Canadiens Watch: Developing Pacioretty fits nicely in top six

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Max Pacioretty might soon be able to help solve the Montreal Canadiens’ math problem.

Right now, Montreal has five forwards capable of filling top-six roles, meaning even a six-year-old can tell you the team is one short of the ideal situation.

A number of players have floated through one of the prime-time winger slots, but nobody from the group of Maxim Lapierre, Travis Moen or Tom Pyatt are going to get it done over the long haul.

Pacioretty has actually already been given a chance to prove himself in Montreal, albeit prematurely. The Connecticut native made his debut in January of 2009, not even two months after his 20th birthday. Pacioretty scored a goal in his first game, but things didn’t continue on that trajectory.

After struggling to find his form last year, he was sent to the Habs’ American Hockey League affiliate in Hamilton halfway through the season and has yet to re-emerge with the big club. Now 22, Pacioretty sits tied for third in AHL scoring with 28 points in 24 contests. If at some point he is able to parlay that production into NHL success, Pacioretty will be following the round-about route established by impact players like Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza and Carolina Hurricanes pivot Eric Staal, both of whom blossomed in the AHL after spending significant time in the NHL to start their careers.

Pacioretty will never dominate a game the way those two stars can, but his upside represents exactly what the Habs need. In addition to having some scoring touch, the 22nd overall pick from 2007 comes in a 6-foot-2, 196-pound package. Montreal has been in desperate need of a skilled player with that kind of body for years. If they are ever going to get over the hump and beat a team like the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs, the blue, blanc et rouge need to beef up.

Round 1 in Montreal didn’t go exactly as Pacioretty and the team would have liked, but with a little seasoning and time to develop, this could be a classic case of one step back followed by two forward.

This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.



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