Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Sharks insider Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Joe Pavelski, RW
Salary cap hit: $6 million, signed through 2018-19
2015-16 year in review: In his first season as captain of the Sharks, Joe Pavelski continued to produce at a high level. The Wisconsin native led the team in goals for the third straight season with 38 (fifth in the NHL), and was second on the Sharks in points (78, tied for sixth in the NHL).
No one scored bigger goals than Pavelski, either. His 11 game-winning goals led the league, 17 of his scores came in the third period, and his six go-ahead goals in the third tied Corey Perry for the most in the NHL. If you believe in clutch-ness, Pavelski is your poster boy.
It was evident also that Pavelski embraced his new role as the off-ice leader of the team. In what was a truly odd situation, Pavelski assumed the captaincy with two former captains of the team – Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton – still in the dressing room. Team USA saw fit to name Pavelski captain of its squad for the preseason World Cup tournament currently underway.
If there was one black mark on Pavelski’s season it was his performance in the Stanley Cup Final, as he finished with just one point (a goal) and a minus-4 rating in the six-game defeat after a strong first three rounds. There was speculation he was hurt. Pavelski didn’t require any postseason surgery, though, and the Sharks never released an injury report, so there’s no reason to believe he was battling anything extreme.
2016-17 outlook: Now a couple years into his 30’s, Pavelski has shown no signs of slowing down. Since the start of the 2013-14 season, only Washington’s Alex Ovechkin has more goals than Pavelski’s 116. Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Pavelski is third in points among US-born players with 495 (233g, 262a). The former seventh round draft pick has reached star status.
It’s a safe assumption that Pavelski will resume his place as the right wing on Joe Thornton’s line this season, as that duo – along with left wing Tomas Hertl – was arguably the best line in the NHL in the second half of the season. Whether Hertl or someone else like Mikkel Boedker or Timo Meier that fills out that line will be determined in camp, but any line with Thornton and Pavelski will be effective regardless of who ends up on the left wing.
Pavelski will assuredly score most of his goals from his office in front of the net once again, as there is simply no one better in the NHL in scoring from just outside the goal crease. Whether it’s deftly angling his stick to redirect a floater from the point, or taking a beating from a defender and then finding a loose puck or a rebound, Pavelski’s game is a simple one. It’s also tremendously effective, and another 30-40 goal and 70-80 point season for the captain should be the expectation.