Jason Pominville was just 18 years old when the Buffalo Sabres drafted him with the 55th-overall draft pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.
Now, some 17 years later, Pominville is set to hit 1,000 NHL games - a mark he’s expected to reach on Thursday when the Sabres visit the Ottawa Senators. He’s spent more than two-thirds of his NHL career with the Sabres organization, and has undoubtedly made his mark on the franchise.
Ahead of his 1,000th career game, let’s take a look back at Pominville’s NHL career thus far.
After being drafted in 2001, Pominville remained in the QMJHL with the Shawinigan Cataractes for one more season before making the jump to the United States. He’d spend the next few seasons in Rochester with the Amerks.
In his first AHL season, Pominville put up a respectable 34 points, good for seventh on the team in scoring. Among those ahead of him: current Sabres GM Jason Botterill and current Amerks head coach Chris Taylor.
Pominville would nearly double his point production in the following season, accruing 34 goals and 30 assists for 64 points in 66 regular season games. He led the Amerks in goals and was second in points, behind only Domenic Pittis’ 77-point campaign.
The right winger continued to produce offensively in the AHL with 68 points the following season - the lockout year - which would be last full season with the Amerks.
Pominville had made his NHL debut in one game in the 2003-04 season, but would make the jump to the Sabres for real in the 2005-06 season. In that initial season, he put up 30 points (18-12) in 57 games with Buffalo.
Pominville continued to contribute offensively for the Sabres over the years, from his career-best 80 points in 2007-08 to his 73-point campaign in 2012. He was named captain of the team for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, after having previously briefly worn the C during the 2007-08 season. He also made it to the NHL All-Star Game in 2012.
Things were going well - until 2013, that is, when the Sabres sent Pominville to the Minnesota Wild. Buffalo shipped out their captain and a fourth-round pick in exchange for Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett and a pair of draft picks (Nikita Zadorov & Vaclav Karabacek). It was the beginning of the so-called rebuild for the Sabres under Darcy Regier, and a big moment for the organization.
Pominville played 327 regular season games with the Wild between 2013 and 2017.
Then, on June 30, 2017, the Sabres re-acquired Pominville - along with Marco Scandella - in exchange for Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno and a third-round draft pick. All of a sudden, it was like the good old days again.
Last season, Pominville played in all 82 games with the Sabres - his sixth time doing so with Buffalo and eighth time overall in his career. He put up 34 points, including 16 goals and 18 assists.
A lot has changed since his last tenure in Buffalo. Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Dahlin were all not on the team’s radar when Pominville last put on the blue & gold. This season, as Pominville has said, is already different.
Pominville recently had a four-game point streak come to an end on Tuesday, but he’s having a solid season so far, with 10 points (5-5) in 12 games. He’s averaging 13:01 ice time in games so far and has averaged 2.25 shots per game.
During that recent streak, Pominville hit 500 points as a member of the Buffalo Sabres organization. He’s now scored 206 goals and 294 assists in 672 games with the team.
With that, he’s 10th on the list of career games played for the Buffalo Sabres, nine shy of Rick Martin. His 294 assists are eighth-most among career leaders for the franchise, 16 behind Don Luce. Hitting 500 points tied him with Danny Gare for ninth in points; he’ll need 11 more to match Mike Foligno.
He’s up there in a number of other career stats leaders for the Sabres as well, from even-strength goals (148, 9th); to shorthanded goals (10, 6th) and shots (1801, 4th).
It’s part recency bias, but looking at those numbers, you can’t deny that Pominville has had an impact on the Buffalo Sabres organization over the years. Now, as he reaches 1,000 career NHL games, it’s a question of what lies ahead.
Pominville hasn’t appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2017. He hasn’t been on a team that reached the second round since 2015, and the third round since 2006 (but let’s not talk about that.) He’s never reached the Stanley Cup Final.
Undoubtedly, that’s every NHLer’s dream: to raise the Cup. Can Pominville - now 35 years old and not getting any younger - reach that goal eventually? Can he continue to move his way up the franchise records lists of the Sabres organization? And can he continue to flourish through this season playing among guys like Eichel, Jeff Skinner and Conor Sheary?