Since signing with the Colorado Avalanche, Jonathan Drouin has probably been asked about Nathan MacKinnon well over a hundred times at this point. To Drouin’s credit, he’s answered every single question.
The former Montreal Canadiens forward seems happy and relaxed in Denver, with less media attention around him, but I’m sure on the inside, he’s a little sick of talking about MacKinnon.
So on Monday, I went a different route. Drouin played with Artturi Lehkonen for five seasons in Montreal, sometimes on the same line.
Since coming to the Avalanche, Lehkonen has broken out offensively. It started in the Stanley Cup playoffs, where he picked up 14 points in 20 games, playing a major role in Colorado winning it all. Last season, he did it over the course of an entire season, scoring 51 points in 64 games, including a career high 21 goals.
Did Drouin see Lehkonen’s breakout coming?
“100%,” Drouin told me. “Just the way he plays. You won’t see him maybe on the scoresheet as much as you’d think, but if you watch the games and you know hockey, you know what he does on the ice, and how much he has an impact on his team. He’s so good defensively, so good at retrieving pucks, and he has that touch to find the back of the net when he gets the chance in the slot or backdoor. He’s a special player. A lot of teams would like to have a player like that.”
Around the media, Lehkonen is very timid. He doesn’t say much, and is pretty straightforward. However, I’ve heard he’s very different around teammates. Drouin confirmed that.
“He’s funny!” he said. “He’s more funny outside of here than when you see him.”
Drouin has talked a lot about the pressure you feel playing in Montreal, but Lehkonen might be viewed a little differently there. Like he did for the Avalanche last year, he scored the goal to send the Canadians to the Stanley Cup final in the bubble.
That means he’s put on a bit of a pedestal back in Montreal.
“It was a big goal for the Habs at that point,” he said. “I’m happy a player like that actually scored that goal, and I was happy for him to win a Stanley Cup. You see the progression and you see his game took off.”
Okay, enough about former teammates. At this point, Drouin is ready for the season to get underway. The NHL season starts on Tuesday, and if you’re looking to get into anything, check out Sports betting USA.
The Avalanche, however, are not one of those teams playing. They’ve got one more day of practice left, then they’ll head to Los Angeles.
Jonathan Drouin can’t wait. He got into four preseason games, but nothing beats opening night.
“Yeah, I’m excited,” he said. “One more sleep at home, then you go on the road and start this off. I felt the hunger right away from this group when I showed up for those informal skates, and you still feel it. We’re ready to go.”
Drouin will start the season on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. Rantanen can see the chemistry between those two, and not just on the ice.
“Yeah, you can tell a little bit,” Rantanen said. “Kind of a long time ago, but I could tell there’s something there, for sure, especially off the ice.”
Drouin and the Avalanche will open their season on Wednesday night in Los Angeles. Colorado Hockey Now will be live on the scene for everything.