For the last two years, Max Pacioretty has been Montreal’s top goal getter although he has failed to hit the elusive 40-goal plateau. It seems all but certain he’ll lead the team again in 2015-16 but will this be the season he gets 40 tallies?
Although he didn’t quite get as many goals as he did in 2013-14 (37 to the previous year’s 39), Pacioretty did crack the 30 assist barrier and set a new career high in points. He also set a new career in ice time, logging over 19 minutes a game, leading all Montreal forwards in TOI per night. Pacioretty also saw more time on the penalty kill, averaging over a minute and a half per game; he and Tomas Plekanec formed quite a strong PK duo. Plus-minus doesn’t carry the same authority it once did but it’s still worth noting that his +38 mark in that category was tops in the entire league.
In the postseason, Pacioretty once again led the way in the goal department, notching five in eleven playoff contests. However, despite that, he missed some strong opportunities and was up-and-down on a few nights. That said, that was the case for pretty much everyone in the playoffs.
Season Stats: 80 GP, 37 goals, 30 assists, 67 points, +38 rating, 32 PIMS, 7 PPG, 3 SHG, 10 GWG, 302 shots, 19:23 TOI
(Because of the lockout-shortened season, we are pro-rating all of 2012-13’s numbers over a typical 82-game year. Pacioretty has only been a full-time NHL’er for four seasons.)
There are some players in this series where we will be projecting a bit of a range for a player – 2nd or 3rd liner, 2nd or 3rd pairing defenceman, etc. This is not one of those times. Pacioretty will start the season as the top line left winger, will finish the year as the top line left winger (barring injury, of course), and will spent pretty much every moment in between on the number one trio.
I wouldn’t be shocked to see his TOI cut down a bit but he is still either going to lead all forwards in that regard or finish a close second behind Tomas Plekanec. Pacioretty will see plenty of power play time and should once again be a fixture when the team is shorthanded.
An offseason training injury has raised some questions as to whether or not he’ll be ready to start the season. If he recovers on schedule, he should be ready for Game 1 although he’ll miss the preseason so he might be a bit rusty out of the gate. Right now, the worst case scenario is that he misses no more than a handful of games so it’s not worth worrying too much about.
Assuming he stays healthy, Pacioretty should be in line for another team-leading 30+ goal, 60+ point campaign while contributing both on the PP and PK. That’s not all he brings to the table from a fantasy perspective though. He should once again be among the league leaders in shots on goal while helping in the hits category as well. It’s the goals that make him so valuable though. Pacioretty is just one of four forwards in the league to have scored over 35 goals in each of the last two seasons. (The others are Alex Ovechkin, Joe Pavelski, and Tyler Seguin, pretty good company to be in.)
In fantasy leagues that weigh goals higher than assists and ones that have shots as a scoring category, you can make a case that Pacioretty is worthy of a late first round pick. In more standard pools, he’s still a #1 left winger but his point totals should have him sliding closer to the second or third round. He won’t be the first Hab off the board (that will be one of Carey Price or P.K. Subban) but Pacioretty is certainly worthy of an early selection.