Rob Marczynski/Getty Images
Projecting Montreal's future at left wing is a little more tricky than it is at the other two forward positions.
Currently, Montreal's left wing is made up of Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Michael Bournival and Daniel Briere.
Galchenyuk will likely be moved to center at some point in the next season or two. Bournival is also a natural center and could be playing up the middle by 2018. Briere will be 41 and will have hung up his skates.
The prospect pool on the left side is one of their thinner groups, with Charles Hudon, Tim Bozon and Artturi Lehkonen leading the way, at least according to HockeysFuture.com. All three have great potential but are certainly not locks to be good NHL players.
This leaves us with Pacioretty.
Pacioretty is currently Montreal's top offensive forward, and he has proved that by leading the team in goals for each of the past two seasons. For his career, he has 75 goals over 262 games.
In 2018-19, Pacioretty will be 30 years old and still under contract with the Canadiens at a very affordable $4.5 million (not taking into account any future contract extensions).
While 30 is generally considered to be nearing the end of your prime as an NHL player, it certainly isn't too old to still be a top-line player in the NHL.
There's also reason to believe Pacioretty will continue to improve over the next few years.
Usually you know what you're getting from an NHL player by the time they're 25 years old. But this might not be the case with Pacioretty.
He's really in just his third full season in the league, when you consider that his 2010-11 season was cut short due to injury (before that, he had played just 86 career NHL games over two seasons as he was bounced around between the NHL and AHL). Hockey at the NHL is a hard game to learn and Pacioretty got a late start.
Patches, as his teammates refer to him, was a bit of a late bloomer and still has plenty of room to grow. There are still holes in his game, like the fact that he often disappears from the score sheet for weeks at a time. Becoming a more consistent scorer will help push Pacioretty's career to the next level.
Five-Year Depth Chart
1. Max Pacioretty
2. Artturi Lehtonen
3. Charles Hudon
4. Tim Bozon