By Taylor Lupetti:
It was an exciting night for the San Jose Sharks as another player passed a career milestone, this time quite literally.
Center Joe Thornton recorded the 1000th assist of his career on the final goal of tonight’s game, an empty netter, becoming just the 13th player in NHL history to reach the milestone.
Playing in his 900th game as a San Jose Shark — a milestone in itself — Thornton assisted on what would be the game-winning goal against the Winnipeg Jets with 26 seconds left in the game.
“It’s pretty cool to get there,” Thornton said in a post game interview. “I’ve been waiting a while now and to get it over with is nice.”
While he has been chided for not taking enough shots for himself — with 382 career goals — Jumbo has proven to be a great playmaker for himself and his teammates.
Thornton began his career playing for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, dominating for the major junior ice hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League from 1995-1997.
In 1997, he was the first pick overall by the Boston Bruins, where he spent the first eight years of his career before being traded in 2005.
In 2002, Thornton was named the captain of the Bruins, a position that he held for three seasons. During his tenure as captain, Thornton continued his pattern of helping those around him before himself as he scored 68 goals but set his teammates up, assisting them, a total of 139 times.
It was in 2005 that Thornton was traded to the Sharks afterwhich he was nicknamed “Jumbo Joe” and won a place in the hearts of San Jose’s’ fans.
Since donning the Sharks’ sweater in 2005, Thornton took home the Art Ross Trophy and the Hart Memorial Trophy.
When he joined the Sharks, the career-high goals of Thornton’s linemate right wing Jonathan Cheechoo doubled from 28 to 56.
Simultaneously, left wing Patrick Marleau had his first 30-goal season in 2005 and has continued on to have seven more with the help of Thornton. It was seasons such as these that led Marleau to his 500th career goal earlier this season.
Thornton became the captain of the Sharks in 2010, supplanting Marleau, who was selected one pick after way back in 1997. In his four seasons leading the team, Thornton posted 206 assists for San Jose.
After tonight, Thornton’s 1,382 career points places him 23rd on the NHL all-time points list.
The NHL veteran is just 68 games away from his 1,500th NHL game, an achievement only 17 others have accomplished.
The culmination of the 2016-2017 season will mark the end of Thornton’s three-year contract with the Sharks and he will be a free agent going into the next season.