played for a couple of division-winning teams under Alain Vigneault before moving on to Tampa Bay to close out his final two seasons.
While he wasn’t a part of much playoff success in Vancouver, Ohlund was a key member of Sweden’s team that won the 2006 Olympic gold medal.
Ohlund will join Orland Kurtenbach, Kirk McLean, Thomas Gradin, Harold Snepsts, and Pat Quinn in the Ring of Honour. Other players honoured by the club include Stan Smyl, Trevor Linden, Markus Naslund, and Pavel Bure, who have had their jersey numbers raised to the rafters.