Joe Pavelski’s 300th career goal was a neat encapsulation of his career.
Yes, he benefitted from some good fortune, as the puck took a fortuitous bounce off of a couple Panthers out to him in front of the net. But Pavelski put himself in a position to succeed, gaining inside position while somehow skating under the radar of Florida’s defense, despite having 299 goals to his name at the point.
He flew under the radar throughout his draft in 2003, just as he has his whole career. Pavelski led the USHL with 36 goals during his draft year, but was passed over 204 times before the Sharks selected him in the seventh round.
The Wisconsin native has scored more goals than all but five of the players drafted ahead of him, and more points than all but seven. Of the top 10 2003 draftees in goals, assists, and points, Pavelski’s the only player that was drafted outside of the first two rounds.
Players drafted in Pavelski’s position have an 8.2 percent chance of playing at least 100 NHL games, TSN’s Scott Cullen found. Playing eight times as many games, and scoring as many goals, is simply extraordinary.
He’s beaten the odds throughout his career, and the Sharks are still relying on him to do so.
Pavelski, 34, is far past the age when forwards first tend to decline. Eric Tulsky, who’s now the Carolina Hurricanes’ Manager of Analytics, found that, on average, forwards retain about 70 percent of their scoring in their age 32-33 seasons, and only 60 percent by the time they’re 35.
Right now, Pavelski’s on pace to score 44 points, or about 56 percent of his career-best offensive season (79 points). Part of that decline is undoubtedly due to injury, as the Sharks captain has played hurt for much of the season.
Injury, however, can only explain so much, given the physical punishment he takes on a near-nightly basis, and his well-established skating limitations. He won’t shoot under eight percent the rest of the season, his lowest mark since 2011, but he’s at the point in his career where diminishing returns should not come as a surprise.
Perhaps Pavelski will be able to fight off the effects of age, just as he’s overcome every other obstacle put in his path to this point. Betting against him has proven to be a fool’s errand.
But when beating the odds becomes an expectation, it’s then too easy to lose sight of just how remarkable Pavelski’s career has been so far, and to set the bar too high.