Jonathan Drouin said he is ready to play for the Montreal Canadiens again after stepping away last season due to issues brought on by anxiety.
Drouin left the Canadiens on April 28 and was placed on long-term injured reserve. The 26-year-old forward scored 23 points (two goals, 21 assists) in 44 games last season and has 232 points (69 goals, 163 assists) in 393 NHL games with the Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I’ve had anxiety problems for many years, insomnia problems that relate to my anxiety,” Drouin told RDS on Monday. “That week in Calgary where we played three games (April 23-24, 26), I missed all three of them and wasn’t feeling good. It was where I hit a wall for me, and it was time to step away from the game and literally take a step back from everything and kind of enjoy life. I needed it. It was hard for me to do at that time. Obviously, playoffs were coming around, so it wasn’t an easy thing to do. I’m proud of what I’ve done and I’m happy I did it. I’m 26 years old, so I wanted to do it at that point in my career and feel good for the next years.
“I stayed in touch with (Canadiens coach) Dominique (Ducharme) and the guys. It was easy for them to understand. They played with me, they saw that some days were more difficult than others. It was good to have the support of the whole team.”
Drouin did not return after leaving the Canadiens last season. Montreal (24-21-11) finished fourth in the seven-team Scotia North Division but reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993, where it lost to the Lightning in five games. Drouin was the Canadiens’ nominee for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, an annual award given “to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.” He has served as an ambassador for the CHUM Foundation since 2017 and has committed to helping raise $5 million and pledged to make a personal donation of $50,000 annually for 10 years.
“It wasn’t hard to watch games; you want to be there for sure,” Drouin said. “You want to play in those games, that’s why you play hockey. But I made a decision to take a step back from hockey, to take care of myself. I respected my decision. It was just watching and supporting my teammates, the coaches. I was so happy every game we won. I wasn’t in the locker room, but I could feel the buzz in town.”
Drouin has been skating for several weeks in preparation for this season. The Canadiens begin training camp this week and open Oct. 13 at the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It was just good to be back and do my training and my skating,” Drouin said. “… I’ve had a lot of time off to think about stuff and just [be] happy with my summer and my training, all the workouts, all the skating. Just being back [at the practice facility] feels good, to be around the guys in the room. It’s been a good summer.”