Joe Pavelski to retire, stands out in elite 2003 NHL Draft class

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche
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Joe Pavelski has not officially retired, at least not yet. But it sure sounded that way when he met with reporters Tuesday when the Dallas Stars held breakup day.

“This was it for me. It was known for a while, probably. The plan is not to play next year,” Pavelski said after the Stars were eliminated in six games by the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Final “I don’t want to say this is official, but the plan is not to be coming back.”

If this is indeed it for Pavelski, he’ll retire as the most productive scorer from the stacked 2003 NHL Draft, perhaps the most stacked class in League history. It’s one that features six players with more than 400 goals scored and eight with more than 300, as well as four players who’ve topped 1,000 points.

And it’s Pavelski, the 205th overall selection that year, that leads them all with 476 goals and 1,068 points in 1,332 NHL games. That’s more than Eric Staal, Patrice Bergeron, Zach Parise, Jeff Carter and Corey Perry, among others.

Players selected 205th overall rarely end up making a dent in the League. But Pavelski has done it all with the San Jose Sharks and Stars, except win the Stanley Cup.

He’s 55th all-time in goals, and 71st in points, in NHL history.

He ended up as one of the most consistent players of his time, scoring 25+ goals 12 times in his 18-year career, notching 70+ points five times.

Age also didn’t slow Pavelski until the end this postseason. He posted an NHL career-high 81 points just two years ago with the Stars, at age 37.

He also has scored the most postseason goals by a United States-born player (73), and took part in 201 Stanley Cup Playoff games including 19 this season.

Those numbers place him among the most valuable members of the 2003 class. But how exactly does he stack up against the best of that group?

Well, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury won the Stanley Cup three times; Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter won it twice. Bergeron, Staal, Perry and Ryan Getzlaf each have won the Cup one time. And Perry has another whack at it this spring with the Edmonton Oilers, who play the Florida Panthers in the 2024 Stanley Cup Final.

Pavelski made it to the Cup Final twice (once in 2016 with San Jose and again in the COVID-19 bubble with Dallas), but never got to hold the prized trophy.

It certainly must have been frustrating, considering the talent of his early years on the Sharks alongside Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, (Pavelski earned the moniker “Little Joe” from Sharks announcer Randy Hahn compared to Thornton’s “Jumbo Joe”) and his final NHL years on a Stars team which lost after multiple deep playoff runs.

And while he did finish in the top 10 of Selke Trophy voting as the top defensive forward in the NHL twice in his career, it doesn’t hold a candle to Bergeron’s impressive six wins of the trophy.

Pavelski also never made the first All-Star team despite Perry, Brett Burns, and Shea Weber all making it twice from the 2003 class. 

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Does NHL great Joe Pavelski belong in Hockey Hall of Fame?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-St. Louis Blues at San Jose Sharks
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With the former Sharks captain seemingly wrapping up his career with fellow ‘03 draftee Ryan Suter in Dallas, the question of whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame is an interesting one.

On one hand, leading that deep draft class in goals and points should indicate in the affirmative. 

But the lack of championships and having never won a major award (despite numerous votes) could place him in the “Hall of Very Good,” as some like to call it, but may not immortalize him in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Regardless, emerging from the depths of the 2003 NHL Draft and staking his claim as an elite forward who’s played the game right way for 18 seasons is certainly an incredible feat.

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