Woodward: The Jonathan Drouin Experience Has Begun

by Benjamin Woodward | Posted on Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

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When the Tampa Bay Lightning took the ice on Monday evening at Rexall Place in Edmonton, they did so with a new face in the lineup. After months of hype, excitement and limitless expectations, the NHL’s top-rated prospect of 2014, Jonathan Drouin, was ready for his debut performance on hockey’s brightest stage. “The first one is tough,” said the former Halifax Mooseheads’ standout. “I didn’t know what to expect. You come out, look around … it’s a loud building, so there were nerves in the warm-up, but I thought as the game went on, I got better and better.” (Photos/Susan Ferlita)

Drouin, who joined the Lightning in Western Canada on Sunday, would have begun the season on the roster if not for a right thumb injury suffered in training camp. After recovering from the ailment, he was sent to Syracuse of the American Hockey League, where he participated in two minor league contests as part of a rehab conditioning assignment. Drouin immediately made an impact in his first game as a professional, bursting past a pair of defensemen to score the game-winning goal for the Crunch on Friday night. In his follow-up showing on Saturday, Drouin added a pair of assists and accumulated seven shots on goal, proving to team management that he was indeed ready to take the next step.

Even after being summoned from Syracuse over the weekend, it appeared that Drouin would be forced to wait until Tuesday evening in Calgary to make his debut with the big club. After playing in back-to-back games and subsequently traveling across the entire continent, it was easy to see why Lightning head coach Jon Cooper was planning to give his prized rookie an extra day off to recuperate. However, after versatile left winger Alex Killorn was injured in a dangerous collision against the boards during the morning skate, Drouin would be forced into action.

Skating in Killorn’s position alongside Valtteri Filppula and Tyler Johnson, Drouin was immediately thrust into a top-six role on the Lightning second line. From the minute he stepped onto the ice, Drouin did not look out of place for a single second. On his opening shift, he was able to gain inside position on an Edmonton defender and earned a quality scoring chance from the edge of the crease. “He comes as advertised,” raved Cooper. “He plays with speed, thought he controlled the game when he had it on his stick.”

JDrouin/JPCoteEach and every time he touched the puck, Drouin was a threat to score. From his first shift, he looked like a player who’s been established in the NHL for years, not one performing at hockey’s highest level for the very first time. His patience and ability to find passing lanes is uncanny. On one particularly impressive play in the second period, while surrounded by two Edmonton defensemen, he managed to slip a nifty back-hand pass through the narrowest of passing lanes, right onto the stick of defenseman Anton Stralman.

Perhaps most important is the trust that Cooper seems to have already established with his 19-year-old prospect. Recognizing the incredible skill level Drouin possesses, the Bolts’ second-year bench boss immediately inserted him into one of the team’s power-play units. On a team with more than its fair share of talented forward options to deploy on the man-advantage, that is no small feat. Perhaps even more impressive, is the fact that Drouin was again on the ice for the final minute of action as Tampa Bay frantically tried to even the score in the game’s waning moments.

Drouin looked every bit the playmaking difference-maker he was expected to be on Monday night in Edmonton. In doing so, he has certainly set the bar high for himself already. But, with impeccable vision and otherworldly stickhandling skills, there is simply no limit on just how good he can become. If the opening act of Drouin’s career is any indication of what lies ahead, the future looks exceedingly bright for both he and the Lightning.

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Benjamin Woodward
About the Author

Lead Writer Benjamin Woodward is a native Bostonian and lifelong hockey fanatic. After three years of covering the Boston Bruins for various media outlets, including Hockey Independent, SB Nation and the New England Hockey Journal, Benjamin has chosen to tackle a new challenge here in Tampa Bay. He enjoys golfing and football and is a die-hard University of Michigan supporter.

Displaying 8 Comments
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  1. ITMAN says:

    Very well said. He is the future. Already plays with veteran patience and handles the puck like an old pro.

  2. Jake says:

    Wow, this kid is the real deal. He has that “it” factor. No reason to have him spend any more time in the minors.

    • Benjamin Woodward Benjamin Woodward says:

      No doubt about it, Jake. Barring any potential conditioning assignments down the road, he’s seen the last of his days in the minors.

  3. Big Kahuna says:

    “Each and every time he has the puck he is a threat to score.” Well said and it’s the truth. What a great player.

    • Benjamin Woodward Benjamin Woodward says:

      Thanks, Big Kahuna! He sure looks like a special player. There is no ceiling on how good he has the potential to be.

  4. Tony V says:

    Yzerman has handled this kid perfectly! The future is now.

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