Joe Pavelski began his path to the NHL in 2002 when he was a member of the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks. He registered 69 points in 60 games during his first season, potting 30 goals in the process. The following summer, Pavelski was drafted in the seventh round (205th overall) by the San Jose Sharks in what is now considered to be one of the deepest draft classes of all time.
Pavelski played one more season with Waterloo, putting up 52 points in 54 matches and managing 12 points in 12 games during the postseason. The two-way pivot then moved on to play for the University of Wisconsin, where he tallied an impressive 45 points in 41 games as a freshman.
During his sophomore season, Pavelski continued to improve his offensive game and netted 23 goals in 43 games. He also amassed 33 helpers, giving him 56 points on the year.
San Jose’s management must have liked what they saw from the talented forward, because that was the last season of college hockey Pavelski played. The Sharks assigned him to their AHL affiliate in Worcester, where the Wisconsin native tallied 26 points in just 16 games.
That’s all the seasoning Pavelski needed, as he was called up to the big club immediately following that 16th game. He played the remainder of the 2006-07 season with the Sharks, scoring 14 goals and adding 14 assists for 28 points in 46 contests.
Pavelski, now dubbed “Little Joe” by the Sharks faithful, played his first full season of NHL hockey the following year. He impressed, managing 40 points while playing primarily bottom-six minutes during the regular season and adding nine points in the playoffs.
Pavelski’s coming out party, however, didn’t happen until the 2008-09 campaign. It was his first year as a full-fledged member of San Jose’s top six, and it would also be the first of several 25-goal seasons in his career. Little Joe put up 59 points in 80 games and cemented himself not only as an offensive force, but also as one of the league’s better two-way forwards and strongest penalty killers.
The pivot would go on to score 25 goals again the following year (in just 67 games, mind you) and then hit the 60-point plateau for the first time the season after that. In 2010, Pavelski was named to the USA’s Olympic hockey squad for the winter games in Vancouver. He played in a bottom-six role and registered three assists in six games. He also came close to scoring the overtime game-winner in the gold medal contest against Canada, but was stonewalled by Roberto Luongo.
During the 2011-12 season, Pavelski managed his first 30-goal campaign, burying a career-high 31 pucks and adding 30 assists for 61 points. He developed a knack for scoring game-tying and overtime goals, as well as timely tallies in the postseason, and earned a reputation as one of the NHL’s most clutch players.
Now, two years later, Pavelski is a key cog in the Sharks’ high-powered offense and is on pace for a career year. Through 57 games, he has 29 goals and 25 assists for 54 points, and he scored his first NHL hat trick on Jan. 18 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Just days away from hitting the ice in a Team USA sweater at the Winter Olympics for the second time, Pavelski is expected to center one of the team’s top two lines. He’ll be a factor on both ends of the rink, and don’t be shocked to see him on the ice late in the third period should Team USA make the gold medal round again.