May 01, 2014
Monday night, with an assist on Luca Ciampini's goal at 11:27 of the first period, 18-year-old Jonathan Drouin recorded his 99th career Quebec Major Junior playoff point, moving him to second place all-time and ahead of Hockey Hall of Famer and QMJHL legend Mario Lemieux.
Drouin's season ended a night later as the Val-d'Or Foreurs beat the defending champion Halifax Mooseheads 3-2 in the seventh game of the tight semifinal series. Drouin also recorded his 102nd career playoff point and most likely his last, with an assist on Nikolaj Ehlers' 11th. It was Drouin's 28th assist of the playoffs, and to put that in perspective, Foreurs forward Louick Marcotte is second in the playoffs with 29 points.
It's not too surprising to see the complete dominance of Drouin this season. He was projected as a reasonable choice to go No. 1 in the National Hockey League draft last spring. Former teammate Nathan MacKinnon scored 24 goals and 63 points with Colorado this season, and the second overall selection Aleksander Barkov scored 24 points in 54 games. If Drouin is good enough to be in that calibre, he's effectively a top six NHLer playing against junior players, and to further add to the potential for ridiculous numbers, he plays in the defensively- and goaltending-challenged Quebec league.
Mario Lemieux's QMJHL career came to an end in 1984, after a season where Lemieux scored 282 points and 52 points in 14 playoff games. As easy as it is to suggest that Lemieux put those numbers up during a more wide-open era, it's worth noting that Lemieux was only 17 years old and in his draft eligible season. He also more than doubled any non-Laval player in the regular season (Claude Gosselin of the Quebec Remparts was 3rd in scoring with 140 points that year) and no other player in the postseason scored more than 29 points.
But "isn't Mario Lemieux" is not a particularly good criticism when discussing a hockey player. It was seen as a bit of a surprise that Drouin was even sent back to junior for his 18-year-old season, but the young Laurentian put up close to legendary numbers, recording 108 points in 46 games during the regular season. A year removed from solidifying linemate MacKinnon's first overall draft position, Drouin has helped Danish rookie Nikolaj Ehlers rocket his way up the draft board and into a potential top ten pick. His transition to centre has been seamless—despite playing just 46 games this season, he led the league in assists.
And, though it would be crazy to think that the Lightning would send him down again next year, Drouin still has a year left of junior hockey eligibility. Who knows what Drouin could do with another year of growing and experience? It's established that older players score at significantly better rates in junior hockey than their underage counterparts, and it's not crazy to think that Drouin could take a serious run at Jacques Locas' record for most career QMJHL playoff points. He got 153 playing five years with St. Jerome and the original Quebec Remparts back in the early 1970s.
Locas, incidentally, had 102 playoff points after his 18-year-old year, and scored 51 in 16 playoff games with Quebec in 1974. Another playoff run lasting three or four rounds could do it for Drouin.
That's a hypothetical, since Drouin has likely played his last game in a very impressive Q career. He broke a mark set by one of the game's greats, for one, won last season's MVP Award in the Q and named the top junior hockey player in the country. He also was fortunate enough to play on a juggernaut Memorial Cup squad and land a top line role on a Canadian world junior franchise. Halifax is out, but the Drouin Era will not be forgotten soon in Moose Country.