When the Montreal Canadiens were spiralling deeper and deeper into the depths of historically bad hockey, there were only a handful of players who seemed to have a pulse for every game. One of them was Michael Pezzetta, who was initially recalled while Cole Caufield was assigned to the Laval Rocket in the midst of a horrid losing skid.
Against all odds, Pezzetta has stuck in the NHL even as the team has gotten healthier, and has tallied four goals and two assists in 32 games. Considering he and his linemates rarely hit double-digit minutes of ice time, his production is just fine for a prototypical fourth-liner in the NHL. To the shock of no one, in those same 32 games, Pezzetta has dispensed punches in four separate fights, all of which were far out of his weight class, going up against Ryan Reaves, Mark Borowiecki, Radko Gudas, and Zack Kassian.
Between his willingness to stand up for teammates, his highly physical style of play, and his wild hair, Pezzetta has drawn a lot of comparisons to former Hab Ryan White (who is going through a very difficult time at the moment if you’d like to help). The connection makes a lot of sense given how both broke into the NHL lineup, and how they held onto their spots.
Is there more Pezzetta can become as a player, or is this current station his ceiling at the NHL level? His effort and hustle are always noticeable on any given night. In particular he’s made me eat some crow as I personally never saw him making it to the NHL, let alone sticking for this long. Effort and hustle are great, but if they’re not being used in ways that actually help, it’s a lot of expended energy for nothing.
Pezzetta’s line ate up defensive minutes against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he led the team in terms of shot-attempt share at 66.7%. Such a number isn’t expected of your bottom trio, and it’s a number rarely seen by a Habs player this year, but it will be important for him to be closer to breaking even in that category than he was in most games to start his season. He might have the shortest leash of any player on the roster this year. It’s not hard to find fourth-line options, and the recent acquisition of Tyler Pitlick, plus the emergence of Laurent Dauphin, makes his battle even tougher.
Pezzetta has been a fun story for the Canadiens, going from the Laval Rocket’s fourth line to becoming more of an NHL regular in the span of a few weeks, and that is almost unheard of. However, the Habs are not always going to be as bad as they’ve been this year, and with better play comes higher expectations across the board. Pezzetta brings the energy that the Habs were lacking for a long time this year, but now that that is no longer enough for him to stand out from a crowd ramping up its effort level, he will need to show his prowess in other areas to truly lock down a spot. He’s surprised a lot of people already, and it isn’t hard to imagine him doing it again.