It was back on January 20th when Jonathan Drouin was suspended indefinitely by the Tampa Bay Lightning for falling to report to a game in the American Hockey League between the Syracuse Crunch and Toronto Marlies. This came just 17 days after it was made public that Drouin, 21, had requested a trade from the Lightning organization. Despite the trade deadline approaching, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman was not going to make a trade unless it was an offer that he envisioned to be what is best for the organization, so the trade deadline came and passed without Drouin being moved.
Questions continued to be raised on whether or not the relationship between Drouin and the Tampa Bay Lightning could be repaired. If no, then speculation would move forward at the NHL Draft in June at another opportunity for Yzerman to explore his options in moving the former third overall draft pick in 2013.
On March 7th, Drouin’s suspension was lifted by the Lightning and he reported back to Syracuse to play out the rest of the 2015-16 campaign while Yzerman would maintain an open mind that if Drouin dedicated himself to working hard, that he could possibly be called back up to Tampa. In his 10 games back with Syracuse, Drouin tallied nine goals, one assist and was averaging just under four shots per game. He was certainly getting opportunities and capitalizing on them during his time with the Crunch.
The Lightning played against the New Jersey Devils on April 2nd without forward and pending unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos. After the game, Yzerman addressed the situation involving Stamkos, as it turned out he had a blood clot in his right arm and would be out of action for the next one to three months. Stamkos underwent successful surgery to correct the problem two days later.
With two regular season games remaining, the Lightning decided to recall Drouin from Syracuse as the Lightning was preparing to take on the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night in an attempt to clinch second place in the Atlantic Division, which would give them home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Drouin’s linemates for Wednesday’s game were Alex Killorn and Vladislav Namestnikov. Drouin scored a goal, recorded four shots on net, and played 15:41 in total ice time. Drouin’s goal became the game winner in a 3-2 victory over the Devils.
Of course, it’s great to see Drouin come in right away and contribute in such an important game, but as long as he ended up playing a solid game and showed progress, this wasn’t going to be a one-game audition. Drouin certainly had a solid game with and without the puck on his stick, and even was able to draw a penalty in the second period. Without Stamkos, having Drouin come up to aid in the scoring department is important in providing more of a threat and creating opportunities not just for himself, but for his teammates, as he will definitely draw attention from opposing defenders. Flip over to the other side of the coin as we look to Saturday to see if Drouin can keep up his play from Thursday night, as Tampa Bay looks to wrap up the regular season on a high note in Montreal against the Canadiens before heading into the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Regardless of what happens, as long as Drouin continues to show a strong work ethic to meet the expectations the Lightning had for him when they drafted him back in 2013, we could see him in Bolts blue for years to come.
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