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Why Jonathan Drouin Could Be a Good Fit for the Dallas Stars

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Even though every team in the league has this same thought written on their lunch napkins, the thought of Jonathan Drouin in a Dallas Stars jersey is not just about having all the offense.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
There isn't a part of anyone's hockey hippocampus that isn't connected to trade speculation. Trade speculation is where fans stretch out their D&D chops to envision life in a parallel universe. We're always looking for one jersey to rule them all.

So just how good would a Jonathan Drouin jersey in the victory green be? By now everyone has heard the somewhat odd story (by hockey standards). Drouin's agent, Allan Walsh, revealed that he requested a trade. Walsh has a history of broadcasting puck drama. But that's beside the point. The reasons aren't exactly murky. Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper just hasn't played him the way he's been expected to play.

Is it justified? Is it just the hockey tradition of veteran benefit of the doubt versus prospect etiquette of the pout? Well, despite the low numbers, he's more productive than meets the eye:
Drouin is producing at an insane rate relative to his usage. Gets more points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 than Steven Stamkos but is playing as much as Cedric Paquette. There is an inherent disconnect there, and it's not as though he's getting badly out-possessed or anything like that. Yeah, the goals number is really troubling but -€” and this is going to shock you -€” is 3.8 percent. How many more games do you think a guy with his talent level shoots 3.8 percent?

Frankly, these numbers, and plenty of others suggest that Drouin deserves a larger role than "being assigned to the AHL" Just as a frame of reference, the average NHL player with 2.0 points per 60 minutes is typically going to be on your first line; that's a forward getting about 13.5 minutes a night for about 75 games, and scoring 35 or more points at 5-on-5.

Our own Carolyn Wilke even has a handy chart to emphasize Lambert's point:

Wilke Drouin
The further to the right, the more points per 60 at 5 on 5 that each player is producing. The higher up, the more ice time. So Drouin is producing despite limited opportunities to do so (What is Michel Therrien thinking???).

Let's rewind.

Drouin was the third pick in the 2013 NHL entry draft. To remind you how insane that draft was, Drouin was picked before Seth Jones, Sean Monahan, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Max Domi. Drouin's pedigree comes from a background as colorful as the Infinity Gauntlet.

So what makes the Dallas Stars a good fit? Doesn't Dallas need defensemen? And lots of them? Sort of.

Right now the Dallas Stars have a cadre of ham and eggers; players that can log third pairing minutes without being complete anchors. Jim Nill has a top four that he's helped mold with the addition of Jason Demers and Johnny Oduya. And in Cedar Park, the emphasis on prospect development presumes that at least one or two crack the lineup in the future. Esa Lindell (an AHL all star now), Julius Honka, and Stephen Johns round out the trio of usual suspects who aren't NHL ready, but who are, at minimum, the next batch of musical chair gremlins (in contrast to Jyrki Jokipakka, Patrik Nemeth, and Jamie Oleksiak).

Whether or not this mixture of veterans and prospects forms the foundation of a great blueline isn't the point; the point is that Dallas has veterans and prospects lined up to sketch future success.

However,  when it comes to Dallas' forwards, the picture is a little murkier than it looks despite housing the best offense in the league. Ales Hemsky, and Patrick Sharp are not part of Dallas' "core". Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are. Without Hemsky and Sharp to log top six minutes, Dallas is left with Valeri Nichushkin and Mattias Janmark. Both are excellent players, but can anyone claim with confidence that they'll end up perennial 20-30 goal scorers?

In Cedar Park Dallas is waiting on the horizon for the contributions of players like Jason Dickinson, Brett Ritchie, Devin Shore (who is unfortunately out for the season), and hopefully Denis Guryanov. However, would you compare any of these players to Drouin? I'm not saying that Dallas has to worry about a goal drought anytime soon, but the core is propped up right now on the basis of two elite players, and only two elite players. Again, with respect to 'the core'.

Being obtuse about what 'the core' means and why I keep giving it air quotes cuts to the heart of what makes a team in "win now" mode struggle to emphasize prospect development. The core on any given team can dramatically shift when Stanley's window opens. It's why Seth Jones is no longer part of Nashville's core despite looking like a potential untouchable. At a certain point teams don't have time to manage prospects. They need to manage their success. Granted, I've just articulated why Drouin wouldn't fit into the Stars system, but only short term. Drouin is in the same general age of the core, right along Janmark, Nuke, and Faksa. Someone will eventually have to pick up the output slack behind Seguin and Benn. Why not Drouin?