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Looking to make the leap: Jonathan Drouin

Aug 15, 2014, 1:23 PM EST

Jonathan Drouin AP

Jonathan Drouin was disappointed he didn’t crack Lightning roster last year, and it’s easy to understand why.

The third overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry draft, Drouin was returned to QMJHL Halifax while his Mooseheads teammate — Nathan MacKinnon, taken first overall — stuck with Colorado and had a dazzling rookie campaign, scoring 24 goals and 63 points en route to winning the Calder Trophy.

What’s more, Drouin was the only one of the top six picks that didn’t make his NHL debut last season. Though he was lauded as an “incredible talent” by GM Steve Yzerman, the organization thought another year of seasoning in junior would serve Drouin well.

“As the year went on, Jonathan got better and better,” Yzerman said in July, per the Tampa Tribune. “When he went back, he was like the No. 1 penalty killer, ran the power play, played in all situations.

“He was dominating at both ends of the rink.”

Clearly, things went well for Drouin at the junior level. Now the Bolts will see if their strategy pays off in the bigs.

It’s expected that Drouin will have a job in Tampa Bay come October. Yzerman jettisoned a trio of veteran forwards prior to July 1’s free agent frenzy (Teddy Purcell, Nate Thompson and B.J. Crombeen), bought out the remainder of Ryan Malone’s contract and didn’t re-up with the likes of Tom Pyatt and Dana Tyrell. It’s also tough to think Drouin would gain much from going back to junior, and he isn’t eligible to play with AHL Syracuse.

So the opportunity in Tampa Bay is there, but Drouin will have competition. Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn are entrenched at Drouin’s preferred left wing spot, and it’s possible someone could shift over from the crowded RW situation (where Ryan Callahan, Richard Panik, Nikita Kucherov, J.T. Brown and Brett Connolly currently top the depth chart.)

Another thing to consider is Tampa Bay’s “no rush” mentality. The club has been very deliberate in bringing along its recent prospects and embraces the notion that maturation is a marathon, not a sprint. Drouin is still only 19 years old and relatively small (5-foot-11, 186 pounds) by NHL standards; if he’s not ready for the leap, it sure doesn’t sound like the Bolts will push it.

Just ask head coach Jon Cooper.

“Jonathan Drouin is not someone we’re investing in for one year,” Cooper explained. “We’re investing in him for a decade or more. Why would we want to rush the finished product?”

  1. pjblake2redwings - Aug 15, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    It would be redic if he has to play ANOTHER year in the juniors. playing for Halifax Mooseheads isnt getting him any better at this point. He dominates the league and needs to play against some competition. He already is most likely upset that he had to sit down there with kids last year when so many players drafted after him were tearing it up

    • ctcork - Aug 15, 2014 at 3:11 PM

      It don’t see him starting the season anywhere other than Tampa. He was forced to become a leader after Mackinnon left and he did that. There’s nothing left to prove in Halifax. Expect him to make the roster

    • dueman - Aug 15, 2014 at 3:12 PM

      “He already is most likely upset that he had to sit down there with kids last year” – Don’t forget that Drouin is still a kid himself. It’s not like he was an adult sitting at the kiddie table. There’s nothing wrong with taking their time with him, and it won’t due him any good to be playing on the fourth line for 4-5 minutes a game. He might be more skilled than most in juniors, but he is still learning things playing there. He is still improving his skills, and is now gaining leadership skills as well, but most of all, he is maturing, and physically growing, which will definitely help him in the long run. This is a kid that Tampa definitely does not want to take any chances of ruining. If he is ready, he will earn his spot. If for what ever reason, Tampa believes they don’t need to bring him up yet…one more season of junior will still help him improve. The kid is a special player…there’s no need to rush him.

  2. cantescapekarma - Aug 15, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    I really like what Steve Y is doing in Tampa. He seems like a very bright up and coming GM. Honestly, if I couldn’t have Tim Murray running the Sabres (who I also consider a very bright up and coming GM), Steve Y is pretty much the only guy who I’d be as equally excited about if he were running the Sabres. I think both teams are going to be at the top of the East for many years to come. Tampa Bay is obviously a ways ahead in their rebuilding efforts. It will be very interesting to see where both SY and TM have these teams in the next few years. TM has a bit of an advantage money&budget wise, since he has unlimited funds no matter what (whether the team makes money or even if it loses it (which I don’t see happening in buffalo)). Tampa has more talent on their NHL club than Buffalo. But if we can get our Stamkos (I.e. McDavid or Eichel) this coming draft I think Buffalo could catch up pretty quick.

    Which reminds me – I can’t wait to see Sabre’s day & their “Looking To Make The Leap”. I’d imagine it would be pretty darn hard to pick just one guy for that article… There are so many looking to make the leap this season, all with plenty of talent to get excited about.

  3. vbcaps - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:45 PM

    He’s making the team and playing some pro this year, we all know it, nuff said

  4. avscup - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    Another year in Halifax was the right call. This year he could be the Calder winner. Last year, he would have simply been another rookie.

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