After the 2013 preseason schedule ended, Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman and head coach Jon Cooper opted to cut Jonathan Drouin from the finished 2013-14 team roster; sending the then 18-year-old first round draft pick (third overall) back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for additional conditioning in Halifax – Drouin’s old team of the previous two years where he helped the Mooseheads win the Memorial and President’s Cup in 2013 while securing numerous individual awards.
The move had a lot of Tampa Bay fans scratching their heads initially due to a preconceived idea that Drouin was a shoe-in to make the team.
Was Drouin good enough in 2013?
Former Halifax line mate (and 2013 first overall pick) Nathan MacKinnon seemed to make the jump to the NHL as a rookie just fine in Colorado, why not Drouin in Tampa Bay?
I personally saw it as a strong indicator of just how deep the Lightning’s farm system was that an obvious talent, green, but skilled to the high-heavens, could go ahead and take another year to incubate on the junior level; sharpen his already dangerous offensive weapons before taking the inevitable next step to the NHL.
The Bolts didn’t need Drouin so quickly. The Bolts could afford to plow ahead without him, and did with beyond expected results: A 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.
The Lightning organization opted to let Drouin come back a year older, a year stronger, and a year sharper, and see what happens.
So they did. And here we are.
He’s bigger. Just over 200 pounds. He’s older. 19-years-old now. And from what I was hearing out of the Lightning’s recent development camp, he’s a whole lot sharper as well.
He looks more like a man out there on the ice; more so than the bright-eyed, wet-behind-the-ears draftee that skated with the Bolts in 2013. With these new strengths comes a more decisive game that seems to come more natural to Drouin than a year ago.
Last year he was overwhelmed. He looked lost.
But things are different now.
Drouin is more confident with a far better idea of what’s expected of him in Tampa Bay, and even more, he now knows how to look like it on the ice.
There’ll be a breaking-in period for Drouin, as there is for all rookies, but I feel this young talent will get his skates firmly underneath himself sooner rather than later while growing from the experience.
One question I’m interested in finding the answer to (based on certain hockey analysts who have suggested it since the draft) concerns MacKinnon and Drouin – who as line mates in Halifax were an incredible scoring tandem:
Did Drouin make MacKinnon or did MacKinnon make Drouin?
How did the chemistry work between these two talented players? Could they both be stars in the NHL in their own right? Or was one player more the recipient of the other’s talent?
Or is each player equally responsible for their own success, just multiplied by two when they’re together?
Meaning: These two are good. Damn good.
Put equal or better talent beside either one of them on a line: It’s raining goals on your hockey team more likely than not.
MacKinnon proved one side of the possible equation by winning the 2014 Calder Trophy after a record-breaking season with the Avalanche, while Drouin, as a member of the Mooseheads, had his most successful season in Halifax ever with even more points than the previous two seasons he played with MacKinnon.
Finishing the 2013-14 QMJHL season with 108 points (three better than 2012-13) – 29 goals, 79 assists over 46 games. Drouin also had career high numbers in the 2014 Memorial Cup Playoffs (the Mooseheads bowed out in the third round against the Val-d’Or Foreurs) with 13 goals, 28 assists in 16 games for a total of 41 points.
The improvement is definitely there, thus making the extra year to develop in The Q worthwhile, in my opinion.
Could 2014-15 be Drouin’s Calder Trophy turn?
Hopefully, all of the above questions will be answered in the following season as the Bolts look to repeat as playoff contenders and give teams like Boston, Montreal, New York (Rangers) and Pittsburgh a run for their money in the East.
Drouin could certainly help with these endeavors, and I have no doubt that he will.
Who knows, maybe we will be in Las Vegas again next June, and this time we’ll leave with some hardware.
P.S. High-fives to all of you who recognized the above article headline as lyrics from a Radiohead song.
Off the Dot is an ongoing column of opinions, feelings and thoughts on all things Tampa Bay Lightning. This is a knee-jerk reaction column for the many things that a fan maybe feels or thinks throughout a hockey season.
This is NOT a stat by stat analysis of the Bolts, but rather a theater of words concerning the Lightning and the many emotions tangled up in supporting your favorite NHL team; a theater for all fans to come to for a more personal take on Tampa Bay hockey.
That’s why I call it “off the dot”. Because if we were “on the dot”, as in face-off mode, well, things would be decidedly more on-point and specific. While off the dot, while we’re still just milling around the face-off circle, as I am now, waiting for the whistle to blow, then we’re just being conversational. We’re just talking about our thoughts on strategy maybe or whatever random concept happens to come to mind, needing to be expressed. The fun off-key banter of fans before someone (whoever) decides to hunker down, spread out their skates, and get nose-deep over the dot for the real face-off, and maybe say, statistically speaking, what happened in a win or loss in their more researched opinion. And we have those articles all over Bolts by the Bay, and I very much encourage you to check out those articles, too.
These are just my opinions, my feelings, and my thoughts – while we’re off the dot.