In the summer of 2014, when San Jose stripped Joe Thornton of the captaincy, the rumors began that the next player named captain would be Joe Pavelski, the longtime Sharks winger who worked his way from seventh-round draft pick to top-10 scorer in the NHL. Monday, the Sharks finally made Pavelski’s captaincy official.
It’s become commonplace when a captain is announced that there are some who question the move. But when it comes to Pavelski donning the ‘C’ for the Sharks, it simply makes sense. Almost from the moment he has stepped into the NHL, he has worked his way into the hearts of fans in San Jose with his anything-to-win style of play and has turned himself into a vastly underrated offensive threat.
“It’s a huge honor,” Pavelski told media Monday. “I’m excited to have an opportunity like this. It means a lot, but it really can’t change a lot about the player I am or what my game is going to be like. I have to keep putting the work in and keep getting better every day.”
That’s what makes Pavelski an obvious choice for the captaincy: that it seems with each passing game, he finds a way to improve and make those around him better.
At the 2003 draft, Pavelski was taken 205th overall, a mere 87 selections shy of the final pick. Taken that late, few would have expected he make it to the NHL, let alone become a three-time 30-goal scorer. But Pavelski has.
After leaving the USHL’s Waterloo Blackhawks, he spent two seasons with the NCAA’s Wisconsin Badgers before inking his entry-level deal with the Sharks. He spent only 16 games in the AHL before getting the call to the Sharks, and he has been an NHL regular ever since. It didn’t take long for Pavelski to make an impact, either.
Starting as a depth forward on an extremely talented Sharks team, he chipped in 19 goals and 40 points in his first full campaign, which was followed by a 25-goal, 59-point performance in 2008-09 — his first of what has been six consecutive 20-goal seasons in non-lockout years. During his nine-year career, his work ethic hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I think everything he does, he does it the right way,” Thornton said Monday. “He goes out early, he plays the right way, plays hard and puts in the time. That’s the main thing. He doesn’t need to say too much in the locker room. The way he plays says enough.”
Over time, Pavelski’s role with the Sharks has gotten larger and larger, to the point he was taking top-unit power play minutes and cashing in back-to-back seasons of 15-plus power play markers in 2013-14 and 2014-15. He was one of only three players to eclipse the 40-goal plateau in 2013-14, finishing 10 goals behind Alex Ovechkin and two behind Corey Perry for the Rocket Richard. But there has been more to Pavelski’s game than his offensive ability.
Over the past five seasons, he’s been utilized as a top-unit penalty killer and is often tasked with tough minutes against top competition. He’s an all situations player and one that has become as crucial to San Jose’s success as Thornton or Patrick Marleau or Brent Burns. And when it comes to those who lead by example, Pavelski is at the top of the heap.
“There are a lot of leadership candidates here,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Monday. “But it’s (Pavelski’s) time. He’s grown into a leader on this team and a key player. He has the respect of everybody in the room and everybody I’ve talked to. And I’ve witnessed it firsthand.”