Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every day leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Joe Pavelski, RW
2015-16 cap hit/contract: $6 million, signed through 2018-19
2014-15 year in review: Joe Pavelski followed up his career year of 2013-14 with another strong performance last season, leading the Sharks in goals (37) and points (70). He finished second in the league with 19 power play goals, and tied for 17th in scoring. He was named the Sharks Player of the Year by the local media, and also took home the Fan Favorite award.
Pavelski passed Owen Nolan for second in franchise history in goals on Dec. 22, when the former 7th round pick potted his 207th marker. He enters the season third in franchise scoring with 485 points, trailing only teammates Patrick Marleau (988) and Joe Thornton (805).
Off of the ice Pavelski took over duties as the primary team spokesman, as the Sharks altered their leadership structure. Although he was never officially named as captain, the feeling within the organization was that Pavelski might as well have had the C stitched to his sweater.
2015-16 outlook: Over the last five seasons, only three NHL players have more goals that the Wisconsin native’s 161: Alex Ovechkin (206), Steven Stamkos (202) and Corey Perry (178). Pavelski should be able to maintain his scoring pace this season, although the danger always exists that he’ll start to decline now that he’s on the wrong side of 30, as so many players do.
It’s probable that he’ll remain on the right side of Thornton, as that was truly the only consistently effective combination the Sharks iced last season. While there is still the faint cry from a certain portion of the fan base that Pavelski would be better off as the team’s third line center, those murmurs should now be silent as Pavelski has simply become one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL as a right wing. While he benefits from playing on a line with a still effective Thornton, last season Pavelski was as much of a help to the veteran center as Thornton was to him. That chemistry will need to remain solid if the Sharks plan on contending.
Pavelski is still likely to be named as the franchise’s next captain, as the Sharks will finally attempt to turn the page on the dysfunction that surfaced from management’s decision to try and marginalize Thornton’s presence in the dressing room. Naming anyone else other than Pavelski as the captain wouldn’t make any sense at this stage, and after last season it’s clear that it’s a role that the 31-year-old would embrace.