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 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. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  2. Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier returns, Mallex Smith sent to Triple A

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't take CF Kevin Kiermaier long to make his presence felt during his return Friday to the Rays lineup. Kiermaier pretended to have Mariners DH Nelson Cruz's first-inning line drive lined up even as the ball went past him to his right and to the wall.

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) flies out in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  3. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Bucs journal: Starting defense disappointed holding Jags to 1 rushing yard


    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on seven carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 preseason win.

    And its members were disappointed.

    Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) is thrown for a 1-yard loss as he is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54) and defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JVS102
  5. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day


    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.