Joe Pavelski is 37 years old. He is in the middle of his 16th NHL season across two franchises. Yet, he is still currently leading the Dallas Stars with 48 points in 43 games. He sits 14th in the NHL in points and 26th in goals while playing on the Stars dynamic top line alongside youngsters Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson. The veteran forward is playing the best hockey of his career and has continued to defy time year after year.
Pavelski’s Success This Season
It is hard to believe that Pavelski has performed even better this season after leading the team with 51 points in 56 games in 2020-21. However, that is exactly what he has done. Through the first 43 games, he is playing at more than a point-per-game pace for the first time in his career. Because of that, he is the Stars’ lone representative at the 2022 NHL All-Star Game, the fourth time he has been selected. To add to the honor, after an injury to Nathan Mackinnon, the league announced that Pavelski will serve as the captain of the Central Division team.
“He’s been outstanding,” said Stars general manager Jim Nill. “He leads by example on and off the ice. He’s helped Robertson and Roope so much, and all three are getting rewarded with great stats. To be at the All-Star Game is great, and to be the captain that’s just so great for him.”
To put it simply, Pavelski finds a way to produce in many different ways and no matter the circumstances. Despite the adversity he and the Stars have faced, he has continued to rack up points, be a leader on and off the ice, and hit career highs at the age of 37.
In a 5-2 victory over the Seattle Kraken on Jan. 12, he recorded his first five-point night (2G, 3A), nearly scoring his seventh career hat trick in the final minutes.
“The bench was cheering for him,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “He’s a great team player and he had a great night. The whole bench was watching, the whole bench was excited, and every time he shot the puck, they were cheering for him. He’s a great player, a great teammate, and the whole bench – the whole rink – was cheering for him to get that third goal.”
Success Is Not An Accident For Pavelski
If you ask anyone around the team, Pavelski’s success is far from an accident. Over his 16-year career, he has established a reputation as one of the hardest-working players in the entire league. He consistently gives his full effort into his diet and workout plans to make sure his body is prepared for the ups and downs of an NHL season, especially as he continues to inch near 40.
When it comes to his on-ice skills, he is the first player on the ice at each practice and morning skate working on areas around the net. Along with being one of the hardest-working, he is also one of the best and most productive players near the opposing crease, especially when it comes to tipping pucks. Before each practice, he works on just about every scenario from deflections to shots from sharp angles, and everything in between. For a 37-year-old veteran that has already proven so much to the NHL, this is one of the most remarkable things about him and a huge reason for the long-term success he has had.
“It’s his ability to sniff out loose pucks, his ability to get in the open, and his anticipation of where the puck is going,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “He has good poise around the net. Goal-scorers know where to put the puck. You can put other guys in those situations and they’re not going to have the natural instinct to put the puck on the goalie. Joe has that touch. But you see him every day working at it, it’s not a fluke. It’s good for a game like tonight to get rewarded. He’s got natural offensive instincts that you can’t teach. It’s fun to watch.”
Pavelski’s hard work on and off the ice has also allowed him to play in nearly every game in his career. Since coming to Dallas in 2019, he has missed only two games in three seasons, including all of the adversity caused by the COVID virus. With how tough the league is with travel and the sheer number of games played, this stat is impressive for any player. For an older player, it is nothing short of incredible.
“You always believe you can do it, but you have to go out and prove it on the ice,” Pavelski said. “Don’t take anything for granted – that’s something that has helped me along the way. I just love coming to the rink, and I’ve been very fortunate along the way.”
While it may not come as a surprise when looking at the success of his career, Pavelski is also one of the most clutch players in the league. When the game is on the line, the best players want the puck and find ways to make plays. Pavelski has shown that over and over again in both the regular season and the playoffs.
If you need an example, just look at his late game-tying hat trick goal against the Calgary Flames in 2020 that kept his team from dropping to 3-1 in the first-round series. That goal allowed the Stars to win in overtime, win the series 4-2, and battle all the way to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Oh and by the way, he also tied the game in the final minutes of Game 5 to force a Game 6 in the Final in the first place.
Pavelski As A Leader
Playing among many young and highly-skilled players in Dallas, Pavelski has found a way to continue to produce at a high level. On top of the points, however, he also serves as a leader on the team and has continued to mentor future superstars like Robertson, Hintz, Denis Gurianov, and many other young players on the Stars roster.
“For our young players, the best lesson in the world is simply to be around Joe and watch him prepare,” Nill said. “A coach can say it, or a GM can say it, and it doesn’t mean the same thing. You can tell players what to do, but to see someone do it every day and get the results he does, that’s incredible.”
Pavelski has been a leader his entire career. Whether he is wearing a “C” or an “A”, he continues to show how much he cares for his teammates and the game. Earlier this year, after Tanner Kero was carted off the ice from a violent hit against the Chicago Blackhawks, Pavelski was very emotional in his postgame interview. While the hit clearly brought bad memories of his own injury in the 2019 playoffs, the interview also showed just how much his teammates mean to him.
For Pavelski, the focus right now is to simply enjoy the All-Star break in Las Vegas this weekend (he took down Auston Matthews, Steven Stamkos, and other superstars to win the new 21 in ‘22 challenge).
After that, he and the Stars will face an uphill battle as they continue to chase down the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. While there are many questions about his future in Dallas (he is scheduled to become a free agent this summer), the veteran forward is just taking things one day at a time and enjoying every single moment of the journey.
Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!