Earlier today, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that young forward Jonathan Drouin would be sent to the Syracuse Crunch, the team’s AHL affiliate.
— Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssonTBO) January 2, 2016
It appears that Drouin, the third overall pick from the 2013 NHL Draft, was the victim of a numbers game, as Ondrej Palat is set to return from injury, and other Lightning forwards would be forced to go through waivers before being sent to the AHL. Earlier on in the year, Drouin was sent to the AHL on a conditioning stint in which he recorded one goal and two assists in two games with the Crunch. There’s no mention on a conditioning stint this time, so I would guess that Drouin is going to be in Syracuse for a while.
Since being drafted, Drouin hasn’t had an easy time breaking into the league. He spent his post-draft year in the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads, recording an incredible 29 goals and 79 assists in just 46 games. In his rookie season with the Lightning last year, he posted an underwhelming four goals and 28 assists in 70 games despite logging a decent chunk of his even strength minutes with Steven Stamkos.
This year, Drouin has been in and out of Tampa Bay’s lineup thanks to a consistent nagging injury, as he’s only played in nine games in the past two months. So this return to the AHL could be a blessing for a player who’s struggled to get consistent playing time.
Obviously this is disappointing for the Lightning, as Drouin is a pretty important part of their offensive core moving forward (especially considering Steven Stamkos’ impending free agency). That said, he’s only 20-years old, and if he’s not playing consistently with the Lightning, he’s better off getting a wealth of playing time in key situations with the Crunch. Besides, this isn’t much different than Tampa’s situation with Andrei Vasilevskiy, who’s bounced up and down between the NHL and AHL all season.