NHL Draft prospects: No. 3 Jonathan Drouin

Jonathan Drouin. (Liam Richards/CP)

Sportsnet.ca is previewing the top 30 prospects in the 30 days leading up to the National Hockey League draft in New Jersey on June 30.

The third-ranked prospect is the Canadian Hockey League’s player of the year, Halifax Mooseheads scoring sensation Jonathan Drouin.

Stats: Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) | 49 GP | 41 G | 64 A | 105 P | +48 | 32 PIM

Who is Jonathan Drouin?

The second-overall pick in the 2011 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Draft, Drouin didn’t originally join the Halifax Mooseheads until December. He dined with his future teammates during a recruiting trip to Halifax, and was quickly swooned into joining the young team. Over the next year and a half, Drouin emerged as one of the top junior-aged players in the world and helped guide the Mooseheads to their first MasterCard Memorial Cup championship in franchise history.

Drouin represented Team Quebec at the 2012 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. He captured a gold medal at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial under-18 Tournament in August and later made Canada’s world junior team in December. He was named the CHL’s CCM player of the year after coming within five points of the QMJHL regular season scoring lead. He also captured the QMJHL’s Michel Briere Trophy as MVP, Michael Bossy Trophy as best professional prospect and the Paul Dumont Trophy for personality of the year.

Jonathan Drouin’s scouting report:

Drouin is a shifty and elusive offensive star. He made several highlight reels throughout the year with his exceptional moves. He’s a gifted goal scorer and a dynamic passer. Drouin’s vision enables him to make beautiful touch passes to his teammates, who often have little more than to merely tap the puck in an open net.

Drouin can sometimes pass up better scoring chances while looking to make the perfect pass to a teammate, and could stand to be more selfish in shooting the puck. Although small at five-foot-10 and 186 pounds, Drouin isn’t afraid to mix it up. He likes getting under his opposition’s skin and will jab a defender in the back of the legs after a whistle, which inevitably starts a scrum.

His speed and ability as a passer and shooter makes him a dual offensive threat. He can disguise his intentions well and makes great plays at full flight. Another signature move of his is to invite pressure, only to spin away from it and force a defender into taking a penalty. Drouin dictates the pace of the game and leaves defencemen queasy due to his stickhandling wizardry and playmaking skills.

Teams who might be interested in Jonathan Drouin:

Drouin will be targeted by the four teams holding the first four picks in the draft. The Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators will all be left with a difficult task in determining the top four picks between Drouin, Halifax teammate Nathan MacKinnon, Seth Jones and Aleksander Barkov.

Drouin will be appealing to the Avalanche, whose new head coach, Patrick Roy, is quite familiar as the former bench boss of the Quebec Remparts. The Panthers will also be intrigued at No. 2 given the chemistry he had alongside this year’s Calder winner, Jonathan Huberdeau, in the Subway Super Series in November. Should he fall to the Lightning at the third pick, Drouin could make a perfect complement to Steven Stamkos in the near future. Otherwise, the Predators will have the face of their franchise at No. 4.

Scout’s take: “Jonathan Drouin just scores highlight reel goal after highlight reel goal,” says David Burstyn, director of scouting for McKeen’s Hockey. “He does everything at a heightened pace. He can pass, he can shoot, he can skate – he’s one of those players that can pretty much do it all. He was a point-producing machine this year.

“I felt that he was really good at the world juniors at the beginning, but he fizzled a little bit,” Burstyn continues. “But considering how young he was and was put into a top-six position, I thought he performed incredibly well. Drouin’s one of those multi-faceted forwards where you can slide him on the wing and at centre and you’re going to get great results from him. I think at the NHL level he’ll be even a better centre. I know this year he kind of played both (wing and centre), but I think with his creativity and his ability to distribute the puck at varying rates of speed just makes him such an offensive dynamo at the NHL level. He has a little bit of Claude Giroux in him in that he can play with a bit more in-your-face toughness.”

“An ultra-slick and tremendously smooth playmaker, Drouin’s technical skill set is absolutely off the charts,” adds Ross MacLean, head scout for International Scouting Services. “He makes every player around him better and forces opponents to respect his abilities at every possible turn. He is an amazingly slippery and elusive player in the perimeter and can seem to force opponents to choose the wrong direction almost every time.

“While he is a master at creating space and options with the puck, he is also an extremely dangerous shooter who doesn’t miss when given the chance. Drouin has eyes in the back of his head and is without question the best playmaker in this draft class at this point. His development path has been incredible and he projects very well for the next level, especially if the team that drafts him can pair him with a pure shooter.”

Rankings: Drouin was ranked third by the NHL’s Central Scouting (North American skaters), and third by McKeen’s Hockey and International Scouting Services.

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