It took almost a decade, but the Colorado Avalanche have (finally) reunited one of the more dominant duos Major Junior hockey has ever seen.
With the signing of Jonathan Drouin on Saturday, the 27-year old winger has been reunited with his old center, Nathan MacKinnon. While their careers have taken wildly different paths, they’re together again.
And MacKinnon played a big role in that.
“They do have a long history together,” Avalanche GM Chris MacFarland said of the two. “Of course we’re going to pick Nate’s brain. He knows him better than anyone. Not only as a player, but as a person, and individual. Nate definitely was an honorary member of the scouting department for a few days, that’s for sure.”
Speaking to the media for the first time since signing with Colorado, Drouin said that MacKinnon’s presence obviously was a big part of the process.
“We definitely were texting quite a bit in the past couple of weeks,” Drouin said. “Obviously, I’ve known Nate for quite a while now. To get a text from him at this time of my career was something I was looking forward to.”
Heading into free agency for the first time in his career was a bit of a scary process for the former Canadiens forward.
“It’s definitely something new,” he said of free agency. “Something I’ve never experienced before. I think the process was pretty easy. I definitely had Colorado on my radar a little bit, and I was hoping we could find a deal and do something there, and got very lucky. It’s definitely a little different. A lot of phone calls, a lot of emails the last couple of days, and have it all done now and I’m on a very good team now.”
More than anything, he needed a change.
The last 6 years in Montreal have not gone the way everyone had expected. After being acquired from Tampa Bay, Drouin got off to a decent start, but the last few years have been a real struggle. Not only did he deal with injuries, specifically to his wrist, but also dealt with some personal issues. He missed all of the 2021 playoff run, and it was later revealed that he was dealing with “insomnia” and “anxiety” issues.
He’s hoping a new team, and a new city, are exactly what he needs to get back on track.
“I think I needed a fresh start,” Drouin said. “Obviously, there was a lot of ups and downs in my six years in Montreal, so I’m super excited to get a fresh start somewhere new. It’s a great team, and it’s been a great team for a lot of years, so I’m just going to try to help them any way I can, and try to find my game again. I know it’s there, it’s just a matter of confidence.”
Drouin said he feels great after dealing with some injuries last season, and he will no doubt get an opportunity to show what he can do with the Avalanche.
They’ll need it.
“I believe Drouin’s skillset will definitely play well with our other skilled players,” MacFarland said.
Now it’s up to him to earn those opportunities.
And a fresh start might be just what he needs.