Last Season: Pacioretty made the most out of his one and only USHL season, scoring 21-42--63 in 60 games. He had a +20 rating and posted 119 PIMs. His point total was good for second on the team and 10th in the league (3 points behind future teammate Aaron Palushaj). He also had 4 goals and 6 assists in just seven playoff games.
He was given the USHL's Rookie of the Year award and played in the USHL All-Star game. He's in pretty good company by winning the ROY trophy. Other winners include Kyle Okposo, Joe Pavelski, Brandon Bochenski
Expectations: Pacioretty went from unknown--to us Westerners--prep school hockey player to USHL phenom, to first round NHL Draft Pick and status as the jewel of this recruiting class. While most of the players appear to be 3 or 4 year guys, Pacioretty is likely not. Enjoy him while he's here, folks.
He'll be playing on the top line with Porter and Kolarik right from the get-go, which should probably plenty of scoring opportunities. He's big (6'2" 203), strong, physical, not afraid to hit and muck in the corners, nice wrist shot, decent defensive player, and apparently he's a surprisingly good passer.
In his pre-draft profiles, his passing was often cited as a major plus for him. He was Max Giese's #5 "play-maker" available. He's also apparently a good faceoff guy, which has me kind of wondering if he won't end up playing center, should it become evident that Porter is more comfortable on the wing.
Central Scouting used the word "supple" to describe his hands, which is pretty awesome. I'm expecting that ESPNU announcer to leave me a comment saying that that's kinda gay.
He has the size to be a prototypical power forward, but Giese came out and said "He's not a power forward", so I guess that'll be a work in progress as he learns to better use his size.
He'll be on the top line and the power play, and with his talent, I think a point total in the high 30s is very possible. I don't know that he'll get over a ppg. We've only had a handful of freshmen do that in the recent past, but he'll be right there.
And I like him because he said Jed Ortmeyer is his favorite player and who he models his game after. Can't pick a better guy than that!
Level of Necessity: 8 out of 10.
Again, he looks to be a 2 year guy. He's going to come in and have an impact on this team and he should look really nice playing with Porter and Kolarik. I expressed concern that there might not be enough pucks to go around on that line, but if he's as good of a playmaker as everyone seems to think, he might be the perfect compliment since those guys are both used to getting the puck on their stick.
Parting Thoughts: I really gotta get going here, but it seems that this is going to be another roller-coaster ride. If it's not enough that we'll have to expect ups and downs from our dozen freshmen, we've also got a shaky goaltending situation to deal with. Some games, it will all come together. We'll score goals, the defense will be good, and Sauer (or Hogan) will have a good game. There's a ton of talent on this team.
But on the nights when the defense and goaltending aren't good, it's going to be a flashback to last year--only without the nation's leading offense to bail us out. I expect the offense will still be good, but it would take an awful lot to match last year's scoring total--even though I think we're deeper up front that last year, just without those elite forwards like we've had in the past.
I still expect a pretty good season. It'll be fun watching all these young, talented players grow. If this team can learn to play solid defense and we get NCAA-caliber netminding, they can contend for a title. Those are big ifs though, and I think it's more likely that we'll be on the tournament bubble for most of the season. Whether we make it or not is going to come down to the goaltending.
With that said, I'm off to St. Paul. I hope you've all enjoyed reading these previews, because it's probably never happening again. I hope I haven't come across as too big of a homer--or a complete idiot--in the process.