Patrick Marleau leads the NHL in goals right now, and has scored 14 points in just eight games so far this season. But long before he was tearing up the NHL scene, the Aneroid, Saskatchewan native spent two seasons with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds.
Patrick Marleau began his WHL career with the Thunderbirds during the 1995-96 season, at the age of sixteen.
During his rookie season, Marleau scored 32 goals and added 42 assists for 74 points in just 72 games played. Seattle went on to the playoffs, eventually dropping the five-game series to Kamloops, and Marleau added seven points (3-4) in the five games.
Heading into the 1996-97 season, Marleau was awarded with the captaincy of the Thunderbirds – a title he certainly fulfilled in the months to come.
Of 71 regular season games, he had at least a point in all but 18 games; he had multiple points in 36 games and ended the season third in the WHL in points scoring, with 125 points.
Marleau’s season included two eight-game point streaks and a pair of five-point games. He led the team to its first and only WHL championship in the postseason, adding 23 points in 15 games along the way, and was named to the WHL West First All-Star Team.
His productive pair of years in the WHL were rewarded by Marleau being selected second overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, behind future San Jose Sharks teammate Joe Thornton (selected by the Boston Bruins at the time). Marleau went on to make the NHL squad the very next season, and it’s there that he’s played ever since.
Marleau made his debut with the Sharks on October 1, 1997 against the Edmonton Oilers. Ten days later, he notched his first NHL point (an assist) in a game against the Bruins, and later scored his first NHL goal on October 19 versus Phoenix.
His rookie season ended with Marleau talling 32 points (13-19) in 74 regular season games; this would end up being the only season in which he didn’t score at least 40 points.
His best season to date would end up being the season following the 2004-05 lockout – a period during which Marleau was inactive and didn’t play anywhere. Returning from the lockout, Marleau was ready to rock in San Jose, scoring 34 goals and 52 assists for 86 points in 82 regular season games.
Since his WHL draft days, Marleau has represented Canada on the international platform a handful of times, including most recently at the 2010 Winter Olympics, where he won a gold medal.
As the Sharks returned from this year’s lockout, Marleau once again was ready to rock.
He scored twice in his season-opening game on January 20 against Calgary before having three straight three-point games. Marleau had a pair of goals in each of the first four games of the season and had at least a point in each of the first six games.
Considering his previous post-lockout success, if he continues at this pace, who knows how many points Marleau might end the shortened season with?
Marleau and the Sharks return to action on February 4 with a 10 p.m. EST tilt against the Anaheim Ducks.