If Geoff Paukovich ever dresses for an NHL game, it won’t be his scoring ability that gets him there. He’s a gritty, physical player whose biggest assets are his size and strength, and he has a reputation for playing a dirty game. Here’s how Hockey’s Future describes him:
“Big, strong and tough –- pretty much sums up what Paukovich brings to the table. He’s another well-spoken character player who has latent offensive abilities but was unable to build on a decent freshman year in college. Biggest flaws in Paukovich’s game is a lack of agility –- he’s been described as a tractor trailer “makes wide turns”, and some have questioned his conditioning. He could be a decent 4th line player but whether he has NHL potential is definitely in doubt.”
The bit about Paukovich being a “character player” is interesting, and doesn’t seem to mesh with what we know about his on- and off-ice conduct.
The first incident of note is from February 2003 when the then 16-year old was sentenced to probation after being convicted of first-degree sexual assault. There are some caveats, namely that it’s impossible for us to know what the exact circumstances were, and that he was 16 years old at the time. That said, while I wouldn’t necessarily write him off as a result it certainly says bad things about his character and judgment.
The second and most famous incident occurred on March 18, 2005. Paukovich (6’4”, 215lbs) hit University of North Dakota defenceman Robbie Bina (5’8”, 180lbs) from behind into the boards, breaking Bina’s neck. Paukovich received a two-minute minor for boarding and then a one-game suspension from the WCHA. Paukovich’s coach, George Gwozdecky, suspended him for a second game. Understandably, Paukovich was a target for North Dakota players from that point forward, and took a nasty shot to the groin from Mike Prpich in a subsequent game. Matt Greene, who was the captain of the Fighting Sioux when the hit occurred, made short work of Paukovich in a conditioning camp fight a few years later.
The third incident occurred in a pre-season game between the Oilers and the Calgary Flames. Paukovich took a hard hit from Adam Cracknell and in retaliation hit the first Flames player he saw, drilling prospect Kyle Greentree head-first into the boards. Greentree was removed on a stretcher, but fortunately he escaped with only a minor injury.
Last season was a tough one for Paukovich. He recorded 26 points in 70 games for the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL, while posting a team-worst -21 rating. Despite that, this year he’s been with the Springfield Falcons for the entire season, and has appeared in 24 games. In those 24 games he has two points, 32 PIM, and a -9 rating. He’s playing soft competition, and he hasn’t made a positive contribution. While hindsight is 20/20, it’s difficult to imagine what the Oilers saw in Paukovich that lead them to spend a second round draft pick on him. Aside from the fact that he’s big and can hurt people, he doesn’t add much to a hockey team.
Paukovich is in the second year of his three-year entry level contract; at this point, I see no reason for the Oilers to offer him a second deal.
NHL Contract Status: 603K for 2008-09 and 2009-10
AHL Performance Compares To: Ryan Hollweg
Projection: Career minor-leaguer