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Back on home turf to stay

Jonathan Drouin couldn't stop smiling on Thursday after being dealt to the Canadiens and signing a six-year deal

by @canadiensmtl /

MONTREAL - Jonathan Drouin was on his way to play a friendly game of golf with his friends on Thursday morning when suddenly his phone rang.

It was his agent on the other end of the line, notifying him that he'd been traded to the Canadiens in exchange for defenseman Mikhail Sergachev. Then, general manager Marc Bergevin called to formally welcome him to the family.  

Hours later, the 22-year-old Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts native met the media at the Bell Centre with Bergevin by his side, signing a six-year contract with the team he grew up watching as a youngster.

Video: Jonathan Drouin signs his contract with the Canadiens

To say that it was a whirlwind of a day for the former third-overall selection of the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2013 would be a big-time understatement. 

"It's still surreal. Obviously, I'm a hometown boy. You don't really think that a day like this is ever going to happen, that I'd actually be playing for the Canadiens. It's just really surreal. I'm still a little bit shocked that it actually happened," said Drouin, minutes after donning his brand new jersey for the first time on Thursday afternoon. "It's an honor. When I learned about it, for me as a young Quebecer, it was huge. I was smiling for three hours straight."

Admittedly, parting ways with Sergachev wasn't an easy call for Bergevin, who selected the Russian rearguard ninth overall last June at the NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo. But, he simply couldn't pass up the chance to bolster the Canadiens' attack up front. 

Drouin put up 21 goals - including six game-winning markers - and 53 points in 73 games with Tampa last season. Twenty six of those points came while the Lightning was up a man. 

"When you have the chance to acquire a player with Jonathan's talent, at such a young age, it's very important. An opportunity like that hasn't presented itself in five years. He's also from here. It wasn't an easy decision to trade Sergachev, but we couldn't pass up the chance to get Jonathan," insisted Bergevin, on the move to secure the 2013 Memorial Cup champion's services. "We gave up a lot, but I'm confident and convinced that we got a big piece in return."

A "big piece" eager to shine under the Bell Centre lights and build on a stellar campaign that saw him finish the year ranked second on the Lightning in goals and third in points. 

"There's obviously that pressure of playing in Montreal. Everybody knows that, but for me, as a player, I think I'd rather have that pressure on myself than in some other places. I'm a French-Canadian. I'm going to thrive with that pressure," said Drouin, on playing on home turf. "I like that stuff. I've played at the Bell Centre many times as an away guy, and to be on this side will be even better."

Video: Jonathan Drouin and Marc Bergevin press conference

The question now is where Drouin will be slotted in. Having played every forward position over the years, he represents a versatile addition to the roster for head coach Claude Julien and his staff to work with.

"In Tampa, I played all over the place - left, right, center. At the end of the day, though, I don't decide where I'm going to play. Claude will. That's the way I'm going to see it," said Drouin, who boasts 29 goals and 95 points in 164 career regular-season games, along with 14 points in 23 postseason contests. "I'm just going to show up at camp and wherever I get put in, I'm going to play."

And, he's keen on getting started, joining the likes of players he's long admired in Montreal.

"They already have a really, really good team here. You look at [Max] Pacioretty, [Carey] Price, and [Shea] Weber. The list is long. I'm coming here to help," said Drouin. "There are a lot of star players here who are really good. There are also good veterans here to help me. I'm still young. I have three or four years of experience. It's good….It's a new chapter. I definitely feel really ready to come back here in September."

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