Jonathan Drouin’s Fit in the Montreal Canadiens’ Lineup

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MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 27: Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens skate against each other during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on October 27, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In what was an eventful summer for Marc Bergevin. His biggest acquisition was by far Jonathan Drouin, as he traded the Montreal Canadiens’ first round selection in 2016, Mikhail Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning in order to obtain the talented French Canadian. Drouin is excited to play for his hometown team, despite the immense pressure that playing in Montreal brings.

Last season, Drouin broke out for 53 points in 73 games for the Lightning, stepping up for the injured Steven Stamkos. This earned him his new six-year, $33 million deal. At just 22 years old, Drouin will likely only get better from his breakout season.

Jonathan Drouin’s Fit in the Montreal Canadiens’ Lineup

Here is a look at all of Drouin’s 21 goals from the 2016-17 season:

The question remains, where would Drouin fit best in the Habs lineup?

What Position Should He Play?

Jonathan Drouin, much like teammate Alex Galchenyuk, has an unclear idea of where he will play. It would seem simple enough that Drouin could just play on the wing like he has his entire NHL career. However, with the Canadiens current situation at centre, it’s possible they use him as an option at the position. In junior, Drouin played some centre and had success with Halifax Mooseheads of the QJMHL.

Another reason that Drouin could potentially be a centre is that the Habs management isn’t sure about Galchenyuk. At season’s end, Bergevin and Claude Julien claimed that Galchenyuk doesn’t seem to have what it takes to play centre.  It could be possible that Bergevin pulls another trade by the end of the summer, but if not expect to see one of Drouin or Galchenyuk to play up the middle.

While Drouin could play at centre, he has played his entire three year NHL career on the wing. Galchenyuk, on the other hand, has split his NHL career fairly equally between the left wing and centre. If he works on his defence, Galchenyuk could still become the Habs number one centre for years to come.

The more difficult part about Drouin is to decide which wing is he actually best suited to play. With an overflow of quality left wings on the Canadiens roster for the top nine, it will be interesting to see whether or not he will be used on the right wing or left.

Although his playmaking skills are his strongest quality, he has a great knack for the finding the back of the net.  If the Canadiens need him to score, he could be the winger that shifts over to fill the loss of Alexander Radulov.

Who Should Drouin Play With?

Deciding who the best fit for players that Drouin could play with can easily decide which wing he will play. Being a Quebecois player, there is the possibility that he could fit on a line with Phillip Danault. Danault’s understanding of being a Quebecois player in Montreal could help Drouin deal with the pressures. He will also give Drouin some defensive support, something that he lacks in his game. This allows Drouin to focus on his strengths in the offensive zone. However, Drouin’s other linemate will need to have more skills than Danault in the offensive zone.

It’s not that Danault isn’t skilled offensively, as he did keep up with Max Pacioretty and Alex Radulov on the top line last year. He just doesn’t have the skill to be a top end centre on a long-term basis. However, if Pacioretty (who is acting as a mentor for Drouin) plays with the Quebecois duo, it could turn out to make for a very strong line.

Pacioretty’s goal scoring ability will allow Drouin to put his playmaking skills to good use. Having a natural playmaker could put Pacioretty over the 40 goal mark for the first time in his career. As for Danault, he can serve as the glue guy who connects the two scoring wingers.

Another good combination could be to play Drouin alongside Galchenyuk. The two could form a lethal duo offensively. It might get the best out of Drouin and Galchenyuk by playing the two former third overall picks together. Due to their lack of defensive ability, they could use Artturi Lehkonen to help out with the defensive assignments. Lehkonen could also make the line even stronger offensively, having shown he can produce at a top six level.

Conclusion

Drouin could play on either of the two line combinations, but playing with Danault and Pacioretty would benefit the team most. It would allow Drouin to play with his mentor in Pacioretty and play with Danault, who has chemistry with both players. The line is not only convenient due to chemistry but it creates a balance in the lineup as it will provide the right amount of two-way hockey.

Drouin could play with Galchenyuk and Lehkonen and it would bring offensive explosiveness. However, even with a young two-way forward in Lehkonen, the line would lack a proper two-way game.

Time will tell where Jonathan Drouin will play, but the best case scenario would be for him to play alongside Pacioretty and Danault.

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