Both are European goaltenders who were drafted high up by the former Atlanta Thrashers. Both have spent many seasons with the team and have been considered the franchise goalie, but these days, only one of them is still with the team after the relocation and the transformation into the Winnipeg Jets. Now, the newest franchise goalie has surpassed the old in term of total games played so far with the franchise, becoming the longest-tenured goaltender with Winnipeg.
Ondrej Pavelec has just moved ahead of Kari Lehtonen with regards to games played to date with the Thrashers/Jets organization. Lehtonen played a total of 204 games with the franchise from the 2003-04 season to 2008-09, but Pavelec has 206 games played from 2007-08 to today and obviously has the opportunity to play many, many more, whereas Lehtonen was traded to the Dallas Stars in 2009.
Lehtonen was picked second overall by the Thrashers in the 2002 draft, just one place behind Rick Nash, while Pavelec was a second-round selection by Atlanta in the 2005 draft class. Both goaltenders have played more than 11,000 minutes between the pipes for the team, which is head and shoulders above the franchise’s third-place goalie in terms of total games played, Johan Hedberg, who spent a relatively short 7,333 minutes in net as a Thrasher. Both Lehtonen and Pavelec have faced more than 6,000 shots and both have at least 10 total shutouts under their belts.
Lehtonen’s record, a 94-83-17, is better than Pavelec’s, which is a 78-89-26 as of March 3, 2013. Their goals-against averages and save percentages aren’t too terribly far apart either, although of course Pavelec has time to put together more wins, higher save percentages and GAAs.
Pavelec has the raw skills to be a well-performing franchise netminder, and sometimes they shine through, but he also needs a strong team in front of him to help him out and not hang him up to dry. Right now, he leads the league in a metric that goalies would rather not lead the league in: losses. He also had a well-publicized problem related to drinking and driving in his native Czech Republic, but I don’t think he’ll ever drink and then fail to call a taxi again because of the punishment he got. (Just–don’t drink and drive, okay? No matter what.)
But he’s also just 25 years old and is part of a team that is, at times, still trying to find its identity. As its rather newly-minted franchise goalie games-played leader, he can help lead and shape the team into its future.