CALGARY — Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin said he received several congratulatory messages after making his NHL debut Monday night. He heard from family, friends, as well as coaches spanning from his junior and midget teams.
"It was exciting," Drouin said. "You dream about it since you're young to play here. And to play in Canada, too, is something special."
Drouin, 19, said he found out about five hours before Monday's 3-2 loss to the Oilers that he'd play, thanks to an upper-body injury suffered by wing Alex Killorn during the morning skate. Drouin, the No. 3 overall pick in 2013, admitted he was nervous as he came out for warmups at the raucous Rexall Place, but settled in after a few shifts.
And Drouin, the league's top-rated prospect, held his own, mostly on the second line and power-play unit. His stats, minus-1 with one shot and two takeaways in 16:10, didn't tell the whole story of his impact. He created several scoring chances and set up the Lightning's second goal with a strong forecheck.
"He comes as advertised," coach Jon Cooper said. "He plays with speed, thought he controlled the game when he had it on his stick."
Drouin, who missed training camp and preseason with a fractured right thumb, said the two games he played over the weekend on a conditioning assignment with Syracuse in the American Hockey League helped him get his timing back. But jumping to the NHL was an adjustment.
"The first one is tough," he said. "I didn't know what to expect. You come out, look around … it's a loud building so there were nerves in the warmup, but I thought as the game went on, I got better and better.
"I made some plays with the puck, created a few things so it was a good first game for me, but we didn't get the win. A better outcome would have been good."
Drouin's one other regret was that, because he was added to the lineup so late, parents Serge Drouin and Brigitte Dufour didn't have enough time to make it there from Montreal.
But they were in the stands Tuesday in Calgary to watch Drouin, who started on the top line with captain Steven Stamkos at right wing and Valtteri Filppula at center.
"I owe a lot to them," he said of his parents. "I'm sure they'll enjoy watching the game."
Contact Joe Smith at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.