25 Canadiens in 25 days: Max Pacioretty

The Montreal Canadiens have named their new captain, and his name is Max Pacioretty who says he is ready for the responsibility of wearing the C and hopes to live up to its storied legacy.

Clocking in at No. 20 in our 25 Montreal Canadiens in 25 days series is forward Max Pacioretty.

Born and raised in Connecticut, Pacioretty played the majority of his minor hockey at home in New Canaan. After his freshman year of high school, he traveled a few counties over to Watertown where he competed for Taft prep school.

The booming shot that’s come to define his NHL career hadn’t yet developed and Pacioretty was more of a playmaker before moving from the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers to Michigan University. As he made this transition, the Canadiens drafted him 22nd overall in 2007.

Pacioretty was a standout in his 2007-08 freshman year with the Wolverines, scoring 15 goals and 24 assists in 37 games. After the season, he signed with the Canadiens, forgoing the rest of his college eligibility.

Pacioretty then made waves in the AHL with 29 points in his first 37 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs, prompting the Canadiens to promote him for a 34-game audition towards the end of the 2008-09 season.

Pacioretty started the 2009-10 season by scoring only 14 points in 52 NHL games, so he was returned to the AHL where he could regain confidence. He remained there to start the 2010-11 season after saying he was better off playing a top-line role with Hamilton than a fourth-line role in Montreal.

A lot of people interpreted those comments as arrogant, but Pacioretty was just being brutally honest — a character trait he’d eventually become known for in post-game NHL interviews.

Pacioretty started 2010-11 hot, leading the AHL with 17 goals and 32 points in 27 games and showing he was ready to assume a top-six role in Montreal.

This time, he shone. And he never looked back.

He scored 14 goals and 10 assists in 37 games with the Canadiens between November of 2010 and March of 2011 and his upward trajectory appeared to be unstoppable.

Then this happened.

Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and fractured vertebrae in his neck. There was serious doubt that he’d ever be able to return to the same level of play.

But just six weeks later he was cleared to resume skating and the legend of his ability to recover quickly from injury was born. In response to the notion that he’d never be the same, Pacioretty proclaimed: “that’s right, I’ll be better than ever.”

It’s one thing to make a bold statement, and another to back it up. In 2011-12, Pacioretty set career highs with 33 goals and 32 assists. He followed that up with 15 goals and 24 assists in 44 games during the lockout abridged 2012-13 season.

Since then, he’s tied with Anaheim’s Corey Perry for the third-most goals (76) over the past two NHL seasons (ranked behind only Alex Ovechkin and Joe Pavelski).

But there’s much more to Pacioretty’s game than scoring goals. He’s a bonafide leader, defensive specialist, penalty killer, and he’s among the league’s most respected players.

Who: Max Pacioretty | No. 67 | first line, left wing (shoots left) | 6-foot-2 | 213 pounds | Age: 26 |

Acquired: 2007 NHL Draft (22nd overall)

Contract status: Six years, $4.5M AAV (expires 2020)

2014-15 Stats: 80 GP | 37 G | 30 A | 67 P | 19:23 TOI | 51.6 CF%

Career stats: 399 GP | 144 G | 136 A | 280 P | 16:04 TOI | 53.5 CF%

The book on 2014-15:
He was Montreal’s best skater in the regular season.

In addition to leading the Canadiens with 37 goals and 67 points, Pacioretty tied Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov for the league’s best plus/minus rating (plus-38).

Also, for the first time in his career, Pacioretty was used regularly on the penalty kill. He averaged 1:33 per game and scored three goals and two assists while his team was shorthanded.

He suffered a concussion in Montreal’s 80th game of the season, putting his Stanley Cup playoff status in question.

Pacioretty didn’t rush back to action, but his recovery was remarkably quick. He returned after missing just the final two games of the regular season and the first game of Montreal’s series with Ottawa.

When all was said and done, Pacioretty led the Canadiens in playoff goals (five) and finished one point behind defenceman P.K. Subban for the most points (7).

Off-season updates:
Pacioretty summers in Florida, where he suffered a fractured tibial plateau below his left knee during dry-land training on July 9.

The injury was supposed to keep the 26-year-old out for 12 weeks before he could resume any kind of weight-bearing exercise.

On September 18, he was named the 29th captain of the Canadiens after being voted to the position by his teammates.

2015-16 outlook:
Pacioretty appears to be on course to start the season with his teammates in Toronto on October 7. The question is: how will missing a fair portion of his summer training and the majority of training camp effect his production?

No matter how prolific a scorer Pacioretty is, it can’t be easy playing catch up to start an NHL season.

And don’t expect the weight of the Canadiens captaincy to burden him. With seven years of NHL experience, Pacioretty is more than capable of handling his new responsibilities and playing his role as expected.

If all goes well, another season north of 35 goals is par for the course. If he falls short of that mark it could cause problems for a Canadiens team that finished 20th in goals for last season.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.