When discussing the best left-winger in hockey over the past few seasons, the conversation tends to start with Alex Ovechkin. The future Hall of Famer is far and away the best goal-scorer and point-producer among those at his position.
But behind Ovechkin, a few names come up: Jamie Benn, Brad Marchand, Taylor Hall, and, yes, Max Pacioretty.
Since the start 2013-14 season, Pacioretty is third among left-wingers in goals behind just Ovechkin and Marchand.
Even if you adjust for goals per game played, Pacioretty remains third as Benn leapfrogs Marchand. This is despite Pacioretty’s tough season. When you extend it to all positions, Pacioretty sits 10th, and ninth on even-strength goals.
Pacioretty gets a lot of criticism for being a perimeter player or not putting in the effort needed, but that is simply not true. He simply scores goals. But his overall point production is good as well. At 0.78 points per game since 2013-14, Pacioretty is eighth among players with at least three seasons played in that span.
The Habs captain had only 17 goals this season, but as we outlined previously, luck had a major role in that. When you look even closer, Pacioretty’s production of shot attempts was still among the best.
He was 29th in the NHL among forwards (all positions) in individual shot attempts per 60 minutes at even strength, according to Corsica. Among the top 30, Pacioretty had the lowest number of goals per 60 minutes, and was the only player among the top 30 to shoot under five percent. Even in a down season, bouncing around from line to line, he simply produced chances.
And he was doing this at a cap hit that provides some of the best value in the league.
According to CapFriendly, the closest contract when factoring in percentage of the cap, age when signed, and length is the contract is Cody Hodgson, signed by the Buffalo Sabres 13 months after Pacioretty. Other contracts that come close are Sean Couturier and Alexander Wennberg, who are still in the beginning parts of their deals.
It’s clear that a lot is expected of Pacioretty both on and off the ice, and his production — or lack thereof — was a major factor in the team’s struggles this season.
But this isn’t a decline for Pacioretty. And his track record is that of an elite scorer in the NHL.