Rant Sports Top 100 Players in the NHL: No. 88 Max Pacioretty

This past season was a definite bounce-back season for Max Pacioretty from the Montreal Canadiens. Even though the Canadiens themselves experienced an unusually bad season–dead last in the Northeast Division, missed the playoffs a year after a dramatic series with the eventual Stanley Cup champions–Pacioretty gave Habs faithful a silver lining on the cloud.

His 33 goals were second overall on the team, and his 32 assists came in third as he led the team in total points. Plus, Feb. 9 was a big night for two different Habs: Scott Gomez finally scored after a year of not doing so, but Pacioretty put together his first career hat trick.

When Montreal missed the playoffs altogether, it opened up the chance for players to go play for their countries at the 2012 World Championship. Pacioretty suited up for Team USA and, though they did not medal, he scored 12 points (two goals, 10 assists), played all eight games and was among the tournament’s scoring leaders.

Then, in the offseason, as Montreal brought in a new general manager and thought of the future, Pacioretty extended his contract for six years and $27 million.

Considering that there was a point last season where people were unsure if Pacioretty would walk again, let alone play, it was a huge improvement. That touch-and-go point was March 2011, when Pacioretty hit the stanchion at the end of the bench after a collision with Zdeno Chara. Pacioretty’s game–and season–ended early as he fractured a vertebrae and suffered a concussion, while Chara got five minutes and a misconduct. The Montreal police eventually launched a criminal investigation, though it was subsequently closed without filing charges, and in time Pacioretty forgave Chara.

That injury, and the way Pacioretty followed with such a big season, was why he won the 2012 Masterton Trophy in the face of perseverance.

But for Pacioretty, it all began in high school in Connecticut, where he was born and raised, before he went to the USHL and the University of Michigan for what would turn out to be just one season of college hockey. Drafted 22nd overall in 2007 by the Canadiens, he signed his entry-level deal with them in summer 2008. He spent some time in the AHL getting seasoned, but when he got his first call-up, he scored his first goal on his first shot and kept the Canadiens from being shut out in a 4-1 loss.

At just 23 years old, Pacioretty still has lots of good potential playing years left in him, and if he continues to do well as part of the Two and a Half Men line (see below), it’s possible he could climb further up the Top 100 or even help lead Montreal to a deep playoff run or their next Stanley Cup.

Highlight Reel:

http://youtu.be/P1l04fzk18U

Pacioretty’s first career hat trick included a buzzer-beating empty net goal to secure it.

http://youtu.be/tLNkgFuFRH8

In his acceptance speech for the Masterton Trophy, he thanks his team, his trainer, his friends and family and doesn’t need to be played off by music before he’s done talking.

http://youtu.be/rUftF7-Qk7Y

The Two and a Half Men line comes together and each member records a point on this Pacioretty goal as they work to simply keep the puck in the zone.

Fun Facts:

  • Pacioretty, a left winger, is linemates with right winger Erik Cole and center David Desharnais. Fans nicknamed that trio the Two and a Half Men line because Desharnais is 5 foot 7 while Cole and Pacioretty are both 6 foot 2.
  • He is related to former NHL player Maxim Afinogenov–he married Afinogenov’s sister Katia in 2011. In fact, Pacioretty got married just a week after Afinogenov did.
  • He won the Rookie of the Year recognition twice in a row, once from the USHL and then from the CCHA. In those two years, he was also named to the respective leagues’ All-Rookie Teams.

 

The Rant Sports Top 100 NHL Players series will examine the top 100 players all across the league. Look for more from the top 100 soon.

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