The Montreal Canadiens made one of the biggest blockbuster trades this summer, trading prospect Mikhail Sergachev along with a second-round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Jonathan Drouin and a conditional sixth-round pick.
One of the Canadiens’ main objectives this offseason was to improve their offense and goal scoring. Many people believed they did that by adding Quebec local Jonathan Drouin.
Shortly after acquiring the 22-year-old, they signed him to a six-year, $33m deal. When a team commits this type of money, it shows that they have faith in the player’s potential to carry the team for the long-term.
Coming into the 2017/18 season, the Canadiens expect Drouin to be one of their key offensive players up front and will give him every opportunity to succeed, perhaps more than what he saw with the Bolts.
Now the real question becomes, what is Jonathan Drouin’s true ceiling in the NHL? Can the former third overall pick blossom into a superstar with this new opportunity?
Let’s take a look at Drouin’s hockey journey and NHL career so far, and his outlook for the Montreal Canadiens for 2017/18 and beyond.
Halifax Mooseheads (2011-2014)
Jonathan Drouin was born in the small town of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec. After an impressive minor league hockey career in Quebec, he was selected second overall by the Halifax Mooseheads in the 2011 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) draft.
He joined the Mooseheads as a 16-year-old in 2011/12, and had a decent rookie campaign, scoring 29 points in 33 games. Although he put up respective numbers as a QMJHL rookie, much of his efforts were overshadowed by teammate and good friend Nathan MacKinnon.
As a 16-year-old rookie, MacKinnon scored 31 goals and 78 points in 58 games and led the Mooseheads in scoring that year.
The 2012/13 season was where Jonathan Drouin put himself on the map and caught the attention of the hockey world. He exploded with an impressive 41 goals and 105 points in 49 games for the Nova Scotia based franchise.
He registered an impressive 35 points in 17 playoff games and helped Halifax win the President’s Cup and the Memorial Cup in 2013. Unsurprisingly, Drouin was also named CHL player of the year and the successful season saw his draft value skyrocket significantly.
Along with Nathan MacKinnon, the pair were projected to go in the top five of the 2013 NHL draft. Eventually, MacKinnon went first overall to the Colorado Avalanche, while Drouin was taken shortly after, at third overall to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Later that year, Drouin attended his first NHL training camp with Tampa Bay, but he did not do enough to convince the organization that he was ready for the NHL. As a result, he was sent back to juniors for another season in the Q.
Despite not being able to defend the President’s Cup nor Memorial Cup, the Quebecer had another successful season in the QMJHL. He scored 108 points in 46 regular season games and another 41 points in 16 games in the playoffs.
At that point, it was evident that Drouin was too good for junior hockey and was ready to take his talents to professional hockey.
Tampa Bay Lightning (2014-2016)
During the 2014/15 season, Drouin made the Tampa Bay Lightning out of training camp and stuck with the franchise for most of the season. He didn’t have an overly impressive rookie season, scoring only four goals and 32 points in 70 games.
This was also the year that the Bolts went on a deep playoff run all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. However, Drouin had trouble getting into the lineup and was only limited to six playoff games in the entire 2015 Playoffs.
The 2015/16 season was a tumultuous campaign for the 22-year-old. Due to injuries, he was restricted to 19 games of the Lightning’s first 38 games of the season.
Then in early January 2016, he was sent down to the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League, to allow him to get his game back up to par. However, controversy sparked as his agent issued a statement on his behalf that he requested a trade earlier in November, but it was never made public until he was sent down to the minors.
Things got more complicated, as Drouin failed to report to his first AHL game, leading to him being suspended indefinitely without pay. Simply put, things weren’t rosy between Drouin and the Lightning organization, but as time progressed he was eventually recalled to play for the Lightning in their 2016 playoff run.
This time around, he had an impressive showing. He played a key role in helping the Tampa Bay Lightning reach the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals once again, before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Drouin finished the postseason run with an impressive return of 14 points in 17 games.
Later that offseason, the two sides seemed to have buried the hatchet, as Drouin revoked his trade request and was looking forward to extending his stay in Central Florida.
Tampa Bay Lightning (2016/17)
The 2016/17 season was a coming out party for Drouin. He was a much-improved player and had a career year, scoring 21 goals and 53 points in 72 games.
Although he wasn’t usually the number one option for the team, he saw quality minutes in the team’s top-nine. He excelled as a complementary scorer and stepped up when his team needed him.
Drouin was one of the bright spots on a Lightning team that narrowly missed the playoffs despite missing key roster players for much of the year.
Heading into the summer of 2017, the Lightning had tough decisions to make. They were strapped financially as they had too many key players that needed contract extensions.
General manager Steve Yzerman and Lightning management chose to extend Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, giving them a nice pay raise. This essentially made Jonathan Drouin surplus to requirements, as the team needed to shed salary. In order to this, they chose to acquire Mikhail Sergachev who is still on his entry level contract.
Essentially, losing Drouin was a tough decision to make but given the circumstances, they had no other choice.
Montreal Canadiens (2017-present)
Coming to Montreal, Jonathan Drouin will likely see a huge role on the Canadiens’ offense. Unlike in Tampa, where he was often buried behind an offensively stacked team that included Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and others, Drouin will be pushed to the forefront in Montreal and be one of the main anchors, along with Max Pacioretty.
Drouin will see quality top-six minutes, top power play minutes and most importantly be counted on to provide offense for the Canadiens.
There is also a debate as to whether the Canadiens will use Drouin at center or on the wing. He had success as a playmaking winger for the Tampa Bay Lightning but Montreal is rather thin at center, so they may try to mold him into one.
Production wise, history shows that Drouin is capable of scoring at least 50 points in the NHL. Now with a bigger role and more opportunities to produce, can he become a 60-65 point player? Or reach new heights and be a 70-point player?
This all remains to be seen, but the Montreal Canadiens are a desperate team looking to salvage the prime years of core players in Carey Price and Shea Weber, who are both in their thirties. If they want to be a contender next year, Drouin will have to come up big for them offensively.
Expectation-wise, if Drouin scores less than 50 points next year, it may be considered as a huge disappointment. Since he was essentially brought in to replace Alexander Radulov, the Canadiens probably see him as a younger, more dynamic player with more upside.
Therefore, reasonable expectations should be around 60 points. Anything above 70 points should be a considered a spectacular season for the former third overall pick.
What are your expectations for Jonathan Drouin as a Montreal Canadien next season? Let us know in the comments section below, and be sure to vote in the poll.
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