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Jonathan Drouin entered the 2012/2013 season in a position that would be envied by any draft eligible prospect this year. He would be a go-to player on a powerhouse team with several high profile players, allowing him to fly under the radar while playing alongside superstar teammate and potential 1st overall pick, Nathan MacKinnon.
Well, Jonathan had other ideas.
Drouin opened the season with 15 pts in his first 7 games, exceeding the output of MacKinnon before a shoulder injury sidelined him for 6 games in October. Since returning from injury, Drouin has 14 points in 7 games and while he certainly hasn’t stolen the spotlight from MacKinnon just yet, they’re definitely sharing it now.
Drouin’s game is all offense, which revolves around his elite skill-level and impressive vision. Owning perhaps the silkiest set of hands in the draft, Drouin excels in close to the net and in breakaway situations where he can utilize his lethal backhand shot. On the power play, Drouin thrives in the role of playmaker. He has an impressive ability to use shoulder fakes to quickly change angles and open up seams that catch penalty killers off guard.
He also loves to use his speed to drive towards the net from the top of the circle which draws defenders towards him, allowing him to pass off to an open man down low or cross ice. While his shot is not overpowering, it is accurate and he does have the ability to score on shots from outside the hash marks, however, much of Drouin’s offense is created in close where his elite hands can really work.
Far from a power forward, Drouin remains effective down low and along the boards as he is very shifty and able to pivot, and spin himself out of trouble more often than not. This gives Drouin the ability to be effective on the perimeter and in traffic, which is generally a rare quality for a player whose game is based around finesse and skill.
Drouin’s skating, while not the most dynamic aspect of his game, is still notably impressive. He has above average acceleration, excellent top-end speed and his side to side mobility is good. However, Drouin is more of an opportunistic scorer. He relies more on his high hockey IQ that allows him to find soft areas on the ice and puts him in the right place at the right time for scoring opportunities.
As mentioned, Drouin’s game is offense. His pure offensive instincts make him dangerous any time he is on the ice but also lead to some questions about his commitment to the defensive side of the game. In my viewings, he seems to have a habit of flying the defensive zone too early at times, occasionally leaving his defence hung out to dry. He loves to hover around the offensive blue line and wait for a long outlet pass, however this can leave too large a gap between he and his defenseman and doesn’t leave them with an easy play on the breakout.
When the long pass works, he is almost automatic on the breakaway, however Drouin would benefit from coming back deeper into his own zone to help his teammates on the breakout. His skating is good enough that he should have no problem transitioning from offense to defense and still get plenty of scoring opportunities.
There will inevitably be questions, as there is with every superstar prospect duo, about whether one can produce without the other. In my viewings, Drouin is not reliant on MacKinnon for offense as he is so dynamic and has such elite ability with the puck that he is able to create chances on his own and his top-end vision makes the players around him better, not the other way around.