A dream season turned into a nightmare in the blink of an eye for New Canaan native Max Pacioretty.

The 22-year-old left winger was enjoying a breakout campaign for the Montreal Canadians, having scored 14 goals and 10 assists through 37 games.

"I had some pretty good chemistry going with [Scott] Gomez and [Brian] Gionta. Hopefully I can pick up right where I left off," Pacioretty said. "I have big goals and expectations of myself heading into next year, and I hope I can meet them. Obviously, it's going to depend a lot on how I start the season. I think it's going to be very important for my statistics and just my overall play."

Then, in a game against the Boston Bruins on March 8, Pacioretty suffered a concussion and a fractured vertebrae after a vicious check by Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara, which drove Pacioretty's head into the glass stanchion between the benches.

Pacioretty was taken off on a stretcher with what was originally diagnosed as a "career-threatening injury." Chara was not fined or suspended by the NHL, despite the questionable nature of the hit.

The Pacioretty-less Canadians ended up making the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, but they were ultimately eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins in a tense seven-game series in the opening round. Boston won the series-clincher in overtime in Game 7.

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"I don't think you could have written up a worse story for the playoffs. I wish I was there to help my teammates; I think I could have helped out a lot," Pacioretty said. "But you can't really dwell on the past. I've got to get ready for next year, and I look forward to making a run next year."

Fast forward five months after his injury, and Pacioretty is back in Connecticut to help out with the week-long North American Hockey School Summer Camp at the Terry Connors Ice Rink while preparing himself for his fourth season in the NHL. Despite his injury, Pacioretty isn't dwelling on the past, as he's planning to report to training camp early in anticipation for the 2011-12 NHL season.

"I've had a little too much time off [because of the injury]," Pacioretty said. "I've been training for about five months or so. I'm itching to get back out there. I'm going up to camp a little bit early just so that I can get a taste of the atmosphere."

Camp director Ryan Hughes believes that the presence of Pacioretty has had a positive influence on the young campers, ages 8-12.

"There didn't used to be too many guys like that around. In the last eight years or so, it's really started to take off where guys in this area are getting drafted, and playing Division-I college and the NHL," Hughes said. "For the kids to see something like that, that it can be done, is phenomenal. Like Max said, you've got work hard every day at it."

In 123 games spanning three seasons in the NHL, Pacioretty has lit the lamp 20 times while dishing out 29 assists. Pacioretty and the Canadians start the 2011-12 regular season campaign with an away game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.

Pacioretty indicated that he was aware of the New Canaan High School hockey team's amazing run during the 2010-11 season. The Rams captured an FCIAC title and fell just two wins shy of a State title and a perfect season.

"I actually know a couple of the kids from working out with them," Pacioretty said. "The captain for next year, Jake Granito, and I played golf the other day so he kept me informed about how the season went. It's great to see that a lot of good players are coming out of New Canaan."