The Halifax Mooseheads made headlines last week when they dominated their first game of the QMJHL playoffs with a convincing 11-1 victory over the St. John Sea Dogs. The stars of the game, as they are on most nights, were Moosheads’ forwards Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon who combined for an astounding 10 points (2G 8A).
The combination of Drouin and MacKinnon has made Halifax one of the favorites in this year’s QMJHL playoffs as both players bring an incredible offensive skillset to the ice every night. However, even though Drouin and MacKinnon are currently competing together, they will soon be pit against each other as the 2013 NHL Entry Draft fast approaches.
While Seth Jones is considered to be the top defensive prospect in most NHL circles, there is still a debate as to who the best forward prospect really is. With only a month remaining in the season, teams near the bottom half of the NHL standings are scrambling to decide who they will take if they are lucky enough to be gifted a top 2 pick in this year’s draft. While most people will have “their guy” in this case, I decided to look a bit closer at just what kind of players MacKinnon and Drouin are as well as what their futures may hold.
At just 17 years old, forward Nathan MacKinnon is possibly the most highly touted offensive prospect in this year’s entry draft. At 5’11, 179 lbs, MacKinnon doesn’t have an imposing frame, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in skill.
An all-around talent, MacKinnon is gifted with the valuable combination of speed and skill. An outstanding skater with substantial puckhandling skills, MacKinnon has the ability to not only create smart plays, but also score at will. Although he is mostly considered an offensive talent, MacKinnon is surprisingly physical and also isn’t afraid to grind it out in front of the net.
This season, while playing for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, MacKinnon compiled an astounding 75 points (32G 43) in just 44 games played. MacKinnon was also able to win 55% of his faceoff events – a nice compliment to his offensive output.
At 18 years old, Jonathan Drouin is without a doubt the best prospect at the left wing position heading into this year’s entry draft. At 5’11, 176 lbs, Drouin has nearly an identical build to that of fellow Mooseheads’ forward Nathan MacKinnon.
Not the fastest skater in the world, Drouin relies on his elite agility and creativity with the puck to undress susceptibale defensemen. While his defense leaves something to be desired, Drouin is an outstanding offensive talent with fantastic hands (possibly the best in the entire draft) and otherworldly vision on the ice. Although Drouin has the skillset to be a dominant scorer, his hockey IQ and vision make him an even greater threat as a playmaker with the ability to create enough chaos in the offensive zone, thus giving his teammates better scoring chances.
This season, Drouin finished the regular season 2nd in the QMJHL scoring race with 105 points (41G 64A). To make things more interesting, Drouin finished only 5 points shy of P.E.I. Rockets’ forward Ben Duffy while competing in 19 fewer games. While many skeptics were quick to link Drouin’s spectacular numbers to playing alongside MacKinnon, Drouin quickly squashed those theories by playing exceptionally well when MacKinnon missed some time with a lower-body injury.
Is There A Right Choice?
Now that you know a litte more about both Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon, the question must now be answered – who is the best option? While in the past, most drafts have come down to taking the best available player, the fact that both Drouin and MacKinnon are elite talents could lead to teams drafting to fill needs.
For example, the Florida Panthers are undoubtably in contention for both MacKinnon and Drouin in this upcoming entry draft. The Panthers currently have one of the deepest prospect pools in the entire NHL, most notably at the center position. Players like Nick Bjugstad, Vincent Trocheck, Corban Knight, and Rocco Grimaldi highlight and already stellar pool of centers in waiting. However, the team is not so fortunate when it comes to talent at left wing. Aside from Jonathan Huberdeau and Quinton Howden, the Panthers really have no NHL quality talent at the left wing position. This abundance of talent at center and lack thereof at left wing, may lead the Panthers to draft Drouin over MacKinnon in the upcoming draft.
However, if teams do decide to draft the best player available then Nathan MacKinnon will most likely be the better option. MacKinnon’s all around game as well as the fact that he plays center should give him an edge over a more limited Drouin. While a superstar can be found playing any position, it has become clear that an elite center is more valuable than any other forward position. Today’s NHL is currently in the midst of an era of elite centers with stars like John Tavares, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Evgeny Malkin, Henrik Sedin, and Steven Stamkos leading the way. In fact, 5 out of the last 9 Hart Trophy winners have been centers.
While Nathan MacKinnon may have the highest ceiling, Jonathan Drouin has given General Managers around the league something to think about as welling as giving fans an interesting and heated debate heading into the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. What you have read above is simply been a little insight into both players and my own personal thoughts on who is the better option and why they may be drafted ahead of one another. I encourage others to join this debate and to please share your own thoughts on which forward you think will be taken 1st in this year’s draft in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading!
Follow All Panther Parkway writers on Twitter: Me @JamesonCoop, Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, Josh Luecht @eyesonsunrise, Scott Mullin @GreatScottsman, Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Gabby Kiger @gabbykiger, Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530 and David Lasseter @davidlasseter. Visit our Facebook fan page here and give us a like and share anything you wish with us.