Sharks Previews & Predictions: Likely Captain Joe Pavelski

Over the course of August, THW’s daily Sharks reporter Andrew Bensch will be previewing and predicting the season ahead for each San Jose player. First up was Joe Thornton. Yesterday was Joel Ward and today is the third member of what will possibly be San Jose’s top line to start the season, Joe Pavelski.

2014-15 Player Card Stats: 

Goals: 37
Assists: 33
Points: 70 
Plus/Minus: 12
Face off percentage: 56

2014-15 Advanced Stats:

Goals-for percentage: 56.5 
Corsi-for percentage: 56.9
PDO: 100.2

2015-16 Outlook:

There is no question that Pavelski was the best Sharks player last season. He led the team in goals-for percentage (percentage of goals scored for a player’s team while he’s on the ice at even strength) by a wide margin, he was dominant on the power play and led the team in scoring. Pavelski was his usual stud defensive self, great at taking right-side draws and killed penalties. When the rest of the team sagged around him, Pavelski was the one guy continuing to be a superstar on the ice. His possession numbers mirrored his goals-for, which shows he was a solid defensive player as well as an offensive machine. Pavelski’s average PDO of 100.2 demonstrates he was neither buoyed nor sunk by his on-ice team shooting percentage or on-ice save percentage (two numbers largely attributed to be random luck).

Contrary to popular belief for many East coasters who have only learned about Pavelski the last couple seasons, the Wisconsin native isn’t young. He turned 31 this July and forwards in the NHL generally have their prime production years between 23 and 26. Now, Pavelski isn’t old by any stretch, but if the Sharks want to win the Stanley Cup while Pavelski remains an elite player, the window to do that is within the next two or three seasons. Unlike Thornton and Patrick Marleau, it doesn’t seem likely that Pavelski will be able to continue to post 65-70 point seasons past 34-35. As great as Pavelski has been, he doesn’t have the size nor speed that projects dominance deep into his 30s.

Right now though, Pavelski remains one of the best all-around players in the league. He is the odds on favorite to be named captain this season after basically taking on the role unofficially a year ago as the Sharks went the entire season without a captain. This upcoming campaign, he will once again be seen finishing a number of brilliant passes from Thornton and the newcomer Ward will likely help create space for No. 8. Pavelski finished with 70 points last year, despite having a much less effective opposite winger than he had in 2013-14 in Brent Burns. In 2013-14, Pavelski finished with 79 points. This year, Pavelski will once again be a 70-plus point player.

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2015-16 Predictions:

2015-16 Player Card Stats:

Goals: 40
Assists: 35
Points: 75
Plus/Minus: 20
Face off percentage: 56

2015-16 Advanced Stats: 

Goals-for percentage: 59.2
Corsi-for percentage: 57.1
PDO: 101.2

With a better team around him, Pavelski’s numbers will increase just a tad. He will have more room to work with if Peter DeBoer does the smart thing and plays either Ward, Marleau, Tomas Hertl or any number of guys opposite Pavelski instead of Melker Karlsson. While the Swedish rookie was surprisingly effective last year, he is even considerably smaller than Pavelski, doesn’t have great speed and has an extremely underwhelming shot. He has a great work ethic and high hockey IQ, but the Sharks need a better finisher playing alongside Pavelski and Thornton.