For a new guy, it’s really hard to find yourself in a better spot than playing on the wing of Nathan MacKinnon, with Mikko Rantanen on the other side. That’s where Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar had Jonathan Drouin when training camp opened on Thursday.
How long he stays in that spot is up to Drouin.
After he got off the ice, the 28 year old forward fielded questions for about 7 minutes from reporters, half of which had to do with his relationship with the superstar center of the Avalanche, but the French Canadian forward is focused on himself, and finding his game.
It helps that he finally feels like the injuries are behind him.
“It’s been the first real summer where I could actually start on time,” Drouin said. “I didn’t have to do rehab until mid-July or something like that, so I’m up to pace, I’m ready to go, and I feel good.”
Coming from a Montreal team that had zero expectations the past few seasons to a team where the standard is winning, things could be a little different.
It was noticeable right away for Drouin.
“You could feel it just being in the first meeting,” he said. “You feel that coming in here. They won not that long ago. I think with how they ended last year, you could feel the hunger with this team. I’m just happy with all the new guys that came in and will try to help them.”
After spending six seasons in one spot, transitioning to a new team could be difficult for some. Not Drouin.
“It’s been great,” he said. “It’s a great group of guys, a great city, people are very nice, so it’s been very easy. Pretty easy to come here and feel comfortable, guys are really easy and it’s been good so far.”
So anyways, about that MacKinnon guy.
Everyone knows the story. Drouin and MacKinnon dominated in Halifax as teenagers, helping the QMJHL squad take home the Memorial Cup in 2013. Since then, they’ve kept in touch, but their NHL careers have gone very different directions.
Still, being on the ice together has been fun, but like spending time with any friend after a long break, things can start out a little…awkward.
“It was weird at first, I’m not going to lie,” Drouin joked about reuniting on the ice with the Avalanche star. “10 years later, to get back on the ice and be his teammate again, it was definitely a little weird, but pretty comfortable. Now, it’s very exciting. To play with a player that calibre and a team like that, it’s very exciting.”
Even though it’s been 10 years, Drouin knows what to expect playing with MacKinnon, but having Rantanen, on the other side isn’t too bad either.
“There’s still stuff we’ve got to work on,” Drouin said. “I know how Nate plays, but it’s just the way Rantanen plays. Those two guys are very easy to play with. They’re elite players in this league, and it’s just fun to be on that line.”
Drouin’s actual point production the last few years hasn’t been bad, but he’s struggled to stay healthy. Still, he knows he has another level he can hit, because he’s hit it before.
He’s ready to find that game again with the Avalanche.
“I just want to help this team as much as I can,” he said. “The past couple of years I’ve had injuries and a lot of stuff, so I’m looking for a healthy season to help this team. I want to go back to the way I was playing when I was in Tampa, and the first couple of years in Montreal, and it’s a great team to do that.”