Date of Birth:  July 2, 1979
 Place of Birth: London, ON
 Residence: N/A
 Years on National Team:
 Height:  6'4"
 Weight: 225 lbs.

Being the first overall selection in the 1997 NHL draft was arguably more of a hindrance than an advantage for Joe Thornton. Clearly uneasy in the spotlight, the 18-year-old Thornton, who joined the Boston Bruins for his rookie season in 1997-98, was not completely prepared for what lay ahead. A total of seven points in 55 games had the demanding Boston fans up in arms, especially after fellow Bruins rookie Sergei Samsonov -- the eighth pick in the 1997 draft -- ended up winning the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. Throw in Thornton's complicated relationship with then-coach Pat Burns and it's no surprise it took a couple of years for him to get his bearings.

Fortunately for him and the Bruins, Thornton began to contribute by the 1999-00 season -- his 23 goals were a precursor of good things to come. Big Joe's numbers would slowly improve over the next couple of seasons. In 2001-02, Thornton would make the first of his three All-Star teams to date.

Unfortunately, that same year, Thornton would once again have to deal with his name being bounced around in the press. Prior to the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, he was clearly the most contested and controversial non-pick by Team Canada officials. In the end, his absence wasn't a major factor as Canada went on to win Olympic gold over the USA. Yet, Thornton appeared to use the snub as incentive to get better. During the 2002-03 season, the young power forward steamrolled through opponents, enjoying his finest NHL season with 36 goals and 65 assists for a sizzling total of 101 points. The breakout season earned him a spot on the NHL's Second All-Star Team.

When the 2004 World Cup of Hockey rolled along, there was no denying Thornton a spot. At the tournament, won by Canada, Thornton finished tied for second in scoring on Team Canada with six points (1-5-6) in six games.

After a successful stint alongside Rick Nash with HC Davos (Switzerland) during the NHL lockout in 2004-05, Thornton returned to Boston for the 2005-06 campaign expecting to lead the Bruins into the future. Instead, he was flipped to the San Jose Sharks in an early-season head-scratching trade that still has people talking. Look for Thornton to be reunited with Nash on what could be one of Canada's most dangerous lines in Turin 2006.

2006 Hockey Coverage