Drouin's junior team owner: 'He's a future All-Star'
Bobby Smith wasn't surprised to hear Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin requested a trade.
"I think what surprised me is the fact that this hasn't been a breakout year for Jonathan," Smith told the Times in a phone interview.
Smith, 57, is the majority owner of Drouin's former junior team, the Halifax Mooseheads, where the 20-year-old wing starred for three seasons (2011-2014). Smith is also a former No. 1 overall pick (North Stars) who scored 357 career goals for Minnesota and Montreal, not to mention a former general manager with the Coyotes (1996-2000), giving him a unique perspective on this situation.
Smith thinks it'd be a "terrible mistake" if the Lightning and Drouin can't salvage their relationship, and that Tampa Bay would likely regret trading the No. 3 overall pick in 2013.
"I think (Drouin) is a future All-Star," Smith said. "He's a guy who is going to play on Canada's Olympic team. That's a pretty elite group. I know how competitive and what kind of teammate he is. He's going to have an NHL career. And I'm surprised this situation has gotten to where it's gotten."
"I know the teams that have traded away this type of player whether his name is Joe Thornton or Tyler Seguin, normally live to regret it. I think Steve Yzerman, having been not an elite player, a super elite player, is going to get this back on the rails and Jonathan is going to have a long and very good career."
Smith hasn't spoken with Drouin since the trade request was made public Sunday, but makes a point to watch as many of the Lightning's games. Smith called Drouin "the smartest hockey player I ever had," pointing out he can do things offensively that "can't be taught." Smith dismissed the notion that it hurt Drouin's development by having to return to juniors 2013-14, as opposed to going to the AHL (Drouin wasn't eligible to be sent to AHL).
There are some who suggest Drouin should just suck it up and play, let his game do the talking and earn a bigger role with the Lightning.
"There's an argument to be made for that," Smith said. "But it's also how you handle the guy. I think that your teammates know how good you are, and you know how good you are and your coach knows how good you are. Hockey players aren't dumb, these guys know at training camp who can play."
While this trade request has sparked questions about Drouin's attitude, Smith said there's never been any issues with that.
"I think he's a terrific kid," Smith said. "And when he was here, he left Halifax and the 20th guy on the team thought Jonathan Drouin was a great guy. Not just him and (Nate) MacKinnon. He's a good teammate and competitive kid.
"I would take him on my NHL team any day of the week."