By the end of last season, Jonathan Drouin had shown that he was doing anything but riding shotgun alongside teammate Nathan MacKinnon in Halifax before they became the first and third choices in the NHL draft.
While MacKinnon's junior days are done, it's worth mulling whether Drouin might end up returning to Halifax. The Tampa Bay Lightning's trial with him as a centre ran its course, with the Bolts putting him back at his more familiar left wing spot, alongside Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, during their last exhibition game. The club still has two preseason games left before it decides how to proceed. Reading between the lines, it sounds like a safe bet Drouin makes it to opening night, but beyond that ...
From Damian Cristodero:
Whether Drouin is with Tampa Bay or Halifax of the junior Quebec league, "mostly we want him playing," general manager Steve Yzerman said. "It's not the end of the world if a player has to go back (to juniors). But we certainly want to give him every opportunity before making that decision."
... The left wing has shown flashes of the puck skills and vision that caused [Tampa Bay coach Jon] Cooper to say "his upside is endless." But there have been growing pains.
Drouin said he knew the speed of the game would be greater, but he still is not completely acclimated. He knew players would be stronger and acknowledged, "They're bigger in the corner, so it's harder to play." (St. Petersburg Times)
It's not a race to see who gets his NHL foothold first. Drouin's gifts are self-evident, but even with two deep playoff runs, a world junior tournament and a Memorial Cup experience on his C.V., he's still played fewer than 135 junior games. That seems rather thin for someone who's ready to play in the NHL. For sake of cherry-picked comparison, Sean Monahan, who's extended his stay with the Calgary Flames, has played more than 210 games as a junior player. Talent, ideally, win out eventuallys. When players are 18 and 19, physical maturity and experience are going to be weighted more heavily.
It basically boils down to whether Tampa Bay believes it has enough basis for a decision after the next two fake games. Drouin has made much more out of smaller windows to impress, like he did last December with Team Canada.
By the way, 'You Drouined My Life' is a great fantasy hockey team name if you still have your draft.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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