The Vegas Golden Knights, when 100% healthy, have a star studded roster with some of the league’s biggest names, and someone like Max Pacioretty who usually flies under the radar did the exact opposite in the month of December. As such, he was named the NHL’s 2nd Star of December, and that honor really hammers home how unfortunate it is that he’s sidelined indefinitely.
⭐⭐ Max Pacioretty topped the NHL with 10-6—16 (12 GP) to lift the @GoldenKnights (22-12-0, 44 points) into first place in the Pacific Division via a 10-3-0 December. He also posted a franchise-best and career-high seven-game goal streak. #NHLStats: https://t.co/G10HOf2KMd pic.twitter.com/EI12LQTlKA— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 2, 2022
This season is Pacioretty’s 14th as an NHL pro, his fourth as a Golden Knight, and at age 33 he was in prime position to have a career year. Pacioretty has always been one of the league’s “good” players, and someone that doesn’t truly get the credit I think he deserves. From 2011 to 2017 he scored 189 goals, averaging 35 goals a year. During that six-year span which covered ages 23 to 28, or the typical prime of a player’s career, he scored at least 30 goals in all but one season. That year was 2012-13, a lockout shortened campaign in which Pacioretty tallied 15 goals in 44 games, which is a 28-goal pace over an 82 game season.
All of this is to say that while that Pacioretty has been good historically, this year’s Pacioretty had the chance to be great. In the month of December, Pacioretty led the league in scoring with 16 points in 12 games played. His 10 goals tied him with Auston Matthews for most scored in December, although the Toronto Maple Leafs superstar played in fewer games due to COVID-19 postponements.
From an underlying numbers perspective, Pacioretty also had strong results. He posted a CF% of 63.08, a 62.49 GF%, and a 58.41 xGF% per Evolving-Hockey. His play for Vegas has been a real tour de force, and on the season to date he’s got a line of 12-9-21 in 16 games played, and was on pace to finish with 52 goals, 39 assists, and 91 points.
Depending on when he returns, Pacioretty can still finish strong and have a decent season. I doubt he’ll set a career high in goals (39 is current mark which was established in 2013-14) or points (67 is current mark he’s achieved twice), but it will still be one worth being proud of.
He’s expected to miss at least a month, and Vegas could get lucky if he needs additional time to heal since they currently only have three games scheduled for February, not factoring in potential games rescheduled due to COVID-19 postponements. That would leave 30 games over the month of March and April that Pacioretty could presumably play in.
The challenge now for the Golden Knights will be replacing Pacioretty’s production. It helps that in recent games the Knights have seen other players stepping up. Mattias Janmark scored vs. the Anaheim Ducks on New Year’s Eve, and found the back of the net twice in Sunday’s loss to Winnipeg.
Michael Amadio tallied his third goal of the season as well, and also picked up an assist on a goal scored by Evgenii Dadonov. Nicolas Roy continues to be productive as well, and these contributions are great now, and will make the team that much more deeper when top players like Pacioretty, Jack Eichel, and Mark Stone are healthy.
So while fans should rightfully celebrate Pacioretty for what he did is December, and what he did prior, they should equally cross their fingers that someone like Eichel will be ready to make his Golden Knights’ debut sooner rather than later.