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Prospect Profile: Jonathan Drouin


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JDrouin

This is the second part of a four-installment series documenting the most likely players the Predators could select at the NHL Entry Draft in Newark, NJ on June 30. 

Part 1: Aleksander Barkov

2013 NHL Draft Primer

If you’ve been following me on Twitter  for any length of time, my unabashed mancrush on Halifax Mooseheads winger Jonathan Drouin should be no secret to you. I initially identified him as a player the Predators could select in the draft position they’re typically accustomed to–the bottom half of the first round.

However, as the QMJHL season played out, Drouin’s stock began a meteoric rise, culminating in an appearance on the 2013 Canadian World Junior Championship roster. While Canada achieved a disappointing fourth-place fate, Drouin opened a lot of eyes. Going into the tournament, Halifax linemate Nathan Mackinnon was the center of attention, in light of the years-long hype that he carried as the top forward available in the 2013 draft.  It didn’t take long for the talk to shift to Drouin, who was arguably one of Canada’s best forwards, despite being one-two years younger than most of his teammates.

Scouts, analysts and draft nerds haven’t stopped talking about Drouin since.

Drouin’s performance in the Memorial Cup (which Halifax eventually won) did nothing but bolster his draft stock. As a result, my hopes of seeing Drouin fall to the mid-first have long since been dashed, but fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), the Predators had such a historically dreadful season that they may still be in position to draft this talented winger.

Of course, there will need to be a series of cosmic events for Drouin to fall to the fourth selection, but it is possible–and in the minds of some, even likely. This, despite Bob McKenzie’s revelation that some scouts rate Drouin as the best player in the draft–even ahead of Mackinnon and Seth Jones. Essentially, some wildcard player will need to jump into the top three–the most likely suspects being Russian power forward Valeri Nichushkin or the previously profiled Aleksander Barkov. Assuming that happens, and that Seth Jones doesn’t dip out of those first three picks, the Predators could find themselves in the enviable position of claiming Drouin.

So what is it about Jonathan Drouin that has brought about my borderline-obsessive interest?

Essentially, Drouin is the counterpoint to Barkov. Now, I know what you’re thinking– “Didn’t you just write a lengthy blog extolling all of Barkov’s virtues, calling him the perfect Nashville Predator?”

Well, yes…but I like Drouin for a different set of reasons. While Barkov embodies that “safety,” and while I believe he’s going to be a star player–Drouin is the rare sort of player that wins games on the ice and fans off the ice. If “safe” is Barkov’s word, “electric” would be how I would sum up Drouin. Jonathan Drouin is the sort of marketable superstar that is just as important to ticket/jersey sales as he is to the team’s powerplay.  The Predators have never had this sort of “highlight reel” homegrown player.

While the fans love Weber’s slapshot, Rinne’s improbable saves–as Greg Maddux once put it, “Chicks dig the long ball.” I’m not sure what the hockey lexicon could offer as an equivalent, but the idea is clear enough. Fans like goals. Fans LOVE goals that come as a result of dizzying dekes and wizard stick-work. That’s Drouin’s calling card.

Ignoring the subjective intangible benefits to drafting Jonathan Drouin, he possesses a skillset that is essentially a bottomless bag of tricks. Possessing the best set of hands in the draft, in my opinion, Drouin’s a playmaking wizard. His vision is such that he always seems to find the open man, no matter how impossible the logistics of getting the pass through may be. He has a combination of speed and stickhandling that opposing defenders can’t seem to get wrap themselves around. Whereas Barkov uses his size and frame to protect the puck, Drouin creates that sort of time and space through his puck-on-a-string stickhandling.

While Drouin is definitely an elite playmaker, he’s equally comfortable scoring the goals himself, as evidenced by his stat-line: 41 goals and 64 assists. His 41 goals ranked him seventh in the QMJHL in goal scoring. However, it’s important to note that he put up those totals while playing in only 49 games, as a result of a minor injury and his participation in the World Junior Championships. For comparison’s sake, that’s a full 18 games less than the league leader, 2013 draft eligible (and likely first rounder) Anthony Mantha.

From an offensive standpoint, there’s not really a weakness in Jonathan Drouin’s game. While he’s not a “big” forward, at 5’11 and 176 pounds, his size is adequate when combined with his skating and skill. Defensively, Drouin isn’t what I would classify as a penalty kill specialist, but he’s responsible enough that I think he could stay afloat in a Barry Trotz system. He did spend time killing penalties in Halifax, but I wouldn’t project that as the best use of ice-time for him in the NHL.

The only other minor criticism I could draw from my observation of Drouin is that he sometimes needs to be more mindful of providing an outlet to his defense on the breakout, but that’s easily fixed via minor coaching tweaks.

Why the Predators Should Select Drouin

Aside from the obvious “it would make me weep tears of real joy?”

As stated, I think this is the sort of player that the Nashville market has been craving for 15 years. David Legwand, while a useful player, didn’t live up to the offensive promise.  Alexander Radulov…well, I’m not going to pick at that scab.  Jonathan Drouin is a deadly scoring threat, the sort of player that brings fans into the seats and then out of them. He may not be the “system fit” that Barkov is, but he brings a different dimension of value and should be equally conducive to winning.

Why the Predators Should NOT Select Drouin

I’m not one that ascribes to the “Barry Trotz dislikes offense” folklore, but I guess you could make an argument that as a mid-size, defensively-okay winger that Drouin might possibly clash with the Nashville Predators.

Nevermind, that’s ridiculous.  There’s literally no reason the Predators should pass on Drouin if he’s somehow still there at the fourth selection.

NHL Comparables

Patrick Kane, Martin St Louis, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins