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Joe Pavelski may be NHL’s most unsung goal-scorer

DEC 15, 2015 : Joe Pavelski #8 of the San Jose Sharks warms up prior to the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on December 15, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Philippe Bouchard/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Philippe Bouchard/Icon Sportswire)

When you think of the NHL’s elite scorers, names like Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin and Jamie Benn come to mind. On any given night you’ll be able to find at least one of these three making highlight-reel plays, sniping and dangling defenders en route to goals galore.

Players like these belong in the spotlight, but Joe Pavelski deserves to be mentioned along with the NHL’s top snipers as well. One could even argue that San Jose Sharks’ captain is the second-best goal scorer in the NHL, trailing only Ovechkin.

There are a number of names you could toss out there as the No. 2, ranging from Stamkos to Max Pacioretty or Corey Perry. Take a look at who has scored the most goals since 2012 and you may be surprised to see that Pavelski has out-gunned everyone besides Ovechkin.

Player Goals since 2012
Alex Ovechkin 156
Joe Pavelski 114
Steven Stamkos 113
Tyler Seguin 111
Max Pacioretty 106

Pavelski isn’t running away with the second spot, but he doesn’t get the attention an elite sniper should. It’s easy to blame supposed East Coast bias, but Seguin and Benn have both received a fair bit of coverage despite playing in Dallas. For whatever reason, the 31-year-old flies under the radar a bit.

The NHL All-Star game isn’t always about who the best players are, but a forward of Pavelski’s ilk ought to be involved in the festivities. He wasn’t invited to the game last year, and right now he’s ranked 40th in All-Star voting for the 2016 game, trailing superstars like Bobby Farnham and Mike Weber.

That contest is for the fans and fun, but it’s indicative of how far outside of the average supporters’ conciseness Pavelski resides. The Sharks know how valuable the former seventh-round pick is to their success, though. That’s part of why they handed him the captaincy this summer. It was a symbolic shift for the organization, as they started to look at options outside of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau in terms of leadership.

The move seems to be paying off for San Jose. The Sharks are in the thick of the playoff race in the Pacific, but the team’s inconsistencies aren’t because of Pavelski. He’s notched 20 goals in 36 games this year, but it’s when he’s scoring them that is impressive. Almost half of his tallies have come in the third period (nine) and his seven game-winning goals is tops in the NHL.

There’s always talk about who the most underrated player in the game is. It’s tough to nail down with players like Mike Hoffman and Nicklas Backstrom in the mix, but Pavelski is undoubtedly the most underappreciated goal-scorer in the league. That’s because he plays the game with limited flash and high efficiency.

He’s not going to power to the net like Ovechkin and his one-timer doesn’t seem to stop time like Stamkos’. He just thrives in the heat of big moments, always finding ways to get pucks to the back of the net. Pavelski has an outstanding release and is dangerous from anywhere in the slot, but he’s never scored a goal while rolling on his back either.

It also doesn’t help that Pavelski plays in California, where games aren’t starting until 9 or 10 p.m. ET. Outside of the playoffs though, there just aren’t many opportunities to watch the forward play for those out East.

That’s a shame too, given the number of entertaining plays Pavelski makes on a nightly basis. He was up to his usual tricks on December 30 against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Sharks were trailing 2-1 in the third period before Brent Burns and Pavelski stole a win. The former scored a power-play goal to make the game 2-2, while the latter took care of the rest by scoring twice.

That’s just another day at the office for Pavelski, scoring the go-ahead goal in the fading minutes of the third period. All while national media types were fast asleep or winding down for the evening.

All stats appear courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com and NHL.com, and are accurate through games played on December 30.

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