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Canadiens 2014 Top 25 Under 25: #16 Greg Pateryn

As Greg Pateryn enters his third professional season the big question is not really whether he is good enough to be in the NHL, it’s whether or not he is good enough to make the Montreal Canadiens.

Francois Lacasse

Pateryn has been a member of the Montreal Canadiens since he was acquired along with a 2010 second-round draft pick, that the Canadiens sent to Chicago in exchange for Robert Lang, for the very skilled but troublesome centre Mikhail Grabovski. While Lang was one of the best players on the Canadiens that year, an achilles tendon injury ended his tenure in Montreal early, and Pateryn's inability to make the NHL by the age of 24 likely chalks that trade up as a loss, even though Grabovski was bought out in Toronto.

Pateryn is coming off a career year in Hamilton, where he racked up an impressive 15 goals, more than double that of his rookie campaign (albeit in 29 more games). He also added 19 assists, nearly quadrupling his assist production from the previous season.

It was a strange sort of year for Pateryn, as he has never been known as an offensive defenseman in the least, and his shot rate wasn't that impressive overall, which means that his goal total is unlikely to be repeated. With that said, Pateryn did establish himself as Sylvain Lefebvre's most trusted defenseman, and was one of only two regular Bulldogs to post a positive goal differential last year. Yet it was Beaulieu and Tinordi who got the calls from Habs management.

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Votes

With a prospect at age 24 that seems to be dominant in the AHL yet hasn't made the big leagues, it's expected that there is a wide variance in opinion on where to rank Pateryn. Some rank him highly because he's knocked at the door, other rank him low because he's 24 and yet to establish himself.

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Strengths

Photo credit: Hamilton Bulldogs Hockey Club

Pateryn has solid gap control at the AHL level, using his large frame effectively to box out forwards and does a good job keeping himself in position with opponents on the attack. He is not afraid to block shots, and plays the first-unit penalty kill for the Bulldogs. Pateryn also has tremendous character and leadership qualities and is a likely candidate to take over the captaincy of the Hamilton Bulldogs with the departure of Martin St. Pierre.

Pateryn stands out a little bit from the rest of the Canadiens' AHL level defensemen because he has a fairly well established physical game. At 24, he's a fully grown man and he's very strong. He doesn't always line guys up, but he's more than capable of letting loose with thundering checks at the right time.

Not a noted goal scorer in the NCAA, Pateryn has worked on his shot and seems to have become quite dangerous in that area, finishing second in the entire AHL last season in goals from defensemen. He even managed a goal last year in the NHL, in preseason.

Weaknesses

Pateryn will need to show up offensively this upcoming season again to prove that he has a concrete offensive upside. Aside from that, Pateryn’s weaknesses, in my opinion, is that he does not excel at any one aspect of the game.

Pateryn is a bit of a jack of all trades, but it's unlikely that he has the talent to be on an NHL powerplay, and he might not have the complete set of tools that it takes to be a very good penalty killer at the highest level, so his ceiling may be that of a third pairing guy, and at 24 it's time to put up or shut up.

In his brief NHL appearances, Pateryn seemed to struggle with the speed of the NHL game, which could just be typical rookie adjustment, but there are higher expectations placed on older players.

Projection

Pateryn has a tougher road to crack the NHL lineup than his peers in Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu simply due to playing the right side. While that should have been an advantage for him last year, he couldn't capitalize on it, and the Canadiens ended up trading for Mike Weaver and acquiring Tom Gilbert in free agency.

It's possible that Pateryn could crack the roster as a seventh defenseman, but he'll also have to contend with Magnus Nygren, who brings a similar physical game, and a far more impressive offensive game.

While it's always possible that Pateryn's offensive breakout last year was real and that he's on his way to becoming a solid two-way defender, it's far more likely that if he breaks into the NHL, it will be as a fifth to seventh defenseman more focused on the defensive aspects of the game.