For a while, Jonathan Drouin looked to be well on his way to a career season before becoming a complete non-factor down the stretch. Which version will the Habs get in 2019-20?
Last season started off with a bit of a surprise as he was shifted back to the wing with Max Domi moving over down the middle. Being freed of some of his defensive responsibilities gave Drouin a bit of a spark and he showed some early chemistry with Domi as well. As a result, his output in the first half of the season (40-12-20-32) provided plenty of reason for optimism that he was turning the corner and becoming a legitimate top liner.
That changed over the course of the second half. His output became more sporadic in January before taking a turn for the bizarre. Over his final 30 games, he recorded a point in all of six of them. However, five of them were multi-point outings; he had 15 points over those contests. Unfortunately, he was a non-factor in the other 25.
Head coach Claude Julien showed plenty of patience with Drouin and gave him a lot of rope to play his way out of his slump but eventually, even he started to cut back the ice time. Of the 11 games that he played less than 15 minutes, they all came over the final three months of the season.
Overall, the optimism that was there over the first half was basically completely shattered by his finish to the season. Not surprisingly, there have been plenty of questions as to whether he should be part of Montreal’s future plans which is quite the rapid fall from grace for someone that was brought in to be a fixture of their attack for the long haul.
It’s worth noting that Drouin underwent surgery to repair a fractured nose following the season. It was reported at the time that the injury wasn’t suffered during the season but was actually back from his time with Tampa Bay. The recovery period was brief and he’ll be fully ready to go for training camp.
Season Stats: 81 GP, 18 goals, 35 assists, 53 points, -8 rating, 26 PIMS, 3 PPG, 3 GWG, 190 shots, 16:56 ATOI, 52.5 CF%
5 Year Averages
Drouin’s first two seasons largely skew the averages. Over the past three seasons, he has averaged 51 points per year which is a better predictor of what he should be able to provide moving forward.
A year ago, it seemed like a safe bet that Drouin would be a fixture on the top line and a focal point of the offence. That’s far from a given now. The line of Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, and Brendan Gallagher was their best all-around unit last season and there’s little reason to think they’ll be broken up to start next season.
As a result, he’s probably going to wind up back with Domi to start the season although it’s possible that they look to place him with Jesperi Kotkaniemi to try to get a third offensive line going. Assuming he does wind up with Domi though, that trio lost a key member in Andrew Shaw via trade to Chicago. He was good at doing the dirty work on that line and the potential replacements (Joel Armia, Paul Byron, Artturi Lehkonen, and my darkhorse pick in Jordan Weal) don’t have that particular element to their game. That could hurt Drouin’s numbers (and Domi’s) as a result.
One area that should rebound somewhat is his power play production. While he was the focal point of the power play early in the year with Shea Weber out, the extra responsibilities ultimately hurt him and he never really got things going afterwards. As a result, he had just 15 power play points last season after putting up 22 and 26 the previous two years. Montreal’s play with the man advantage can’t be that bad again next year (can it?) and Drouin should be a factor in any improvements made.
There isn’t a whole lot of optimism surrounding Drouin at the moment and with the back half of the year he had, that’s certainly fair. I think we’re at the point where the expectations for him need to be tempered back somewhat (and perhaps with that, the perception may ultimately change). While he has the potential to be a 70+ point player, it’s hard to see him ever reaching that ceiling with any sort of regularity. With his inconsistencies and penchant for slumps, putting him in the 50-55 point range is a much more realistic outcome and if you really want to be optimistic, you could pick him a round or two higher than where someone with that point total would normally go in your pool.
I think there’s a bit of room for another uptick in his shooting percentage and a 20-goal campaign shouldn’t be out of the question. Nonetheless, he’s someone whose assist total is going to be a lot higher so drop him down a peg in leagues that score goals higher than assists. For leagues that still use plus/minus, he’s a consistent player in the negatives so that hurts his value a bit as well.
While Drouin is going to be a big part of Montreal’s attack this coming season, that doesn’t necessarily lend itself well towards him being a big part of a fantasy lineup. He lacks the secondary stats (hits, blocks, etc) to give him a boost and his streakiness makes him a riskier play as well. He’s more of a mid-round pick in most leagues as a result.