There could be some debate fodder over whether Jonathan Drouin is more advanced than his namesake among electrifying forwards from the Quebec League.
The Saint John Sea Dogs' Jonathan Huberdeau became the No. 3 overall pick at the Florida Panthers in 2011, but was not even given a shot at trying out for Team Canada in December. The 17-year-old Drouin, after his strong Subway Super Series showing alongside with Huberdeau and Halifax Mooseheads collaborator Nathan MacKinnon, the consensus top prospect in the 2013 NHL draft class, is making a case to be included in Canada's national junior team selection camp next month. Just to be in serious discussion is a coup for the 17-year-old, who's the only player in the QMJHL averaging two points per game.
"I can't control what they do," the 5-foot-11, 176-pound Drouin says, referring to Hockey Canada's brass. "I just play my game every night and hope that I get an invite to prove that I can play in a 19-year-old tournament. That's my goal right now."
The popular perception is that Drouin, who deferred his decision to join Halifax for his rookie year until midseason, has had a surprise breakout. Please keep in mind that the Mooseheads had every reason to feel they landed a franchise player after taking him No. 2 overall in the 2011 QMJHL draft after MacKinnon was selected by the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, who dealt his rights to Halifax. Once he adapted to the Q, Drouin posted 26 points during Halifax's 17-game run to the semifinal. His fast start this season (29 points in 14 games) is no shock.
"He finished the season so strong in the playoffs," says Halifax coach Dominique Ducharme, whose team is a league-best 17-2-0-1. "We didn't set any numbers but we knew that with the way he plays, he would be able to reach the level that he is, What we like about him is that he keeps getting better and better. We just have to stress the details, the little things. He's so competitive and he wants to become the best."
It does not take a sophisticated eye to understand why many believe Drouin could be a top-10 pick. The adjective "smooth" sticks to him far better than most QMJHL defenders can on a typical night. He will likely require more time in junior beyond this season to round out his game, but has high-end potential. The big question is how he and MacKinnon, who usually skate with captain Stefan Fournier, adapt as teams focus more and more on containing them.
"We play against the best pairing every night, that's a challenge for us, me and Nate and our line," he says.
1. Everyone at your age must get quicker and stronger, but what is one skill you really want to stress this season?
"Probably physical play and D-zone. I focus a lot more on the defensive zone than I did last year."
2. You have to be your own player, but when the NHL is actually playing — novel concept — whom do you watch closely because he plays a type of game you want to play at the next level?
"I watch a lot of Claude Giroux and some Pavel Datsyuk."
3. Hockey players have to be strict with nutrition. So, what is your favourite unhealthy snack?
"Probably a donair in Halifax." (I heard the original King of Donair isn't there anymore near the Metro Centre.) "We find other places. A donair's a donair to me."
4. If hockey did not exist, what sport would you play?
"Probably tennis. I played a lot of it this summer. It helps with hand-eye [coordination], footwork, you got to be able to go left or right. It's a sport that I love." (Who is your favourite player?) "Roger Federer. I used to watch him when I was young. He's still good even though he's getting older.
5. Between you and Nathan MacKinnon, who has the better Movember mustache?
"I don't know — we'll see at the end of November. I have darker hair, I can always put in Just For Men."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet .
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