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Can Jonathan Drouin Finish the Season with the Montreal Canadiens?

Jonathan Drouin has not had the kind of seasons people expected when he was moved to the Montreal Canadiens. Will he last this season with the team?

My young friend, 11-year-old Lucas Fortier, who lives in Welland, Ontario, and plays hockey (he’s a center iceman) with the Welland Tigers told me he’s “really hoping that Montreal Canadiens’ Jonathan Drouin has a better 2019-20 season than he did last year!” I hope so, too, for the Canadiens’ sake.

However, I’m wondering if, in the case of Drouin, it might be time for a change of scenery. Drouin should have been gold in Quebec; after all, he’s from La belle province. However, it hasn’t worked out that well for him in Montreal.

After having been chosen third overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, he lasted three seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning – his third season was strong, and he scored 21 goals, 32 assists, and 53 points in 73 games – and then was traded to the Canadiens. He was expected to hit the Centre Bell ice and never look back; however, it simply didn’t happen. From the outside, I’m wondering if he needs a bit of an attitude adjustment.

Drouin’s Hockey Career

But Drouin has been a fighter. NHL hockey didn’t happen easily for him, and he wasn’t an immediate star. At the age of 17, although he was chosen second overall in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) entry draft, he didn’t make the regular-season roster with Halifax and was sent back to play AAA midget hockey.

When he was recalled to Halifax in December 2011, things changed. He scored two assists in his first game and, after that, became one of the best players in junior hockey. In 2013, he and Nathan MacKinnon joined forces to become one of the strongest forward combinations in all of junior hockey, and together they led Halifax to the Memorial Cup.

Drouin was the 2013 CHL’s player of the year and was picked by the Tampa Bay Lightning (third overall) two spots after the Colorado Avalanche chose MacKinnon. However, Drouin was sent back to Halifax for another season and there he was overwhelming, scoring 108 points in 46 games.

When he made the Lightning in 2014-15, he played 70 games and had a really strong Eastern Conference Final in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 14 points in 17 games. He was traded to the Canadiens during the 2017 offseason (with a conditional 6th round draft pick in 2018 for defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional 2nd round 2018 draft pick).

Recent History with the Canadiens

During the 2018-19 season, Canadiens’ head coach Claude Julien partnered Drouin and Max Domi. During the first half of the season, they were a high-scoring partnership. However, when Julien split up the pair, Drouin’s scoring suffered and he didn’t score a single point in 23 of the last 26 games – that’s what we call a scoring drought.

This season, it looks as if Julien has decided that he will play Domi and Drouin together. He’s also likely to give Drouin a larger role in the power-play unit (even the point on the first power play). If so, Drouin should have a chance to flourish. If not, I don’t think the Canadiens will be patient.

Normally a left-winger, this preseason Julien has lined Drouin up on the right side for a couple of games with center Phillip Danault and left-winger Tomas Tatar. There he’s taking Brendan Gallagher’s spot. However, a game earlier Drouin was paired with Domi, and that twosome appears to be the most probable choice for getting the best out of Drouin.

So far this preseason, Drouin hasn’t scored well (one assist in four preseason games). The Canadiens are blessed with a number of young forwards who are pushing to make the line-up this season, and sooner or later the team will decide to make space for these youngsters. If so, a veteran will likely be on the way out. I’m thinking there’s a good chance that veteran might be Jonathan Drouin.

The Precariousness of a Rebuilding Season

Because the team is rebuilding – or re-setting – it might be a good time to move Drouin. What’s interesting is that this re-set is happening around Carey Price, as he faces his twilight as an NHL goalie. I cannot see the team ever moving him, and he’s been such a great player and will probably will perform at his usual level regardless of who’s in front of him. In addition, Price has done such good community work that his leaving would seem devastating.

Right now Price has an injured hand, but goalie colleague Keith Kinkead has held his own during the preseason. For example, on Sept. 25, the Canadiens were shutout for the second straight game 3-0 by the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, Kinkaid kept the score reasonable. He looks to be an able replacement and number two should Price need rest or rehab.

This will be an interesting season for the Canadiens and it mostly depends upon how the team gets out of the regular season gate. If they falter, there’s a good chance they will be sellers at the trade deadline; and, if that’s the case, who knows who will be with the team at year’s end.

I’m thinking there’s a good chance Jonathan Drouin might find himself in a different uniform before the season is out. But, we shall see.



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