Thomas Vanek's rise to stardom in the NHL began at age 14, when his family moved from their native Austria to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
After completing his junior career with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL, Vanek would join the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers for 2002-2003 season.
And what a season it would be for the freshman sensation.
He led the team with 31 goals and 62 points. The playoffs brought more success as Vanek would be named the Frozen Four MVP after scoring the OT winner in the semifinal and the game winner in the title game en route to Minnesota's 2003 NCAA National Championship.
Vanek also made school history as the first freshman to ever be awarded the team's MVP award which coupled his win of the WCHA Rookie of the Year accolades.
It was enough to make Thomas Vanek the 5th overall pick at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres.
He would return to university for the 2003-2004 season and repeat as the Gophers leading scorer, and also received the Twin Cities Best College Athlete award.
His pro career would begin the following season with the Rochester Americans of the AHL, tallying 42 goals and 68 points, second among AHL rookies.
He made the jump to the NHL with the Sabres in the 05-06 season, scoring a respectable 25 goals and 48 points as a rookie.
There would be no sophomore jinx for Thomas Vanek. He had a career year for the Sabres posting 43 goals and 84 points to go with an NHL best plus 47 rating, enough to make the winger a Second Team NHL All-Star.
The Edmonton Oilers certainly noticed the star wingers attributes and tried to take him west, signing him to a 7 year, 50 million dollar offer sheet in the off season. The offer was quickly matched by the Sabres who had already lost co-captains Danny Briere and Chris Drury to free agency.
His production over the 6 seasons since has been sporadic, hitting the 40 goal plateau only once more, while also having seasons of 36, 32, 28 and 26 goals last season- his lowest total since his rookie season.
He played for Graz of the Austrian League during the lockout, and perhaps going back to his roots refreshed and refocused Vanek, as he has simply lit the NHL up since its return in late January.
He has 16 points in 7 games to lead the league in scoring. He has enjoyed two 5 point efforts against the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins and it just seems that everything Vanek does results in a Buffalo goal.
He is quoted as saying " Pucks are going in right now for me,... "There's going to be stretches where nothing goes my way. So you like it right now, but you know its going to head the other way."
He made the comments prior to today's game vs the Montreal Canadiens, and although the 6-1 loss was not what the Sabres and Vanek wanted, he fired the lone goal. He got that lucky bounce that the great goal scorers seem to get, to break up goaltender Carey Price's shutout bid.
So for now, things are still going Thomas Vanek's way, the question is when and if they will stop this season.