Tampa Bay Lightning: The Troubled Journey of Jonathan Drouin


Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin had a bit of a rocky start in his rookie campaign, but things could be looking up for him next season.

Every year new prospects make their way into the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, whether it is through the traditional means of being selected as a part of the NHL Entry Draft or through some sort of organizational trade.

In the Tampa Bay Lightning organization there is one prospect in particular that spent a lot of time on the minds of both analysts and fans alike; Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin. Unfortunately, some of the things that were coming out of people’s mouths were not exactly flattering for the young forward.

After being selected in the first round (third overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Jonathan Drouin was faced with an interesting situation. While many people believed that he was sure to crack the Tampa Bay Lightning’s main roster, the Lightning elected to send the young Quebec native back to his junior team, the Halifax Mooseheads, to further develop his game.

This means Drouin was forced to sit back and watch as players like Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, who had been drafted the same year as Drouin, began their careers in the National Hockey League.

Despite the setback, Drouin continued to light the lamps for the Mooseheads. In the 2013-14 season, Drouin played in 46 games with Halifax. In that amount of time, the then-eighteen year old winger was able to score 29 goals and 79 assists for a grand total of 108 points. Many people even went as far as to compare Drouin to veteran Lightning forward Martin St. Louis.

The next season, things were definitely looking up for Drouin. Unfortunately, all of the progress he had made hit a brick wall when Drouin sustained an injury in training camp, a fractured thumb, which would set him back an estimated three to four weeks. Of course, the world of hockey doesn’t stop moving when a player is injured and the Tampa Bay Lightning was forced to move forward without Drouin.

When his injury was finally healed, the Tampa Bay Lightning sent Drouin to their AHL affiliate in Syracuse in order to condition himself. Drouin would only play two games with the Syracuse Crunch before being recalled to the Lightning’s main roster, but in those two games Drouin would show that he was ready to play. In those two games, Drouin scored 1 goal and 2 assists for a total of 3 points.

Unfortunately, when Drouin finally made it to the main roster the young Tampa Bay Lightning rookie soon realized that playing in the National Hockey League is a much different animal than playing in places like Halifax and Syracuse.

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In the 70 games Drouin played with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the regular season, he was able to score 4 goals and 28 assists for a total of 32 points. While these are not the worst stats that one could have in their rookie year, they were not quite what everyone had expected from him – whether realistically or not – and people began to talk.

When the post season kicked into high gear, Drouin would find himself on what many would consider to be the short end of the stick. Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper was faced with a difficult decision; to give the young forward more ice time despite his lack of production as of late, or make Drouin into a healthy scratch to make was for another defenseman or a more well-balanced forward.

As most of you will recall, many people here in the Bolts Nation believed that Drouin deserved much more ice time than he was being given. This sparked the use of the hashtag #FreeDrouin on social media sites like Twitter.

Ultimately, Jonathan Drouin only played in 6 of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 26 games in the post season. Unfortunately for everyone involved, he was not able to find the scoreboard even once and finished off the playoffs with a minus-6 rating.

There is still plenty of debate as to whether Jonathan Drouin will make the Tampa Bay Lightning’s main roster in the 2015-16 season. There are some people who think that Drouin should be offered up as trade bait in order to get a more powerful forward or another offensive defenseman on the bench, but the one thing people are failing to consider is that Drouin is still very young and has many years ahead of him to develop his game into something spectacular.

There are a few things that will work both for and against Drouin in the upcoming season. One of the things that will definitely be in his favor, at least for now, is that he is healthy. Suffering the injury during training camp last season definitely did not help his progression at all, and now he has a chance to get off on the right foot when the season starts.

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Also, unlike in the seasons past, Jonathan Drouin is now eligible to be sent to the Syracuse Crunch as a permanent member of the roster. Other than his conditioning stint last season, he was otherwise ineligible because he had not yet reached twenty years of age; something that was rectified this March.

While it would more than likely take something of catastrophic proportions for Drouin to find himself playing in Syracuse next season, there is the possibility that this could occur. It will all depend on how he performs in training camp and how willing he is to work to take his game to the next level.

Judging by what we have seen of him thus far, the young Lightning winger seems to have a good work ethic and has been doing everything that has been asked of him by the organization. Given the right amount of time and development, Jonathan Drouin could turn out to be one of the NHL’s brightest stars. Only time will be able to tell the tale.

Do you think Jonathan Drouin will make the Tampa Bay Lightning’s main roster next season or do you think he will be sent to the Syracuse Crunch? What do you think would have to happen in order for Drouin to be sent to Syracuse? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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