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After receiving a gruesome hit from Boston's Zdeno Chara on March 10th, 2011, which left him with a fractured cervical vertebrae, many wondered if Max Pacioretty's NHL career had ended far too soon. Thankfully, news soon broke that he had resumed practicing and Pacioretty went into training camp last fall 100% healthy and with something to prove. His play left little doubt that there would be any long term effects from his injury.
He started the season as a top six forward and was shuffled through several different linemates before being paired with centre David Desharnais and fellow American Erik Cole. Once that trio began to gel, his offence took off to another level. He became the type of power forward that Habs fans have been waiting years for. He frequently found himself parked in front of the oppositions' net where he developed a knack for burying rebounds and finished the season with a career high 33 goals and 32 assists in 79 games (only missing three games due to suspension). To top things off, he won the Bill Masterton trophy for persevering in the face of adversary.
4 Year Averages
Pacioretty will enter the season as the Canadiens undisputed first line left winger. It is safe to assume that he will begin the year with his regular linemates of Desharnais and Cole and given a full year together his point totals should be higher if he can stay healthy. At just 23 years old he is still developing and should continue to improve his play at both ends of the ice.
What kind of system new head coach Michel Therrien implements will factor into what kind of year he has. Therrien has been known to get the most out of his star players and use them in situations that they are comfortable with. Pacioretty has a nose for the net and will probably be causing other teams' goaltenders fits while drawing defenders away from his teammates. Also, with a full year of Andrei Markov running the power play we should see better offensive numbers from those units. He is a must draft left winger in all fantasy leagues, move him up in your rankings if your league places value on shots on goal.