For years the Habs faithful have demanded the team find and develop a good power forward, and in Pacioretty they may have finally found their man.
Expectations for Pacioretty were not exactly high last summer. He followed up a very good 18 year old year in Michigan with two years split between AHL and NHL were he wasn't particular outstanding in either. In particular, his inability to score goals at the professional level led many to doubt his ability to grow beyond a checking role. When we made these rankings last year he was 7th overall and the 5th forward by the rankings. Our assessment wasn't all that glowing either saying:
Pacioretty immediately started proving people wrong this year with a flat out dominant performance in the AHL Scoring 17 goals and 32 points in 27 games in Hamilton during which time it was possible he was the best player in the entire league. This was more than enough to earn him a call up to Montreal in order to fill the team's biggest hole on the 2nd line LW.
Pacioretty's breakout year continued in the NHL. Its not much of a stretch to suggest he was the second best forward on the team behind Plekanec during his time in the NHL. His 14 goals and 24 points in 37 games prorate out to 31 goals and 53 points over a full season. His success wasn't just a result of a lucky shooting streak either, converting on a fairly typical 12.5% of his shots and the victim of a fairly low 7.01% team shooting rate at even strength. If anything this indicates that he was an even better offensive producer than his pro-rated stats would suggest.
This is reflected by his advanced statistics, where he was an astounding +23.1 on corsi which led the entire league among players with more than 30 games. This means that the Canadiens were flat out dominating territoriality when he was on the ice in a manner similar to how Team Canada would dominate Team Switzerland. This is reflected by his scoring chance data which was an impressive 57%, which is very strong but not as great as his corsi rating (playing with the relatively shot happy Gomez and Gionta probably had something to do with this). These weren't soft minutes against goons and grinders he was dominating either, playing on average 2nd line competition on Gomez's line.
While he got help from a relatively favorable 56% offensive zone start ratio, this was an outstanding performance from a 21 year old that has never played a full season in the NHL. The only reason Pacioretty was not a strong plus player at even strength was he had the misfortune of playing in front of .898 save percentage goaltending.
He also was responsible for completely revitalizing the second line; with Gomez scoring 11 of his 20 ES points despite spending only about 28% of his even strength ice time with him. This also resulted in a strong 55% scoring chance ratio together in comparison to Gomez's normal 52%.
If the even strength play wasn't enough, he also brought a very useful dimension to the power play, which enjoyed its greatest success with him on the ice. By rate he was the best power play goal scorer at 4.05 per 60 minutes, had the second best team goals for rate while on ice ( 8.83 per 60) and the best power play shot generation with a corsi rating of 95.08 among Montreal forwards. His efforts were rewarded with a well earned 7 power play goals and 8 power play points in his 37 games.
And if all that isn't enough, he was also the best Hab at drawing penalties, drawing 1.7 for every 60 minutes of ES time while taking 1.1 for a team leading +.6 penalty differential rate.