19 year old Tampa Bay Lighting prospect Jonathan Drouin made his highly anticipated National Hockey League debut in Edmonton on Monday night. Drouin was the 3rd overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He is the top prospect in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization and possibly in all of hockey. He was not even supposed to play that night in Edmonton, but an Alex Killorn injury in practice sent Drouin into the starting lineup. He is highly regarded by many as the top prospect in hockey.
The scouting report on Drouin is that he has world class speed and elite hands and playmaking ability when the puck is on his stick. He is somewhat undersized at 5’11, but will grow and mature into his body to prepare for the rigors of an 82 game NHL season. The hype is incredibly high, but I think Drouin will be able to handle it and more. He was good in his debut against Edmonton and even better in his second game against Calgary. Drouin brings with him so much hype because of his unbelievable career in juniors.
Drouin’s Junior Hockey Career
During the 2011-2012 season Drouin spent half the season playing midget AAA before joining the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. In his first 33 games in the QMJHL Drouin scored 7 goals, 22 assists, and 29 points. Drouin added 9 goals, 17, assists, and 26 points in 17 playoff games that season. The following season Drouin played on a line centered by 2013-2014 Calder Trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon. In 49 regular season games Drouin set career highs in goals (41), assists (64), and points (105). The playoffs were even more special as Drouin averaged over 2 points per game and helped lead the Mooseheads to the Memorial Cup Championship which goes to the top junior team in all of Canada. Drouin collected the hardware that season and won the Mike Bossy Trophy as the top prospect in the QMJHL. He also won the league’s MVP honors.
Drouin hoped to make Tampa Bay as an 18 year old rookie, but the Lightning did not want to rush Drouin to the show if he was not ready. He was sent back to Halifax and worked on his game. Drouin had another 100 plus point season and again was named the QMJHL MVP. He returned this training camp to the Lightning ready to take his game to the NHL level.
Drouin Makes His Presence Known in Calgary
Drouin’s 1st NHL point was a crucial one. Late in the 3rd with just over 2:00 left to play and the Lightning trailing 1-0 Drouin made an excellent play. Drouin won a puck battle along the boards behind the net and then took over. Drouin made a great play with his stick to retrieve the puck, skated with the puck along the wall by the halfboards, drew the attention of all five Calgary Flames on the ice, and then promptly sent a nifty backhand pass to Jason Garrison who took a slap shot on net off Drouin’s pass. The rebound was promptly put into the back of the net by Valtteri Filppula. It was a clutch and poised play by a rookie in his second NHL game. Drouin had a chance to score his first NHL goal in overtime on a 2-on-0 with Steven Stamkos, who gave Drouin a nice pass, but the door was shut by the right pad of Karri Ramo making his best save of the game. The Lightning would win the game with a nice backhand in front off a rebound by Ondrej Palat.
Drouin was one of the best players on the ice for the Lightning. He displayed great speed and quickness with the puck on his stick, and got back in his own end and played a reliable two-way hockey game. He forchecked hard and played with a lot of confidence. At times he tried to do a little too much. There was a sequence in the second where Drouin collected the puck by the Calgary blueline and skated out of the zone with the puck, crossed over, and attempted to take on the Calgary Flames in a 1-on4 situation. The smart play to make there is to get the puck deep. That will all come in time and with coaching. Overall his decision making with the puck on his stick was good tonight, Drouin is an excellent passer and makes it look effortless at times on the ice. Skating on a line with Steven Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula is going to give this kid a great opportunity to play big minutes and be a key contributor early in his career.
The Lightning lost two valuable forwards in the last few days. Alex Killorn went down with an injury in the morning skate before the Edmonton game and Ryan Callahan left the Edmonton game with a lower body injury. As a result Drouin will play big minutes and have a chance to seize each and every opportunity. Before the season I picked Drouin to be the x-factor for the Lightning this season if he transitions his game to the NHL level. It looks like he has a chance to be a lot more than that. In a poll on NHL.com of which rookie has the chance to make the biggest impact this season, Drouin leads the voting with 19.78% to Tanner Pearson’s 19.48%. Drouin must continue to get better each day and under Stamkos’ guidance and leadership that is exactly what he is going to do.