It has been a rough few seasons for Jonathan Drouin who has struggled to stay healthy. Now, as he enters a contract year, can he rediscover his scoring touch and become a consistent contributor?
After not being available down the stretch the year before and in the playoffs, Drouin was one of the few Canadiens that was able to have a full summer and it showed. While he wasn’t scoring much, he was one of Montreal’s leading point-getters early on with some strong assist numbers and while many Habs were underachieving offensively, he wasn’t really one of them.
Unfortunately, the injury bug bit him again. He missed a few games with a head injury and then missed 19 games with a wrist issue. Once he returned a month after the coaching change, he played in two games and then missed the rest of the season with that same wrist injury. The end result was that he missed more than half the year due to injury for the second time in three seasons but was third to only Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield in points per game.
Season Stats: 34 games, 6 goals, 14 assists, 20 points, -9 rating, 23 PIMS, 0 PPG, 0 GWG, 62 shots, 17:06 ATOI
(The stats for 2019-20 and 2020-21 have been extrapolated to an 82-game rate.)
There aren’t many players whose role for the upcoming season is more in question than Drouin. If Juraj Slafkovsky makes the opening roster, there’s some extra competition on the left side. If one of the right wingers moves over to the left, that’s also extra competition on the left side. Evgenii Dadonov is in the fold and chances are that they’ll want to put him in a prominent role to build up his trade value. Of course, with Drouin also being on an expiring contract, they might want to do the same with him.
At this point, I might have a better chance of guessing Drouin’s most consistent role by closing my eyes and throwing a dart at the depth chart than trying to logically predict it. Of course, that doesn’t make for much of an article so here’s my predicted role. He will be one of those players that consistently is shifted around throughout the year. There will be nights where he’s on pretty much every line (maybe other than the first) while also seeing time on his off-wing with head coach Martin St. Louis often favouring putting wingers on their off-side. There won’t be a lot of consistency with his role and lineup spot on a night-to-night basis as a result.
Drouin averaged more than two minutes a night on the power play last season and while there are the extra wingers in the fold now, I think he will still have a role. I expect both units to have four forwards and I could see him at the point on the second wave. That probably won’t help him score much with the man advantage but he should pick up some assists. Don’t expect much in the way of penalty killing time either.
On the one hand, I understand the skepticism. Drouin struggles to stay in the lineup because of injuries and it’s realistic to expect that could happen again at some point. But on the other hand, he has produced at better than a 40-point pace per 82 games in each of his five seasons with the Habs. As far as consistency goes, that’s pretty good for a player who arguably is best known for his inconsistency.
Is that a great fantasy profile? For most leagues, probably not. But in deeper leagues (and I mean deep leagues), Drouin could be a good depth winger. For context, I took him in one of my pools at 392nd overall. Once you’re at that point, a half-a-point-per-game player looks reasonable. But if you’re in shallower leagues, he’s better off on the waiver wire with the option of picking him up as a plug-and-play option if he gets moved up into a more prominent spot in the lineup.