Max Pacioretty ready to break out

Playing only his second pre-season game since returning from a broken vertebrae as a result of the Zdeno Chara incident that happened on March 8th, 2011 at Bell Centre. The 22 year-old winger had to miss the remainder of the season and the first round of the playoffs.

Now back at 100% after an intensive summer of rehabbing and training, Pacioretty is ready to make an impact on the Canadiens first two lines. Entering his fourth NHL season, Pacioretty, who was drafted 22nd overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, will most likely play alongside Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta on Montreal’s second line.

The New Canaan, Connecticut native, had found his offensive touch, scoring 14 goals and 1o assists for 24 points in only 37 games, before going with his season-ending surgery. Pacioretty had started the 2010-11 season with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL after a poor training camp.

In 27 games prior to his call-up, Max Pax notched 17 goals and 15 assists for 32 points clicking with linemate David Desharnais, who has since also made the jump with the Canadiens.

The 6’2”, 205 lb left wing possesses all the offensive tools to have success in the NHL. A great skater with quick feet, Pacioretty handles the puck very well and a great wrist shot with a lightning-fast release. He has improved his play around the offensive net and has learned how to use his size and speed to drive the net with efficiency.

Yesterday night, during the Habs 4-3 OT win against the Ottawa Senators, Pacioretty scored two power play goals to help the Canadiens rally from a 3-0 deficit. Pacioretty also scored in the shootout to help the Canadiens defeat the Senators. Pacioretty had an impressive nine shots on goal and he hit two posts on sizzling shots that goalie Craig Anderson didn’t even see in about 21 minutes of ice-time.

Playing on a line with Scott Gomez and prospect Brendan Gallagher, the trio combined for 19 shots and was the only that was able to create scoring chances on a regular basis during the game.

With Gomez playing a great game, his first of the pre-season, and ready to have a bounce-back season after a miserable 2010-11 campaign, the Gionta-Gomez-Pacioretty line should score on a regular basis this year for the Habs. They played together for a long stretch last season during which Pacioretty recorded 17 points in 19 games right before the “stanchion incident” – a 73-point pace over a full season.

Pacioretty converted goals at a fairly good 12.5% rate last season, notching 14 goals on 112 shots (or about three shots per game). If Pacioretty plays 75 games this season and continues to have around three shots on goal per game and convert at a 12% rate, that would translate to 27 goals which is feasible considering all the playing time Pacioretty will get on the second line and the power play. Players like David Jones and Rene Bourque scored 27 goals last season, both players being power forwards just like Max.

Primarily a goal scorer, Pacioretty can also distribute the puck to his linemate as demonstrated by his 25 combined assists (AHL+NHL) in only 52 games during the last campaign. This total would prorate to almost 40 assists over a full season. Another aspect that should improve this season, is his plus/minus ratio of -1 last year which was negatively impacted by the misfortune of playing in front of a mediocre .898 save percentage goaltending.

Number 67 will also continue to be a major threat on the power play, finishing 55th last season on the man-advantage, scoring seven goals despite playing only 37 games with Montreal (prorated to 15 goals over a full season). Only six players scored more than 12 power play goals last season (D. Sedin, Stamkos, Selanne, Kesler, Perry and Iginla).

Pacioretty certainly enters the season as a very valuable and underrated player both for the Canadiens and the fantasy GMs looking for a late-round gem. Yahoo has him ranked 284th in his draft overall rankings, which would see him getting drafted in the 23rd round of a 12 team fantasy league… Talk about flying under the radar!

After the analysis above I would not be surprised to see Max Pacioretty score 30 goals and 27 assists for 57 points in 80 games to go along with a 12 power-play goals, 225 shots, 80 penalty minutes and a good +10 plus/minus ratio.

As Pacioretty is ranked 58th among left wingers in standard Yahoo leagues, you can easily draft him in the middle rounds (10-15) without fear of losing him to another GM or wasting a pick on him, especially on a relatively thin left wing position.

Do you think Pacioretty is ready to breakout and score 30 goals for the Canadiens? If not, why?

You can also follow me on Twitter for updates on the Canadiens and the NHL in general.

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About the Author: Working as a freelance sports writer and translator, Fred, 33, graduated from Laval University in Quebec City, earning a bachelor of translation in 2002. An avid fan of the Northeast division teams, he's also a long time fan of the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens. Fred also speaks fluently French and Spanish.

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  1. [...] HOCKEY INDEPENDENT: Fred Poulin looks at the stats of Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty prior to his season-ending injury, as well as his preseason play, and suggests Pacioretty could be ready for a breakout performance, perhaps a 30-goal season. [...]