Jonathan Drouin’s tenure with the Habs has been up and down, to say the least. But, given his late-playoff performance and Montreal’s additions up front, is there cause for optimism for him heading into the season?
He provided the whole package last season – good Drouin, bad Drouin, and injured Drouin (the latter of which we hadn’t seen much in his first two years with the team). He got off to a terrific start, notching seven goals and five assists in 13 October games and it looked like he was becoming that reliable front-liner that the team thought he’d be when they traded for him.
That came to an end soon after as a wrist injury cost him 37 games and Montreal fell out of the race along the way. Upon his return, it was bad Drouin as he was held off the scoresheet in eight games, managed a -10 rating (which no matter what you think about plus/minus is awful), and found himself on the third line at times. Then he suffered an ankle injury, seemingly ending his year on a low note.
But with the long delay between the end of the season and the expanded playoffs, Drouin was able to return although the early results mimicked the end-of-season ones. However, he was put back with Nick Suzuki during the Philadelphia series and they showed some chemistry towards the end. Four assists in the final two games propelled him to tie for the team lead in points, ending his year on the same note he started with…just with a lot of disappointment in between.
Season Stats: 27 GP, 7 goals, 8 assists, 15 points, -6 rating, 14 PIMS, 1 PPG, 1 GWG, 83 shots, 15:42 ATOI, 52.9 CF%
Playoff Stats: 10 GP, 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points, +3 rating, 8 PIMS, 0 PPG, 0 GWG, 16 shots, 16:07 ATOI, 52.6 CF%
4 Year Averages
(2019-20’s stats were extrapolated to an 82-game rate. With his holdout in 2015-16, he missed most of the year so as to not skew the averages any further with Drouin’s injury-riddled 2019-20 campaign, those numbers are being omitted.)
While there have been some additions up front, Drouin’s probable role resembles the one he spent a lot of last season in and where he finished up the playoffs, on the left side of the second line. The number one line anchored by Phillip Danault remains intact and I don’t expect that one to be changed; Drouin’s chances of moving up are basically tied to Claude Julien being willing to blow his lines up. Since that won’t happen, he should spend a lot of time with Suzuki and based on training camp, Josh Anderson will be on the right side which is a nice complementary fit to go with a pair of more skilled players.
In terms of the power play, that’s another role he should maintain. He led all of Montreal’s forwards in PP ATOI (among players around for the full season) and while players like Anderson and Tyler Toffoli will find themselves on the man advantage (perhaps Corey Perry as well), it won’t come at Drouin’s expense. Last season notwithstanding, he has a good track record of success at 5-on-4 so they’re going to keep him in that role.
Some players will be in different opportunities this season but in Drouin’s case, it’s same old, same old.
That last statement concerns me a bit as same old, same old means more of the same from Drouin. That means he’ll be elite one night, invisible another, decent in a third, and anywhere from bad to good in the fourth. While he played well with Suzuki in a brief postseason stint, they didn’t do as well when they were paired up during the regular season. In a perfect world, everything clicks and they become a consistent line that’s capable of scoring most nights. But halfway through his contract with Montreal, expecting the perfect scenario from Drouin is, quite frankly, asking for trouble.
So, what does that mean in a fantasy pool? You’re probably looking at 3W production in most leagues, borderline 2W in larger leagues as far as points-based leagues go. He’s a bit more volatile in head-to-head pools as there are weeks where he’ll produce like a front liner that could be the difference-maker in a matchup and others where there will be more productive options on the waiver wire. He’s a mid-round pick in most formats with the upside to out-perform his draft position if everything comes together. But as history shows, that’s a big if.