Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Desperate for scoring, Lightning calls up Jonathan Drouin

NEWARK, N.J. — As improbable as it sounds, it was almost like Jonathan Drouin never left.

Drouin, 21, called up by the Lightning on Thursday, joined the morning-skate huddle at the Prudential Center before the game with the Devils and was greeted by stick taps from teammates, sparking a small grin from the once-disgruntled wing.

"When I walked in, everybody was happy to see me," Drouin said. "I'm definitely happy to see the guys back."

Many people likely never expected to see Drouin in a Lightning uniform again and getting a second chance — not after the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2013 requested a trade in November, and certainly not after he walked away from AHL Syracuse on Jan. 20, a move that got him suspended by the team. He said then through agent Allan Walsh that he wouldn't continue with the organization in "any capacity."

But with the Lightning ravaged by injuries, including to captain Steven Stamkos (blood clot) and Ryan Callahan (lower body), it was in desperate need of skill up front in its playoff push.

And Drouin, with nine goals in his last nine games with the Crunch after returning from his suspension in early March, had given general manager Steve Yzerman a reason to call him Wednesday afternoon. Drouin declined to address whether his trade request remains and if he thinks he has a future in Tampa Bay beyond this season. He said he is focused on playing hockey and a playoff run.

"Jo Drouin earned this callup," coach Jon Cooper said. "(The trade request) is what he felt he had to do. He's a big part of the Tampa Bay Lightning and a big part of us. Do players look at him differently in the room? Not at all. Do coaches look at him (differently)? No. He had a belief in something, and he stood by his ground. Can't say anything is wrong with that.

"I do know he's come back to help us win. And you talk to the coaches and everyone down in Syracuse, and he was phenomenal down there. That's what you want. You want the kids that want to play, and he's clearly proven, especially in the last month and a half, that he wants to be a hockey player, and (we) can't ask any more than that.

"We need him."

Drouin has a chance to have a top-six role. He joined Vladislav Namestnikov and Alex Killorn on the second line for Thursday's game and had the winning goal in a 4-2 victory over the Devils. He also was on the power play that entered the day ranked 26th. Cooper said Drouin gives his team, which had scored two or fewer goals in four of its previous six games, "another threat," making it deeper up front.

"You can tell in the morning skate that he's very hungry," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "He's a world-class talent. He's got the speed, got the hands, got the sense for the game."

Drouin said he believed that coming back was a possibility but it was up to him to prove he deserved it in Syracuse. After not getting dealt at the Feb. 29 trade deadline, Drouin called Yzerman and asked to return to the AHL. He was dynamic on the ice, scoring nine goals in 10 games, and respectful off it. His only blip was missing a team meeting because he slept through his alarm, leading to a one-game scratch.

Drouin said he and Yzerman are on good terms and there's "no bad blood" with the coaching staff.

Any regrets about how he handled the situation?

"It's hard to say right now," Drouin said. "I've said that before. Maybe looking back in a couple years, I might want to do a few things differently."

By calling up Drouin for the last two games of the regular season, he will accrue another NHL season, meaning he can be an unrestricted free agent in 2021 instead of 2022.

"Ultimately, we're trying to win games," Yzerman said.

Though it's still likely Drouin will be dealt this summer, maybe before the draft, Yzerman, when asked if Drouin could be with the Lightning beyond this season, replied, "Sure."

"Things change over time," he said. "I'll do what's best for the team, best for the organization. A lot of strange things have happened, and potentially could continue to happen. I don't close the door on anything."

Drouin appreciated how teammates reached out to him, via phone call or text message, while he was suspended and in Syracuse. Center Tyler Johnson called him "family." Now Drouin has a chance to spark a Lightning playoff run. Imagine that.

"It's quite a story," goalie Ben Bishop said. "There's not many like it."

Contact Joe Smith at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Desperate for scoring, Lightning calls up Jonathan Drouin 04/07/16 [Last modified: Friday, April 8, 2016 12:13am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning edges Red Wings on road

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.

    Lightning center/Red Wings’ killer Tyler Johnson gets past defenseman Trevor Daley on his way to the first goal of the game.
  2. Armwood pulls away to defeat Plant 27-7, remain undefeated


    SEFFNER — First-year Armwood coach Evan Davis pulled out all the stops to get his team psyched for Monday's annual grudge match against Plant.

    Armwood defensive end Malcolm Lamar (97) gets fired up before the start of the game between Plant High School Panthers and the Armwood High School Hawks in Suffer, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.
  3. Bucs journal: Dirk Koetter says Vernon Hargreaves needs to improve


    TAMPA — The Bucs now rank 31st in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 301 yards per game in their 2-3 start, and coach Dirk Koetter was asked Monday how concerned he is with the play of second-year CB Vernon Hargreaves.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick, throwing an incompletion under pressure after replacing injured Jameis Winston against the Cardinals,  would start this Sunday in Buffalo if Winston’s shoulder is still bothering him.
  4. Backhand shot makes Nikita Kucherov's offense even more dangerous

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — Nikita Kucherov is on a historic streak, just the fourth player in the past 30 years to score a goal in each of his first six games.

    Nikita Kucherov’s backhand shot adds to his strong scoring.
  5. Rick Pitino officially fired by Louisville amid federal corruption probe


    In an expected move, the University of Louisville Athletic Association's Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to fire men's basketball coach Rick Pitino. The decision came 19 days after Louisville acknowledged that its men's basketball program was being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe and …

    In this Oct. 20, 2016, file photo, Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino reacts to a question during a press conference in Louisville, Ky. Louisville's Athletic Association on Monday officially fired Pitino, nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged that its men's basketball program is being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe. [AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File]