It’s June 15, 2017. All is rather quiet in the hockey world as teams are preparing for the upcoming NHL Draft being held at the United Center in Chicago. Suddenly, a bomb blows up in Montreal, when the Montreal Canadiens announce that they have acquired disgruntled left winger Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lighting, sending 18 year-old defenseman prospect Mikhail Sergachev the other way. The 22-year-old from Ste-Agathe, Quebec was coming home… but as it is a regular occurance in Montreal, not everyone was happy.
The Canadiens immediately turned around and signed Drouin to a five year contract extension worth $33 million. Habs General Manager Marc Bergevin was obviously thrilled about being able to land a young, top-notch local talent.
“When you have the chance to get your hands on a player of Jonathan’s talent at a young age, it’s very important. This opportunity probably hasn’t been available to me in five years. Plus, he’s a kid from here, so for me it was a decision I had to make. Giving up Sergachev was not easy, but acquiring Jonathan was a chance we couldn’t pass up.”
Since the trade, Sergachev has managed 78 points in 159 games with the Lightning, most of which on the power play while playing on the third pairing. Drouin has since played 163 games in the Canadiens’ uniform, racking up 105 points (33 goals) including a career best 53 points last season. But he went dry in the last third of the season with only seven points in his last 26 games, including a four points game against the Detroit Red Wings on February 26th. So when he had a slow start during preseason games a few weeks, many were calling for him to be traded and it didn’t take long to hear trade rumours involving Drouin. This prompted Habs’ head coach Claude Julien to come to the defense of his young veteran on September 27th:
“Give him a break! There are 25 players on this team. For one reason or another, he’s the centre of attention. He’s like other players. He’s trying to find his touch. It’s the same reality in every team. The most important is that our guys be ready for the season opener.”
Making an impact
And that’s exactly what Drouin has done since the very first game of the season. He has been the Canadiens’ most consistent forward in the team’s first five games, accumulating six points and being an offensive threat every game. His work ethics is irreprochable and his confidence has returned. Playing mostly with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia, this line has been very productive, Armia having the best start of his career with a team leading three goals (tied with Max Domi).
After the game against the defending Stanley Cup champions St. Louis Blues, a game won by the Canadiens 6-3, an emotional Drouin received an amazing support from the fans gathered at the Bell Centre during his post-game interview. Remember when Carey Price received the same support and was close to tears? These guys are human beings and they care, folks!
Say what you will, this trade was and will be good for both teams and Drouin is working hard on his game. We see him often being the first man back in his zone and he’s still young. You can’t teach talent but you can teach positioning, playing without the puck and that’s what Drouin and the coaching staff are doing. It will eventually pays off… if we’re patient enough to wait a bit to reap the benefits. It seems like it’s starting this year. Go Habs Go!