Stars reflect on Pavelski

With the 205th pick of the 2003 NHL Draft, the San Jose Sharks selected a 5-foot-11, 195-pound forward from Waterloo of the United States Hockey League.

Joe Pavelski.

Pavelski never should have made the NHL, let alone become a star. Time should have caught up to him years ago, but he defied the odds again and again and again with skill, heart and soul.

And if his NHL career is over, man, he should be proud.

"This was it for me," Pavelski said Tuesday, two days after the Dallas Stars were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 2-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. "Like, it was known for a while, probably."

Pavelski, who turns 40 on July 11, said he would take some time to decompress.

"I don't want to say this is official," he said, "but the plan is not to be coming back."

That explains the emotions and comments after the game Sunday.

Wyatt Johnston, the 21-year-old center who has lived at Pavelski's house the past two seasons, teared up when asked what Pavelski meant to him.

"A lot," he said. "I can't thank him and his family enough for what they've done for me."

Captain Jamie Benn reacted the same way to the same question.

"The world," he said. "All-time teammate, person. Great leader. Good friend."

Forward Tyler Seguin asked a reporter not to ask about Pavelski. It was too hard.

"Since Day One, since he's been in here, he's meant everything to our group, on the ice, off the ice," he said. "All our golf games, he's improved all those. Just an amazing person to have in here."

Out of the 263 skaters selected in the 2003 draft, less than half (118) have played in the NHL. It's Pavelski, seventh-round pick, who leads the draft class in goals and points in the regular season (476 and 1,068, respectively) and playoffs (74 and 143, respectively).

From Pavelski's rookie season of 2006-07 through 2023-24, he ranks fifth in goals and seventh in points in the regular season. He's first in goals and fourth in points in the playoffs.

In NHL history, he's 13th in playoff goals, two behind Mario Lemieux.

"Captain America" helped the United States win a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and again represented his country at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Among American players in the NHL, the native of Plover, Wisconsin, ranks sixth in goals and points in the regular season. He's second goals and fourth in points in the playoffs.

NHL Now discusses possible retirement of Joe Pavelski

Never the biggest, never the fastest, Pavelski found a way. He spent countless hours practicing deflections and was unafraid to go to the hard areas, becoming perhaps the best in the game at deflecting pucks. He battled injuries, came up big in big moments and inspired his teammates.

"One of the highlights of my coaching career was when I walked into the door in San Jose, and I didn't know Joe at all," said Pete DeBoer, who coached Pavelski with the Sharks from 2015-19 and the Stars the past two seasons. "Quickly in conversations in the room and [with] people around the team, we made him captain."

DeBoer pointed out that former Sharks captains Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton each said Pavelski should wear the "C."

"That probably says more about him and his character and what he stands for than anything anyone could say," DeBoer said. "Consummate pro. The highlight of my coaching career was working with him."

This says a lot too.

When Pavelski became an unrestricted free agent in 2019, the Sharks didn't want to give him the term he wanted, because logic said his performance would decline in another season or two. He signed a three-year contract with the Stars. That led to two more one-year contracts with them.

After 761 points (335 goals, 406 points) in 963 regular-season games and 100 points (48 goals, 52 assists) in 134 playoff games in 13 seasons in San Jose, he put up another 307 points (121 goals, 186) in 369 regular-season games and 43 points (26 goals, 17 assists) in 67 playoff games in five seasons in Dallas.

"I still had a high expectation for my game," Pavelski said, "and I was glad to see it get back to that level and then sustain it."

Pavelski had 67 points (27 goals, 40 assists) in 82 games this season. His production finally dropped off in the playoffs, when he had four points (one goal, three assists) in 19 games.

No, he never won the Stanley Cup, but it wasn't for lack of effort. He made the conference final seven times and the Cup Final twice. During the playoffs this season, knowing this was likely his last shot, he was out for optional practices, leaving it all on the ice to the end.

The NHL won't be the same without him.

"I don't think it'll really set in until next year, when you come back for camp and he's not there, when you're on the plane and he's [usually] right next to me and he's not in his seat," goalie Jake Oettinger said Tuesday. "I just don't think there's enough words to say how big of a presence he is, and it's not a hole you'll ever be able to fill. You'll do the best you can, but you're never going to fill that." independent correspondent Taylor Baird contributed to this report

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