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2019 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: #3 Jonathan Drouin

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The most polarizing player on the Canadiens’ active roster drops two positions in this year’s rankings.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Expectations were large when Jonathan Drouin was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Mikhail Sergachev — perhaps too large, in hindsight. Drouin was immediately thrust into a position that he had never played at the NHL level and expected to carry the offence of a Canadiens team looking to improve upon a first-round playoff exit at the hands of the New York Rangers.

Birthplace: Sainte-Agathe, Quebec, Canada
Date of birth: March 28, 1995
Drafted: 2013 (third overall)
Shoots: Left
Position: Left Wing
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 193 lbs.
Team: Montreal Canadiens (NHL)

While Drouin displayed more than occasional flashes of brilliance en route to a 46-point campaign, he also displayed a frustrating level of inconsistency as he tried to adapt to his new role. Drouin’s defensive acumen and dedication were largely panned, and his possession game and even-strength offensive production failed to meet expectations. He did, however, provide a much needed boost to a Canadiens power play that felt the off-season loss of Alexander Radulov.

The hope was that 2018-19 would be a rebirth for Drouin, and for three-quarters of the year, it looked like Drouin was finally on the road to reaching the lofty heights that people projected back when he was drafted 3rd overall in 2013. Unfortunately, Drouin ended the season not with a bang, but with a whimper — notching just one goal and six assists (four from a single match) in his final 26 games. As Claude Julien tried to find reliable options to guide the Canadiens to the playoffs, Drouin saw his ice-time drop from first-line to third-line levels.

EliteProspects

As 2019-20 rolls around, Drouin needs to put it all together and demonstrate why he should be a big piece of the Montreal Canadiens going forward. While last year was unquestionably better than his debut season in the bleu-blanc-et-rouge, the winger-cum-centre-cum-winger still has a ways to go to fulfill the potential afforded to him by his vast innate talents.

Voting

Third place was the general consensus among a majority of voters, including the community. Of those who did not agree with the consensus, three voters placed Drouin one rank away from third, while three had more ... polarized opinions.

Matt: I still think that Jonathan Drouin is the most talented player on the entire Habs roster, over or under 25, so I ranked him as such. I assume that I’ll get flak for my ranking, but hear me out....

He has played just two seasons since coming over from Tampa Bay: one on a basement-dwelling lottery team, and one on a revamped squad that should have made the playoffs. As a part of the latter, he tied his career high of 53 points. As part of the former he was forced to play mostly at centre — a position he should absolutely not be playing — and has had zero consistency in his linemates in either season.

So he hasn’t had a smooth transition, but has still put up respectable numbers offensively. They do leave something to be desired, but there are times when he gets the puck and shows a terrifying level of skill with it. If he can put everything together, and stop trying to do so much on his own, he can realize the potential that made him a third-overall draft pick.

I’ll acquiesce to these facts: he’s been very inconsistent, he’s not great defensively, and he has less time to realize his potential than just about anyone else on our list. That being said, I’ll make a bold prediction for this year: Drouin will find his game, and lead the team in points. I hope for his sake I’m right, because otherwise he could be on his way out of town.

Justin: As the only panellist to rank Artturi Lehkonen ahead of Drouin, I’ll just leave these here:

Top 25 Under 25 History

Drouin entered our T25U25 series at second place in 2017, trailing only Alex Galchenyuk. Galchenyuk’s exit from the series due to age saw Drouin take the top spot the following year, only to relinquish it this year to two players acquired by Marc Bergevin following Drouin’s arrival. Prior to his arrival in Montreal, Drouin was ranked #8 in 2013 and #5 in 2014 by Raw Charge.

History of #3

Year #3
Year #3
2018 Artturi Lehkonen
2017 Artturi Lehkonen
2016 Mikhail Sergachev
2015 Nathan Beaulieu
2014 Nathan Beaulieu
2013 Max Pacioretty
2012 Alex Galchenyuk
2011 Max Pacioretty
2010 Lars Eller

Strengths

In terms of skill set, Drouin is about as well-rounded a hockey player as you can get. His ability with the puck is undeniable, powered by silky hands, excellent hand-eye coordination, strong legs, and an underrated shot. When he doesn’t have the puck, Drouin has a knack for empty space and the ability to make himself available for his teammates. He drives the offence forward, taking it upon himself to create chances by teasing and prodding at the defensive structure.

In the clip below, Drouin wins the puck in the defensive zone and is immediately off to the races, separating himself from the New York Islanders’ defender before the puck is even out of the zone. Seeing the opposing defence both back up and shift towards him, Drouin flips the pass to Jesperi Kotkaniemi just as Adam Pelech attempts a poke check, catching the defenceman flat-footed and giving the rookie maximum time and space. As Pelech overcommits in response and Kotkaniemi offloads to Joel Armia on the open side, Drouin drives to the slot to give Armia an immediate way to avoid an on-rushing Ryan Pulock. Finally, in alone, Drouin has the hands to corral a tipped pass from Armia and the patience to walk around a sprawled Thomas Greiss.

Weaknesses

The completeness of Drouin’s skill set may also be his greatest weakness, in that because he has the tools to do it all, he takes it upon himself to be the one-man show that he was in Junior. Drouin often overhandles the puck or overthinks with it, resulting in unpredictability, randomness, and low-percentage plays. As a consequence, his linemates have difficulties trying to align their actions with those of the young starlet, something that is reflected in the poor trends found in the with-you-or-without-you data.

Projection

Drouin is an immensely talented player, but whether he showcases those talents in Montreal for much longer may be in doubt after an underwhelming conclusion to a season where so many of his teammates made positive strides. Moving forward, the main (and perhaps only) obstacle for Drouin is the need to translate his game from the junior level to the professional one — to play with his teammates instead of playing alongside them.

If Drouin cannot fit into Julien’s system — and he didn’t last year — Bergevin may be best served in using the forward as a bargaining chip to acquire a player who can. Alternatively, a more mature Drouin could be a fixture in his native province for a decade to come.