Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Jonathan Drouin returns to Halifax Mooseheads from Tampa Bay Lightning; do QMJHL defending champs contend now?

Coming into Sunday's action, the Halifax Mooseheads had scored only 16 goals in six games, which was a fallow weekend's output for their Memorial Cup-winning team last season which had the dominant Nathan MacKinnon-Jonathan Drouin-Martin Frk first line.

MacKinnon, Frk and many other main cogs from that team are gone, but now Halifax has confirmation that scoring ace extraordinaire Drouin will be back from the Tampa Bay Lightning. That should put some juice into the offence to help complement a defensive group built around star goalie Zach Fucale, who has been pretty nails of late.

So, anyone want to take bets on how many points Drouin might score in the 50-ish games he'll be available for Halifax, minus the portion of the schedule he will miss to play with Team Canada at the world junior championship? The now 18-year-old attacker had 105 points in 49 games last season.

It is no slight on Drouin that the Lightning are sending him back to Halifax. The Lightning have said they "want him playing." It's probably for the best that Drouin return to playing a regular shift instead of possibly riding the bottom six/healthy scratch carousel.

Here is Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman, via Damian Cristodero:

Well, we think he’s an incredible talent, a very intelligent hockey player, great hockey sense, great vision. We just feel he’s better served by playing another year of junior hockey. I don’t want him being in and out of the lineup. I don’t want him playing limited minutes. Our assessment was he’s better off playing another year of junior hockey, hopefully playing for Canada at the world junior championships and developing there.(Tampa Bay Times)

Drouin's return bolsters the player pool for Team Canada; it probably means the top-line left wing spot is all but spoken for when camp opens as December.

Meantime, what of the Mooseheads? Halifax still has cornerstone defencemen such as overage Trey Lewis and 19-year-old Florida Panthers draftee Mac Weegar on the blueline in front of Fucale. It will be daunting times ten to replace all of the lost offence, but overages Darcy Ashley and Brent Andrews are a decent set of 20-year-old forwards, plus they replenished their import cohort with 17-year-olds Timo Meier and Nikolaj Ehlers.

Drouin's first game back will likely be Tuesday, when Halifax begins a four-game road stretch in Saint John. Overall, the QMJHL must be glad to have its marquee player back, particularly in a year when it's hurting for star quality among the NHL draft-eligible talent.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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