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Montreal Canadiens mid-season player review: Jonathan Drouin

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Drouin has much to prove in the second half of the year, but is it all on him?

NHL: JAN 02 Sharks at Canadiens Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Months into his first season as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, it is way too soon to tell whether the team emerged as a winner in the Jonathan Drouin-Mikhail Sergachev trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Notable statistics from the first half of the season

  • 2017-18 stats: five goals, 19 points in 37 games this season (ranks fifth on team)
  • On pace for 10 goals and 38 points; would be lowest production since his rookie season where he had four goals and 32 points in 70 GP (min. 41 games played).
  • 0.51 points per game in 2017-18, below career average of 0.57
  • 40.3% faceoff winning percentage
  • CF%: 49.67%; below team average of 51.23%, and ranked 16th on the team

Drouin has been given a ton of responsibility since joining the Canadiens this summer. He's seen time as a consistent top-six player, playing on the first line more than he's ever done in his career. He was starting to get more time in Tampa last season, averaging nearly 18 minutes a game — similar ice-time totals to this season.

Credit Micah Blake McCurdy

Unfortunately for Drouin, his list of available linemates no longer includes Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, or even Alex Killorn. Consider the Spider diagrams below, the first featuring Drouin and his former Tampa teammates, the second highlighting the combinations he’s played on with the Habs.

Credit Micah Blake McCurdy
Credit Micah Blake McCurdy

As talented as Drouin is, his performance is largely dependent on the quality of his team, and he can do only so much with the pieces around him. The Lightning are a much deeper team in nearly every way compared to the Canadiens, and the above graphics point to a player who benefited from that quality.

Drouin can't seem to get it going with captain Max Pacioretty. As shown in the graph above, that duo is the least effective forward combination of all the ones Drouin has played on this season. The team recognized the struggles, and has since changed things up.

Alex Galchenyuk and Artturi Lehkonen, on the other hand, seem to be more ideal linemates. The team has been slotting all three players on a line for the past few games, and has been getting more quality minutes.

There's also the issue of Drouin playing at centre, and the team admitting that he'd be more suitable as a winger, “in a perfect world.” Unless the Canadiens somehow add a capable centre who can allow Drouin to be the dynamic winger he was in Tampa, the team will have to live with his growing pains in the middle of the ice.

One of those growing pains is learning how to balance his puck-carrying skills with a need to be the main defensive forward. A disastrous giveaway during the Canadiens' loss to the Ottawa Senators during the NHL100 Classic on Parliament Hill stands out as the most egregious lapse this season, while only Tomas Plekanec has more giveaways among Habs forwards.

His puck security has been called into question by head coach Claude Julien, as well.

Drouin hasn't been all bad, of course. He's shown his skill and speed, and at times looks like the best player on the ice. He's done some damage on the power play as well, leading the team with seven assists on the man advantage. He has no problem wowing the crowd whenever he does score.

Heralded by some as a potential franchise saviour upon his acquisition, there's no doubt these expectations were greatly exaggerated. However, it's not all on Drouin. Five goals in 37 games isn't impressive, but Drouin isn't at that level where he can replace the production of a number of players.

The forward would likely see better numbers if his supporting cast were better. Judging by GM Marc Bergevin’s comments, the forward may not see any more reinforcements until the off-season, so it may take some time before we see Drouin able to perform at his best.

Stats via Hockey Reference and Natural Stat Trick

Poll

How do you grade Drouin’s first half?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A+
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    A
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    A-
    (13 votes)
  • 3%
    B+
    (44 votes)
  • 11%
    B
    (124 votes)
  • 13%
    B-
    (153 votes)
  • 11%
    C+
    (127 votes)
  • 12%
    C
    (142 votes)
  • 9%
    C-
    (103 votes)
  • 15%
    D
    (171 votes)
  • 19%
    F
    (219 votes)
1102 votes total Vote Now