(Dallas) A long time ago, during the 2003 draft, Marc-André Fleury was the very first choice. Later, much later in that same auction, at 205th overall, Joe Pavelski was chosen by the San Jose Sharks.

Twenty years later, both men are still here on the NHL planet, and then at the ripe old age of 39, Pavelski can boast of being the second old man in hockey, after 40-year-old Mark Giordano.

But above all, the Stars veteran can boast of still being able to play. In a league that increasingly gives pride of place to young people, the striker is the second scorer for his club, with 34 points in 35 games this season.

How can we explain such success at this age? This is where the notion of pleasure manifests itself. On this early Tuesday morning in Dallas, Pavelski prepares to leave the locker room to go home, but at our request, he stops smiling when we offer him a conversation about hockey, life, and many other wonders .

He was asked if he had any gas left in the tank to play another 10 years and, perhaps, threaten Gordie Howe’s longevity record. He’s laughing. “In my case, it’s one year at a time,” he simply replies.

Does he take it easy, does he only skate the required number of strokes, without expending more energy than necessary? “You have to work in this league, there’s no real way to reserve yourself… you also have to know how to go to the right places on the ice. »

“Also, I was very lucky to play with veterans coming in. In the American League in Worcester, there were guys like Mathieu Darche with me, and we can grow with them. Then arriving in San Jose. There was Marleau, Thornton, Cheechoo, Rob Blake… you learn from those guys. »

Peter DeBoer, the Stars coach, believes that Pavelski still had to modify his game, if only a little.

“I’ve had the chance to manage great players at the end of their careers, like him, like Joe Thornton, like [Jaromir] Jagr… I’m always amazed at what these guys can do at that age, amazed at their caliber of play. Joe has modified his style a little, but also, in Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson, he has linemates who complement him wonderfully. »

“Guys like Joe, at the end of their career, they love hockey. They’ve made enough money already, they don’t need to come here, to training, to go on the road. They do it the same because they like it. It also helps when they have an exceptional wife…or in Jagr’s case, an exceptional girlfriend! »

We ask Joe Pavelski if we’ll see him again. Badin, he says yes, because the Stars are going to play at the Bell Center later this season.

But then ?

“No idea,” he adds more seriously. We’ll see where this takes me. There’s no hurry…”