Drouin Should Be #1C
September 4, 2017, 12:09 PM ET [23 Comments]
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The Captain’s Tournament on August 29th, 2017 gave us the green flag on the 2017-2018 Canadiens season and with it came some quotes that have set most Habs fans speculative thinking into overdrive. Well, at least my mine anyways.
Coach Claude Julien stated "Drouin maybe deserves a chance to make a case for playing center, but training camp will help determine a lot of things. You have to let the players show their worth, but it's good to know we have options. He played some of his Junior at center but I want to see him. We're going to give them the chance, see how things work. We have some ideas, we just want to take the time to see them in action at camp.”
Jonathan Drouin was asked about his feelings on playing center as well and said "I played center my last year of Junior, so I don't think I'll be nervous playing there if that's where I end up. There is room at center. Centers are always moving, so if they have speed and good vision, there are more options than on the wing.”
The more I thought about Julien and Drouin’s statements the more it seemed like the Canadiens had hoped this would be Drouin’s role with the club this season. Habs needed a center but dealt top prospect Mikhail Sergachev for Drouin, a Left or Right Winger who last played center during his junior career. The move was met with mixed reactions, as is every move the Canadiens make, but most were quite happy to add an emerging, young talent like Drouin to the roster. It was widely presumed that he would be playing one of the wings, but I'm thinking that Drouin at center was the plan all along and it makes all the sense in the world.
Drouin has the skill, vision, and hands to be a excellent center but he will have to improve on last years face-off numbers (43.6%, 220 draws). While his numbers are from a relatively small sample size, they are still bad in this regard. However, one has to consider that a player with the skill and drive of Jonathan Drouin could certainly learn, and grow into a more competent face off man. Consider that most people agree that Jack Eichel has top 10, and perhaps top 5, NHL point potential and was one the NHL’s elite talents upon his return from a high ankle sprain last season. No one would complain if he was the Canadiens #1 Center. His face-off percentage was 47.8% and I doubt many are concerned about that.
If the intention from the start for Bergevin and Co. was for Drouin to take the reins at center ice then theres no question the goal is for him to develop into the number one role. This would take the pressure of Galchenyuk to handle the tough assignments and his transition to 2nd line C could finally happen. With less pressure, and a player like Danault on his LW who can jump in when the line may be mismatched at a draw and play responsibly when on the wing, Galchenyuk may have enough insulation to keep him in the role through tough stretches.
In saying this I’m going to present my revised projection of the Canadiens lines and encourage all of you to dissect it in the comments section.
Pacioretty Drouin Gallagher
Danault Galchenyuk Lehkonen (Galchenyuk/Danault can interchange)
Byron Plekanec Shaw
Hudon Mitchell/Holland Hemsky