Yes they were. The owners of the WHL Canucks were the original owners of the NHL franchise. They hired their top coaching candidate, Hal Laycoe, midway through the 1969-70 WHL season even though the team was in 1st place under coach Joe Crozier.
The Toronto NHA team and the Toronto NHL team are not the same team.
It would be easier to look up some information on the formation of the NHL than for me to try to write it all out the details here. It's an interesting story.
Ya, the situation in Toronto was complicated, actually precipitating the creation of the NHL & folding of the NHA. See Eddie Livingston on wiki for a detailed breakdown of the chain running from the Toronto BlueShirts & Arenas' to the Shamrocks & St. Pats to the Leafs...