It has not been a good summer of public relations for the Montreal Canadiens and in fact it seems like almost all the news that has been coming out of the organization as of late has had a negative connotation to it.
On Monday however we finally got something that more closely resembles good news, or at the very least neutral news, when Montreal Canadiens star forward Jonathan Drouin made himself available for comment and openly discussed his plans for the future. Drouin is obviously under contract for an extended period of time with the Canadians and as a French Canadian player it seems extremely unlikely that the Canadiens would move him in the near future given the marketability that he brings to the table. That being said though there have been some questions about exactly where he will fit on the team.
The Canadiens have been desperately searching for a player that can be their number one center for quite some time now and last season we saw Drouin test his abilities at the position. There's no doubt that he had a number of shaky moments but it's to be expected from a player that has relatively little experience in the National Hockey League and had no experience in the NHL at the center position. The question this summer was would the Canadiens go back to the same well and attempt to use Drouin as their top center once again and given the lack of moves they made at the position it seemed likely. Drouin's comments seemingly confirmed as much when speaking to the Montreal Gazette this week.
"It looks that way for sure,” said the young center regarding playing center as per the Montreal Gazette. “I don’t make those decisions, but that’s where I played last year and I feel comfortable coming in this year and knowing that I’m playing center."
It seems that Drouin's confidence grew throughout the season at the position and that may have also resulted in him getting more enjoyment out of playing the position later in the season as well.
"The last 25, 30 games, I was having fun playing center," Drouin said during a charity 3-on-3 hockey tournamet put on by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang in Montreal . "I was enjoying it. I was winning more face-offs and that's important because if you win the face-off, you have the puck and it's easier to play."
This has to be considered good news for the Canadiens fan base, a fan base that has been desperate for a real center on their roster for what has to feel like forever at this point. The fact that both Drouin and the organization are confident in his ability to play the position next season is a very good sign and may mean that the Canadiens may finally have an answer to their long lasting problem.
There's more good news for the Canadians here as well, according to Drouin he was not as well prepared last season and has taken steps to correct that this time around.
"Last year I came into camp a little bit heavy and I was adjusting to the center position," Drouin told the Gazette. "I really didn't know how to prepare for it. Now, it's easier for me, having played the position last year. I know what I have to do.
"It's a combination of strength and quickness. Sometimes you have a big guy and you have to play a heavy game. I definitely have to play with more speed than I did last year. You have to have a balance so you can play that heavy game, but you also need speed."