When Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning strolled into Edmonton’s Rexall Place to take on the Oilers last night, they had a fresh face in the lineup: 2013 third-overall pick Jonathan Drouin.
Drouin, who coach Jon Cooper had earlier said would not be making his debut until later in the Lightning’s Western road trip, likely would have made the Lightning right out of training camp had his preseason derailed by a slight fracture of the thumb on his right hand which sidelined the much-talked about rookie for nearly four weeks. Late last week, the Lightning and Drouin made a bit of news with his activation and subsequent transfer to the American League’s Syracuse Crunch for a conditioning stint.
It didn’t take long for Drouin to make his mark on the professional ranks, scoring on an absolute laser of a wrist shot in the third period of his AHL debut.
Drouin’s goal was the result of Springfield Falcons’ goaltender Anton Forsberg cheating to his blocker side, but you can see even Forsberg didn’t expect the quick release and perfect accuracy. The third period tally from Drouin would prove to be the game winner.
In the follow up to his excellent debut – Drouin was on the ice for each Crunch goal for, none against – the 19-year-old could-be phenom notched a pair of assists to go along with an outstanding seven shots on goal.
The possibility of the 5’11” Drouin lining up beside Steven Stamkos, who to this point has been paired primarily with Ondrej Palat and the now-injured Ryan Callahan, is a scary thought for opposing defenses. It's part of what made him the consensus pick as a fantasy star. On Monday, however, the two saw only part of a shift together, with Drouin’s primary linemates being Valtteri Filppula and Tyler Johnson as he racked up just over 16 minutes of ice time.
Drouin, a nifty playmaker, could develop into the perfect set up man for Stamkos, who has played nearly his entire career with Martin St-Louis on his wing. With the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads, Drouin became noted for his incredible vision and puckhandling ability. If he can carry these over to the NHL, the winger could be just the addition Tampa Bay was looking for on Stamkos’ left side.
If his first three professional contests are any indication, Drouin has a bright future ahead of him. While Ben Scrivens and the Oilers may have held him off of the scoresheet in Edmonton, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he goes without a point on this road trip.
Next stop, Calgary, where Drouin has his shot at turning the Flames and Karri Ramo into answers to a trivia question as his quest for the Calder Trophy begins.