“He feels good,” said coach Dominique Ducharme. “You can see mentally, physically, he’s in good shape.”

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Jonathan Drouin’s love affair with hockey began playing road hockey and on a local outdoor rink while growing up in Sainte-Agathe.

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Drouin didn’t like skating, so he went out on the outside ice in his winter boots.

“I was standing right in front of the net and waiting for the passes or playing the goalie,” Drouin recalls in an interview I did with him four years ago. “At one point my dad said, ‘If you want to play, you’re going to have to take your boots off and put on skates and go over there. Finally, he just threw me over there on skates and said, “You’re not gonna make it no matter what.”

“I got used to it and kept going,” added Drouin.

Drouin also played tennis and golf as a child, but hockey was his passion.

“My hands were first developed off the ice, but I realized that if I wanted to be a hockey player, I had to start skating,” Drouin recalls four years ago.

Drouin was 8 years old when he played his first season of organized hockey at the Novice B level. His skating quickly caught up with his other skills and 10 years later he was the third overall pick for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2013 Draft. of the NHL.

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Jon Goyens, who coached Drouin with the Lac St. Louis midget Triple-A, described him as a “hockey savant” after the Canadiens acquired him from the Tampa Bay Lightning four years ago in exchange. by Mikhail Sergachev.

“He knows what everyone is wearing in terms of gear, he knows how everyone hits their stick, he knows everyone’s curves,” Goyens said at the time.

At 15 with the Lions in 2010-11, Drouin scored 22-36-58 in 38 games. The following season, he totaled 22-31-53 in 22 games with the Lions before making the jump to the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads. The following season, 2012-13, Drouin totaled 41-64-105 in 49 games for Halifax and helped the Mooseheads win the Memorial Cup.

Drouin’s coach with the Mooseheads was Dominique Ducharme, who is now his coach with the Canadiens.

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“I think we built a relationship there,” Ducharme said Tuesday of the three seasons he’s coached Drouin in Halifax. “We’re going a long way (back). But, at the same time, I work in the same way with all my players.

Still, Ducharme played a key role in helping Drouin after leaving the Canadiens late last season and missing the team’s playoff race to the Stanley Cup Final in order to face challenges. anxiety and insomnia problems that would make him spend three nights in a row. sleepless sometimes.

“We texted in the summer, during the playoffs,” Drouin said Tuesday. “It really helps to have someone you know who you can talk to about a lot of things. We definitely have that relationship.

Leaving the Canadiens and the sport he loves so much was not an easy decision for Drouin last season after posting a 2-21-23 total in 44 games. Despite missing the last 12 games of the season, Drouin still finished tied for seventh in scoring with the Canadiens, one point behind Josh Anderson (17-7-24) and Phillip Danault (5-19-24), who played 52 and 53 games, respectively.

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There were games – like previous seasons – where Drouin looked like a superstar and other nights where he was barely noticed on the ice. The anxiety Drouin said he had faced for several seasons – but didn’t know exactly what it was – might help explain this. Drouin said he was able to manage his anxiety much better in previous years, but COVID-19 added new issues to deal with last season when it came to feeling isolated. Drouin said he lacked energy and strength – both mental and physical – in the week leading up to his decision to leave the team.

Drouin has now been welcomed back to the Canadiens with open arms by his teammates, coaching staff and fans who cheered him on at the Bell Center in preseason games and he looked very good on the ice at training camp. with new teammates Christian Dvorak and Josh Anderson.

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“He feels good,” Ducharme said of Drouin. “You can see mentally, physically, that he’s in good shape. He moves well, he plays with confidence, makes solid plays. I know he will be ready at the start of the season. I know he’s going to get off to a good start just by looking at what he’s doing right now, the way he’s behaving and the state of mind he’s in.

Drouin appreciated the warm welcome back.

“There were a lot of fun experiences and a lot of good things that happened for me,” he said. “No. 1 on the list is just to play hockey again and be back with the guys and the staff. That’s all I know. For me, I’ve been playing hockey my whole life, that is. is all I know and when you take that off a little bit it’s a little weird, a little harsh, but just happy to be back and playing hockey… that would be # 1.

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

  1. Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme speaks with defenseman Chris Wideman during training at training camp at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard.

    Canadiens diary: Carey Price out of camp again due to illness

  2. Stu Cowan: Canadiens’ Jonathan Drouin just wants to have fun again

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