Johnathan Drouin and Anthony DeAngelo hit the ice together for the first time Wednesday, as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s annual development camp opened at Brandon Ice Sports Forum, but the experience was very different for the pair of first-round draft picks in 2013 and 2014.
DeAngelo said he participated in his first high-pace practice of the summer in Tampa after becoming Bolts property less than a week ago in Philadelphia.
“I let being drafted sink in on Saturday and Sunday,” DeAngelo said. “Now I’m ready to go back to work. It’s a dream come true to be in an NHL rookie camp.”
On the other hand, Drouin is coming off of a season where he scored a league-high 41 points during the 2013-14 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) playoffs. He enters his second showing as a Lightning prospect.
Yet having the two first-rounders together, along with a mix of other brand new and veteran talent, is an opportunity for Drouin to display how he has matured, despite being sent back to his junior team, the Halifax Mooseheads, at the beginning of last year's campaign.
“I was 18 when I got sent down,” Drouin said. “Obviously it was disappointing, but I think it’s going to help me. Now I’m 19. I’m a better-rounded player and have become a leader. I think I’m better than I was last year.”
Drouin said Wednesday he felt more comfortable than he did one summer ago, although he can still relate to what the first-timers are going through. He even recalled that he “didn’t know what to expect," during his first-ever development camp.
“Now you know what's going on, you know what the plan is, and you want to help all the new draftees this year so they become more comfortable too," Drouin said.
While the newest additions to Tampa Bay will quickly realize that camp features a mix of seeing how they fit into the Lightning's system with power skating and off-ice conditioning to get their bodies fit for the NHL, Drouin also offered his own advice.
“You’ve got to play your game,” he said. “You’ve got to show the same thing that got you here. You don’t have to be a different player.”
DeAngelo will have the opportunity to be reminded of Drouin's words first-hand, as the two skate alongside each other in the
same group throughout the week.
“A BETTER PLAYER BECAUSE OF IT
Not only did Drouin feel he improved after another year in the QMJHL, but vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman was impressed with how he transitioned from a mindset of making an NHL club to going back to Halifax.
“He went back and was a number one center, ran the power play and played in most situations," Yzerman said. "He was dominating in both ends of the rink and his game evolved.”
Now moving forward the question of where Drouin lands during the 2014-15 season ultimately lies in his hands.
“He’s going to get every opportunity,” Yzerman said. “He has his mind set on making this team and he’s going to get every opportunity.”
OTHER ODDS ‘N ENDS
Forward Adam Erne is dealing with a minor injury and was being held to skating drills during Day 1. It is considered a minor tweak and a precaution with the prospect tournament and Lightning training camp coming up in September.
Defenseman Slater Koekkoek is not medically cleared to play, but is expected to be 100-percent by prospect tournament/training camp.
Goaltending invitee, Clay Witt, is a native of Brandon, Florida.
DeAngelo and Erne have become good friends by playing with each other on the same tournament teams and in Team USA camps. He's also played against Dylan Blujus, Jake Dotchin and others attending camp who are a part of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).