Jonathan Drouin, winger for the Tampa Bay Lightning and their third overall pick in the 2013 Entry Draft, had a much longer road to the NHL than many expected. He was sent back to his junior team in the QMJHL following the draft after failing to impress with a ridiculous 105 points in 49 games. Then, during training camp in September 2014, he fractured his thumb, preventing him from easing into the rigors of playing in the NHL without the risk of regular season games.
When he eventually cracked a loaded line-up of superstars, emerging young talent and proven veterans this season, Drouin didn’t exactly set the NHL on fire the way he did in the Q or, say, his former Mooseheads teammate Nathan MacKinnon did with his NHL team the Colorado Avalanche. In 32 games so far this season, Drouin has been a healthy scratch several times, holds an 8.3 shooting percentage and has been pushed to the team’s fourth line.
He ranks 11th on the team in points (three of the Bolts’ defensemen – Jason Garrison, Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman – all rank above him) with only 12 in 23 games played. He has lit the lamp twice; once against beleaguered Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavellec, who has an awful .778 save percentage on the night and was pulled for back-up Michael Hutchinson. It is his second goal of the season, however, that may start to turn his fortunes around.
Last week, Drouin got what have been undoubtedly good news: the Lightning were not going to loan him to Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship and gave their vote of confidence by keeping him in the NHL.
Team CAN will not be getting Jonathan Drouin from TB. No surprise there.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 11, 2014
Since that announcement on December 11, Drouin has played in three games. In the December 11 contest versus the Hurricanes and the December 13 game against the Capitals, it was more status quo for the young rookie with an average of 11:03 of playing time and some looks on the power play. In those two games, he registered a measly one shot on goal and was a -2. On the December 15 game against the Penguins, Drouin scored his second goal of the season (his first since October 24th). Drouin served as the power-play unit’s net-front presence and was able to knock in a rebound that Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was unable to control. The goal tied the game in the dying seconds of the first period and came immediately following the Penguins’ short-handed goal.
As the Lightning’s second power-play unit entered the Penguins zone, Drouin’s speed allowed him to slip past the Penguins defense to sneak behind Fleury. While his team moved the puck from point to point, Drouin was constantly moving with the blade of his stick constantly on the ice to provide his teammates with an easy shot. When the puck bounced off of Fleury’s arm, Drouin was already in position to knock in the goal. That’s some pretty good hockey smarts. His efforts were well-rewarded during the rest of the game:
— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) December 16, 2014
Drouin taking shift with Callahan/Stamkos
— Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssonTBO) December 16, 2014
While that line did not produce and the Lightning eventually lost the game to the Penguins, their next two games, against the struggling Flyers and Devils, may be the chance for Drouin to continue to put up points.