Nathan MacKinnon on Drouin: 'He just wants responsibility'
Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon has been great friends with the Lightning's Jonathan Drouin ever since they were a dynamic duo in juniors for Halifax Mooseheads.
So MacKinnon got a heads-up before Drouin made his trade request public last week. While MacKinnon was a little surprised, he understood.
"He's one of the most skilled players in the league right now - he's unbelievable," MacKinnon said. "It's just funny, you see what people think is too much for him (in a trade), it's just ridiculous. Some of the offers, you hear, 'Oh it's too much for him.'
"He's going to do very well wherever he goes in the right situation. He just wants responsibility. I think in Tampa he feels he didn't get a lot of responsbility. For Jo, I wish the best for him and I hope he does well wherever he goes."
MacKinnon was taken No. 1 overall in 2013, with Drouin No. 3. While MacKinnon took off from the get-go, winning the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie in 2013-14, Drouin was back in juniors.
Drouin has six goals in 89 NHL games, playing in 70 as a rookie last season. Injuries limited Drouin to just 19 games this season, when he had two goals and six assists before getting sent to AHL Syracuse to get more playing time. MacKinnon thinks that if Drouin had played a first full half of the season, "I don't know if this would have happened."
"With Jo, he's always been a slow starter in Halifax," MacKinnon said. "It's not easy. He's only 20. He's done some pretty good things, he's been to a Cup Final. He's played well. Obviously the numbers haven't been there for him, but you guys watch him all the time, I'm sure there's been a games where you're like 'Wow.' He can take over a game like that."
MacKinnon said it was an adjustment for him defensively in the NHL, but coach Patrick Roy wasn't hard on him about it, letting him utilize his offensive instincts while working on his defense.
"Our junior team, we lost five games all year, we had the puck the whole game," MacKinnon said. "We were playing offense for two yeras, we didn't really play any 'D.' So that's tough. I don't know you can really expect lockdown 'D' when you first come into the league. You can always work on your 'D' but you can't just become an offensive force."
MacKinnon said he last talked to Drouin after he played in three games for AHL Syracuse last weekend. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said he's "prepared to trade" Drouin, but only if he gets equal value in return. Yzerman is suggested to be wanting a young player under control for several seasons as part of a return package. The Blues, Predators, Ducks, Rangers have been among the teams believed to have shown interest.
MacKinnon still believes there's a chance Drouin and the Lightning can patch things up and make it work.
""I hope they salvage it," MacKinnon said "I know he really loves Tampa and wanted to be there for a long time. We'll see.
"They'll definitely miss him for sure."