The Tampa Bay Lightning acquired winger Jonathan Drouin in the first round, third overall, at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The native of Ste-Agathe, Quebec, has been turning heads since his junior days with the Halifax Mooseheads, where he put up an impressive 77 goals and 242 points in 128 games and demonstrated why he is considered one of the most dynamic offensive prospects in recent memory.
The No. 1 prospect league-wide, as chosen by both NHL.com and The Hockey News, suffered a slight set-back this year, as he acquired a slight fracture in his right thumb during Lightning training camp last month. Drouin continued to prepare both mentally and physically, working with Bolts training staff in the gym and on the ice once he was able, to ensure that he would be as close to game shape as possible.
The team decided it would be in his best interests to spend some time with the Syracuse Crunch in the American Hockey League where he would receive the highest quality of competition outside of the NHL to prepare himself. The goal was to have Drouin spend two weekends, a total of five games, with the team so he could get re-acquainted with the speeds and physicality of pro hockey.
Whenever a player is sent to the minors there can be some disappointment, but Syracuse head coach Rob Zettler said that was not the case. “He was ecstatic and really excited to start playing pro hockey,” Zettler said. The rest of the Crunch team, many of whom Drouin had skated with during both development and rookie camps this past summer echoed his enthusiasm according to Zettler: “We knew we wouldn’t have him here long, so all of our guys were fired up to play with him.”
In his first game with the Crunch, Drouin netted the game-winning goal on a well-placed snipe over the shoulder of Springfield Falcons goaltender Anton Forsberg. The next game against the visiting Binghamton Senators, Drouin collected two assists for a total of three points in two games.
“He had the puck on his stick a lot,” Zettler said. “His overall play was positive. He provided us with a lot of energy. Everyone knew where he stood, so everyone expected him to come in and play well as a highly-touted prospect.”
Drouin has been known to raise his game when it matters most, scoring 34 goals and 102 points in 50 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoff games, along with nine points in four games at the 2013 Memorial Cup tournament, which he won with the Mooseheads. His penchant for scoring goals and create offense at crucial times should excite Lightning fans for years to come.
After playing only two games with the Crunch, Drouin was recalled by the Lightning on Sunday. Drouin played in his first NHL game on Monday night vs. the Oilers and recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Tuesday night vs. the Flames.