Like many instant web classics, the production values are a bit suspect.
The puck can be hard to follow, but the incredible stickhandling, and balance of the guy it appears to be following around, fairly leap off the screen.
By the standards of the genre, it’s no surprise Jonathan Drouin’s wonder assist – the word doesn’t remotely do it justice – has gone viral. In another era, word of his outrageous talent would have spread via spectators, scouts and serious puck geeks: The boy in Halifax is a bit special.
No, not him, the other one.
For if injured Mooseheads forward Nathan MacKinnon is a consensus top-two pick in this summer’s NHL draft, the buzz is getting louder around his 17-year-old teammate, whom scouts are flocking to see.
This is the age of social media, so Drouin’s legend is documented in its most minute details. As far as branding goes, it’s hard to beat a highlight video that has been blasted across television and computer screens around the hockey world.
“That was pretty cool to see it get picked up everywhere,” Drouin said. “I was getting text messages from all my pals, Facebook messages from people, my agent seemed pretty happy too.”
And as for the play?
You know, that part where he slides the puck through the skates of San Jose Sharks prospect Christophe Lalancette not once, but twice, then eludes another defender to rip a shot, gathers the rebound, bumps Lalancette off the puck, and skates around another defender to set up a tap-in a nine-year-old could convert?
“I don’t know, it just happened,” Drouin said with a laugh in a phone interview. “I wasn’t really thinking about what I would do next, I just went for it.”
It’s those instincts, those moves, that combativeness that make Drouin such a mouth-watering prospect. One NHL general manager said Drouin “has a lot of [Chicago forward] Patrick Kane in him.”
Most hockey people project Drouin as a surefire top-five pick. A few believe he should be in the conversation for No. 1.
“No one in this draft has hands like this kid,” said a scout who first saw Drouin play as a 14-year-old.
Added a scout from an NHL team: “Not having MacKinnon around hasn’t hurt his production, he makes the players around him better and is extremely determined, he’s not a follower.”
Drouin leads the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in scoring despite playing 17 fewer games than his nearest pursuers, all of whom are two years older. An early-season concussion and a trip to the world junior championship account for the disparity in games.
Drouin also has points in 25 consecutive games, including an empty-netter on Wednesday against Shawinigan in what was otherwise a quiet night.
“I’d say I’ve raised my game a level since Nate [MacKinnon] got hurt, we’ve all had to,” Drouin said. “It’s just a matter of concentrating on the details.”
If you include last year’s playoffs, Drouin has 46 goals and 120 points in his last 60 QMJHL games.
True, Drouin isn’t the biggest player in the world – 5 foot 11, 175 pounds – but his vision, speed and hockey intuition make him a tantalizing prospect.
Drouin didn’t learn to skate until he was seven. Though he spent countless hours playing on an outdoor rink in his hometown of Huberdeau, Que., in the Laurentian hills near Mont-Tremblant, he was playing in his boots while the other kids were on skates.
Drouin’s father Serge looked after the rink, and once Jonathan started skating, he didn’t stop.
“We used to bring his meals to him,” said his mother, Brigitte Dufour.
Though skating wasn’t a priority, Drouin has been consumed by his sport since he was two, when he was handed a mini-stick and a Styrofoam orange ball (“So he wouldn’t smash everything,” Dufour said).
A big-time prospect in Midget AAA and a second overall QMJHL pick, Drouin delayed his entry into major junior while he considered U.S. college options – and had a growth spurt.
Midway through the 2011-12 season, he joined the Mooseheads after much gentle prodding from MacKinnon. The two are classmates, close friends, and drive to the rink together every day.
They also suited up together for Team Canada in Ufa, Russia, a tournament Drouin credits with introducing him to a level of competition and skill he’d never seen.
“It gives you a lot of confidence when you see that you can play at that level, with people like [Edmonton Oilers centre] Ryan Nugent-Hopkins,” he said.
While few prognosticators had Drouin on the first-round radar last fall, his ascent in the scouts’ esteem in the intervening months been rocket-propelled. In that respect, his path mirrors that of Jonathan Huberdeau, another world-junior teammate who was picked third overall in 2011 and is now with the Florida Panthers.
No one should be surprised if Drouin, the YouTube sensation, is picked third next summer in New Jersey.