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As the Canadiens' reigning scoring leader, Max Pacioretty will be expected to contribute significantly on the scoresheet. Indisputably Montreal's top left winger, Pacioretty scored at almost a point-per-game last season, and the young power forward's game is just beginning to blossom. Entering the first year of his 6-year, $4.5M contract, Pacioretty should be motivated to justify his salary, as well as make his case for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. With expectations never having been higher, will he crumble under the pressure or continue to rise to the occasion?
Pacioretty was the model of consistency in 2013, going without points for 3 games only twice throughout the season. His 15 goals were second only to Michael Ryder, and his 39 points led the team in scoring. Pacioretty's 163 shots were good for 7th in the league, and although his 12 powerplay points weren't overly impressive, they ranked him a respectable 56th in the NHL.Season Stats: GP 44, G 15 A 24, PTS 39, +/- +8, PIM 28, PPG 4, SHG 0, GWG 0, SOG 163, ATOI 16:30
5 Year Averages(Because of the lockout-shortened season, we are pro-rating all of 2012-13's numbers over a typical 82-game year.)
Pacioretty will see his fair share of minutes, as he begins the season as Montreal's top left-winger. Barring a massive improvement from current winger, Alex Galchenyuk, Pacioretty should get a crack at the first powerplay wave the vast majority of the time. With Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban manning the blue line with the man advantage, Montreal should be among the league's best, which will surely benefit Pacioretty's powerplay numbers. At even strength, Pacioretty should line up alongside his usual centre, David Desharnais, but this is assuming that Lars Eller doesn't move up in the depth chart. If Desharnais falls out of the top 6 (as many fans foresee happening), Pacioretty will likely gain a new centre in Eller or Tomas Plekanec, and his production will depend on developing chemistry with him.
With powerplay time and top-6 minutes, Pacioretty will be given plenty of opportunities to defend his title as the Canadiens' top scorer. Pacioretty is a safe fantasy selection, as he typically threatens 25-30 goals when healthy, and has only missed 7 regular season games (4 for an appendectomy, 3 for a suspension) after having his neck broken by Zdeno Chara in 2011. Pacioretty's shots on net will help your fantasy team, but his tendency to take penalties infrequently will hurt you in the PIM category. Pacioretty's production may be slightly tempered if coach Michel Therrien rolls 3 forward scoring lines, but otherwise Pacioretty is a decent 2nd or 3rd left-winger to have on your fantasy team.
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