Montreal Canadiens: Jonathan Drouin Returns To Bell Centre As Player Habs Fans Hoped For

Dec 27, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates with
Dec 27, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates with / Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens made a big trade back in 2017 to bring in Jonathan Drouin to the organization.

The team was in need of some offensive creativity as they had more than 100 points in the 2016-17 season, but scored just 11 goals in a six game playoff series before being eliminated by the New York Rangers. So, they traded 2016 top ten draft pick Mikhail Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Drouin.

The Sainte-Agathe, Quebec native had been drafted third overall by the Lightning and showed all kinds of promise and potential as he dominated the Junior level and had flashes of brilliance as a youngster in the NHL. Drouin scored 21 goals and 53 points in 73 games as a 21 year old but contract disputes and the player being a little ticked off at an AHL demotion during his entry-level contract led to some contention between the team and the player.

The Canadiens acquired him and immediately gave him a six year contract with a cap hit of $5.5 million. That came with some risk, but not as much as trying to move the player to center after he had played the wing with the Lightning... and also in Junior.

The conversion to center did not go great, but Drouin still put up 13 goals and 46 points in his first season with the Canadiens. He tied his career high with 53 points the following season which left some hope that he could continue to grow his offensive game. Unfortunately, it was pretty much all downhill from there.

Drouin missed most of the 2019-20 season, scoring 15 points in 27 games which had him on pace for 46. The final three seasons of his contract with the Canadiens were filled with missed time due to injuries and missed nets on the ice. He had two goals and 23 points in 44 games in 2020-21 and sat out the entire playoffs due to anxiety and a sleep abnormalities.

He did return the next season scoring 20 points in 34 games and then had 29 points, though just two goals, in 58 games last season, missing the other 24 games with injury. That was the end of the line for Drouin in his home province, but he would not be done in the NHL.

He signed with the Colorado Avalanche and though it is far from home, he had some familiarity with their superstar center. Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon dominated the QMJHL together with the Halifax Mooseheads, winning a Memorial Cup together in 2013.

The duo didn't immediately get back to their old ways, as Drouin had an assist in the opening game of the season but was then held off the scoresheet for nine consecutive games. Drouin would then have seven points in his next 16 games which was a step in the right direction but he has taken off since then.

Playing on the top line with MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, Drouin is fitting in alongside the two stars. In his past 15 games, Drouin has scored seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in 15 games. He hadn't had seven goals in a season for the Canadiens since 2019-20.

This is the player the Canadiens hoped was arriving in Montreal six and a half years ago. Drouin has clicked with the Avalanche's two best players and is a dominant offensive player once again. He just continues to get better as this season goes along and is on arguably the best line in hockey right now.

Unfortunately, that was never the case when he was playing with the Canadiens. He returns to Montreal as the player many fans thought he could be while he was here and all fans hoped he would become.

It took a new home well away from home but Drouin is flourishing in his new surroundings. It will be interesting to see what kind of a reaction he gets from the fans when he steps on the Bell Centre ice tonight.