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As Montreal's most consistent point-producer, the pressure remains on Tomas Plekanec to lead the way in scoring. A gifted playmaker, Plekanec's skills lie in setting up his teammates, but he is no stranger to putting the puck in the net himself. It's practically a given that Plekanec will be among Montreal's top scorers as their number one; the question is, will he take the next step and place among the league's elite?
Plekanec demonstrated a significant dip in production after recording a career-best 70 points the year prior. Nevertheless, his 57 points were good for first on the low-scoring Canadiens, despite him missing a career-high 5 games to injury and illness. As it has been his tendency, Plekanec struggled in the latter part of the season, recording only 13 points in the last 22 regular-season games.
Season Stats: 77 GP, 22 goals, 35 assists, +8, 30 PIM, 3 PPG, 16 PPA, 1 SHG, 4 GWG, 227 shots, 20:14 TOI
Barring any shocking roster changes, it will be Plekanec earning big minutes in all situations. However, with the loss of defensive centre Jeff Halpern, it is expected that Plekanec will be playing additional defensive minutes unless an internal option (e.g., Andreas Engqvist) fills that role; as a result, his offensive minutes will suffer. Early speculation has Plekanec centering Mike Cammalleri and Erik Cole, which should ease some of the pressure off of him, and merit a slight uptick in 5-on-5 production.
All things considered, Plekanec should be able to improve upon last year's totals. A healthy Andrei Markov, the continued progression of P.K. Subban and/or Max Pacioretty, and the acquisition of Cole should all help Plekanec's numbers at even-strength and on the powerplay. The real question is how many tough minutes Plekanec will be forced to play, and how much that will prove detriment to his scoring opportunities. While I project him to improve upon his 2010-11 numbers, there are likely many more potent centers to be had in your fantasy league. In most leagues, slotting Plekanec anywhere higher than your #3 centre will be setting yourself up for disappointment.