Thorburn was a second-round pick (No. 50) of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2001 NHL Draft. The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, native earned a reputation as a crash-and-bang forward who skates well enough to kill penalties and will do whatever his team needs.
Thorburn's first stay in the NHL lasted two games and 19 shifts. He made his NHL debut on Dec. 2, 2005, a 5-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks. Two days later, Thorburn assisted on the opening goal of Buffalo's 6-4 win against the Colorado Avalanche for his first NHL point in what would be his final game with the Sabres. After being sent back to the American Hockey League for the rest of the 2005-06 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins claimed Thorburn on waivers prior to the 2006-07 season.