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Fantasy impact: Trade to Canadiens could limit Jonathan Drouin's upside

Montreal's center situation may lower forward's ceiling; defenseman Mikhail Sergachev has keeper potential with Lightning

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor

Left wing Jonathan Drouin is undoubtedly a high-end offensive talent, but being traded to the Montreal Canadiens from the Tampa Bay Lightning could limit his fantasy hockey ceiling.

The Canadiens acquired Drouin on Thursday for defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev in a package that included conditional 2018 NHL Draft picks. Drouin, 22, signed a six-year contract reportedly worth $33 million and likely will be protected by the Canadiens for purposes of the NHL Expansion Draft. Sergachev, 18, is exempt from the expansion draft because he's in his entry-level contract.

Drouin had NHL career highs in points (53), power-play points (26) and shots on goal (183) in 73 games for the Lightning this season. He exceeded his Yahoo average draft position (134.4) in standard leagues, finishing 123rd in Yahoo's performance-based rankings. He should boost the Canadiens power play, which ranked 13th out of 30 teams in regular-season efficiency (19.6 percent) and 12th out of 16 teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (15.0 percent).

 

[RELATED: Drouin traded to Canadiens by Lightning, signs six-year contract]

 

The Lightning played most of the season without top center Steven Stamkos (limited to 17 games because of lateral meniscus tear), but Drouin stepped up and excelled on the power play alongside Victor Hedman (33 PPP; second in NHL) and Nikita Kucherov (32 PPP; third). Tampa Bay ranked sixth in power-play conversion percentage (22.8) despite missing the postseason.

Though Drouin should help the Canadiens on the first man-advantage unit with Max Pacioretty, Shea Weber and potentially Alexander Radulov (can become unrestricted free agent July 1), their center situation has to be concerning to the left wing's keeper-league fantasy owners.

Tweet from @NHLJensen: What is Jonathan Drouin's point ceiling after trade to #Habs & new 6-year contract? #FantasyHockey https://t.co/XPP80gKrAi

Montreal's top center, Alex Galchenyuk, was limited to 61 games this regular season and bounced around the Canadiens lineup after the hiring of coach Claude Julien on Feb. 14. Galchenyuk played mostly depth-line minutes in the playoffs. Montreal's other centers -- Phillip Danault, Tomas Plekanec and Andrew Shaw -- are hardly inspiring from a fantasy standpoint.

Drouin, ranked 71st overall in NHL.com's top 250 rankings based on his potential with the Lightning, won't move up until the Canadiens address their glaring weakness and will likely move down if they don't. If Galchenyuk were to be traded this offseason, Drouin could potentially get a trial at center and play heavier minutes next season, but that's an unlikely scenario considering Drouin is primarily a wing.

As of now, it's hard to anticipate a full-fledged offensive breakout from Drouin into the 70-80 point range after leaving a roster that included Stamkos, Kucherov and Hedman. Montreal had two players, Pacioretty (67) and Radulov (54), score at least 50 points last season. Tampa Bay, even without Stamkos for so long, had four: Kucherov (85), Hedman (72), Drouin (53) and Ondrej Palat (52). Tampa Bay center Tyler Johnson, who had 45 points in 66 games, likely would have joined that company if he played a full season.

Drouin's 5-on-5 production to this point in his NHL career is also concerning. His 27 even-strength points were tied for 125th among forwards who played at least 73 games. He was tied for 165th among forwards in 5-on-5 points per 60 minutes (1.44; minimum 750 minutes played) according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com. That's the same rate as forwards Matt Duchene (in a down season), Nick Foligno and Chris Kunitz.

Consider Drouin a top 100 fantasy asset until we see what the Canadiens do from here, but Drouin is Montreal's second left wing behind Pacioretty, their captain, and is likely destined for a second-line role at even strength. Given the Canadiens' lack of center depth, this is hardly an upgrade for Drouin, who played mostly alongside Valtteri Filppula in Tampa Bay this season.

As for Sergachev, he will have an opportunity to blossom in the years to come, likely on the second pair behind Hedman with plenty of exposure to the Lightning's elite offensive talent. He was the Canadiens' top defenseman prospect prior to the trade and helped the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League win the Memorial Cup championship this season.

Sergachev had 43 points (10 goals, 33 assists) in 50 regular-season OHL games and is an emerging fantasy option in a keeper or dynasty league. He will have a chance to start the season with the Lightning and has deep sleeper appeal as early as next season with the potential to chip in points mostly at even strength.

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