Thursday, May 31, 2007

NHL Draft Prospect: Max Pacioretty

The next NHL draft prospect we'll look at is Sioux City Musketeers forward Max Pacioretty.

Max Pacioretty can be considered a bit of a "dark horse" in this summer's NHL Draft, mainly because prior to this winter, when the NHL CSB's mid-term rankings came out, few people had heard of Pacioretty, let alone considered him a top prospect for the draft.

Prior to playing in the USHL, Pacioretty played his hockey for Taft Prep, in Connecticut. As a sophomore, Pacioretty had 5 goals and 14 assists, which was good for fourth on Taft's team in scoring. That summer, he went to the USA Select 17 Festival, and was impressive enough to earn a spot on the US U18 team that traveled to Slovakia to play in the Junior World Cup. Pacioretty returned to Taft for his junior season and scored 6 goals and 30 assists in 25 games. That January, Pacioretty accepted a scholarship to play for the University of Michigan, choosing the Wolverines over a couple Ivy League schools.

Here is what US Hockey Report said about Pacioretty after he committed: "Pacioretty, a New Canaan, Conn. native now in his junior year at Taft, is a big kid with pretty good hands. With his long reach, he is able to protect the puck well, and he has good acceleration for his size. At the very least, he projects to be a solid checking winger for the Wolverines. Depending on how he develops, he could be much more -- there's upside here."

For his senior year of high school, Pacioretty moved on to Sioux City of the USHL, where he really showed off his talent. In 60 regular season games, Pacioretty scored 21 goals and 42 assists for 63 points. He was second on Sioux City's team in scoring, tied for 10th overall in the league, and trailed only Des Moines' Ben Ryan for most points by a player in his first year of draft eligibility by a single point. Pacioretty also had 4 goals and 6 assists in 7 playoff games.

Pacioretty is often described as a "prototypical power forward" because combines his large frame(measured at 6'1.5" 203 lbs. by Central Scouting) and physical play with extremely soft hands, and his skating is very good for his size. Pacioretty is a bit atypical, however, in that he racks up a lot of assists for a power forward. Pacioretty is also pretty intelligent. He fielded scholarship offers from Ivy League schools, and graduated high school a semester early this winter.

NHL Central Scouting ranked Pacioretty 23rd in the their mid-term rankings, making him the highest rated USHL prospect, and Pacioretty moved up to 16th in the final rankings, making him the 5th highest rated American prospect. He will likely be picked in the later half of the first round, though he is a player that could get picked even earlier, as few prospects in front of him have the same size and ability as Pacioretty.

Pacioretty will be as freshman at Michigan next season. The Wolverines lost a significant chunk of offense this summer with the graduation of T.J. Hensick and the Edmonton Oiler's signing of Andrew Cogliano, and Pacioretty will be one of the players called upon to fill that void. Michigan has desperately missed the presence of a high-scoring power forward since Jason Botterill graduated in 1997, and would love for Pacioretty to fill that role. Pacioretty should see powerplay time right away for the Wolverines, and will likely be on one of the top two lines.

Biggest Strength: Hands
Needs to Improve: Goal-scoring ability

Further Reading:

Pacioretty is Named Channel 4 Champion January 17, 2007