Dallas Stars forward Joe Pavelski has been described as ‘ageless’, ‘defying his age’, and ‘incredible’, among many other names. And every one of those is absolutely true.
At the age of 38, Pavelski skated in his 1,200th career NHL game Saturday in Carolina. He became the 16th U.S. born player to hit this milestone. And the Wisconsin native has put together one of the more impressive careers in hockey history.
In 1,200 games, Pavelski has recorded 432 goals and 523 assists, for 955 total points. He ranks 12th among all U.S. born players. In his milestone game, he also recorded his 158th career power-play goal, surpassing Mike Modano to move into fourth on that list for U.S born skaters.
He is known as the master of playing around the opposing net and is likely one of the best puck-tippers in the game. Yet the most impressive part of his career is the fact that he is still getting better.
“Yeah 1,200 games, what an accomplishment, what a player,” Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer said. “Again tonight, huge goal in the first period, a Joe Pavelski goal. Amazing athlete, amazing leadership. Great message for young players out there. When people tell you you’re too small, too slow, or you’re not an early draft pick, you overcome.”
Pavelski tallied a career-high 81 points in 2021-22 at 37 years old. Playing on the dynamic top line with Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz for the third straight season, ‘Captain America’ has scored 11 goals and added 20 assists in 32 games this season.
For the second year in a row, he is on pace to better his career totals.
But if you ask teammates and coaches, they often don’t mention the numbers. No, the first thing that comes to mind for most, is his effect on those that share the ice with him.
Whether it is housing a 19-year-old Wyatt Johnston or putting together an on-ice Masterclass for Ty Dellandrea, Pavelski has his fingerprints all over the success of so many players both on and off the ice.
— Sam Nestler (@samnestler) November 23, 2022
“Wyatt Johnston living with him. Watching how he prepares, how he comes to the rink, what he does on off nights, how he eats. That’s going to be invaluable to a guy like Wyatt, who is going to be the next generation," said DeBoer.
“I’ve just been trying to ask him a million questions, pick his brain and learn as much as I can from him,” Johnston said. “He definitely has a lot of tips and tricks and things that I’m able to learn from him. … It’s pretty special to live with an NHL All-Star, an NHL legend, (somebody) probably going to be in the Hall of Fame. It’s just really cool."
For Pavelski, he simply feels that he is paying back all of the wisdom he received as a young player in the San Jose Sharks organization.
That wisdom and the lessons he learned allowed him to grow into the excellent player, captain, and leader that he was in San Jose. And those attributes have traveled with him in full to Big D.
"As he's come into the twilight of his NHL career, I think he's really taking a hands-on approach," said DeBoer, who coached Pavelski in San Jose. "When you talk to him, I think he feels it's payback for what he received when he came in from some of the guys that worked with him."
Coming into this season, the Stars were faced with a tough challenge.
A brand new coaching staff, a very different style of play, and a handful of new faces within the dressing room. But with the leadership of Pavelski, Benn, and the other veterans in the room, the Stars have been able to buy in and adjust to the new system under DeBoer faster than anyone could have hoped.
"He's as professional as they come,” DeBoer said. “He really has helped our coaching group coming into a new team and driving the message home quickly. I think there's always a runway there with them getting to know you and what you're preaching. I think that was shortened drastically by having Joe in the room, and us having worked with Joe before. He's been invaluable."
Pavelski signed a one-year contract extension over the summer, keeping him in Dallas until the end of the 2022-23 season. While it is unknown what his future holds, the veteran has continued to show that he can still play at a very high level and his effect on this team, for however long he is here, will be immeasurable.
“A lot of fun times along the way. A lot of laughs,” Pavelski said. “Very fortunate, good health. A lot of little things you learn along the way from your teammates and coaches to hopefully give you a chance to keep playing in the future and racking up some games along the way. A lot of good times.”