First-round pick shows fans, coaches what they can expect
BRANDON - For the better part of five days, Jonathan Drouin spent time being introduced to the Lightning coaches, equipment managers, medical staff and the media relations department during Tampa Bay's summer prospect camp.
The third overall pick in the 2013 draft met Lightning season ticket-holders, conducted interviews and became familiar with what to expect when the 18-year-old reports for Tampa Bay's training camp in September.
But Drouin also gave Lightning fans a taste of what to expect from him, as well, before camp broke Wednesday.
"As many good players as we have (at the camp), Jonathan is a special player and a special person," Lightning director of amateur scouting Al Murray said. "He's been exposed to a lot of situations, and he was very calm in every situation professionally, and he's going to come in and challenge" for a roster spot.
Lauded for his gifted hands and his ability to handle the puck, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound forward showcased some of those skills during the two-day 3-on-3 tournament.
During one moment in preliminary round play Tuesday, Drouin carried the puck from the bottom of the circle toward the top of the slot while protecting the puck on his backhand from Adam Erne, Tampa Bay's second pick in last month's draft. As Drouin pulled the puck back to his forehand, he quickly stopped, put the puck through the legs of Erne and skated toward the net uncontested. Drouin faked a shot before sliding a pass to an open Dan Milan at the left circle for an easy goal to the open side of the net.
On Wednesday, Drouin was along the boards and appeared to be hemmed in by a defender. But Drouin made a quick turn off the boards and made a toe-drag move to elude the check and open up space while keeping the puck on his stick.
"His vision and skill set is next to none," said James Mullin, a Lightning fourth-round pick in 2010 and soon-to-be junior at Miami (Ohio), who skated alongside Drouin in the 3-on-3 tournament. "He can find you in a phone booth, if we were both in there. He can stickhandle in a phone booth, too. So it's fun to play with somebody with that kind of skill set."
Following the camp, Drouin headed to the airport to head back to Montreal, where he will continue training for the rest of the summer. He'll spend a few days at a Canadian World Junior camp before returning to Tampa for another rookie camp opening Sept. 4 before a three-day rookie tournament with Boston, Nashville and Florida is held in Coral Springs.
Getting the exposure to a professional camp and gaining a foundation for the future proved beneficial for Drouin as he gets set to embark upon his career.
"I think it all went well," Drouin said. "It's fun to get into practices and the 3-on-3 stuff. I learned how to lift properly and how to train properly, so I think that was the biggest stuff, it was almost more learning than training, so that was good for us."
Drouin will have to increase his strength, and he plans to concentrate on that during the next seven weeks. But even if he doesn't add muscle, the expectation is he will start the season with the Lightning, though Murray said that's not a certainty.
"Whether he makes the team or not will be dependent on training camp and exhibition games, and it's not going to hurt any young player to go back and play in Europe or junior or back to college and dominate there for another year," Murray said. "But if he is ready, he'll show that and get the opportunity.
Team Stamkos captured the 3-on-3 championship after entering the elimination rounds with a 1-3-1 record, winning three straight, including a 1-0 victory in the final over Team Hedman. Nikita Kucherov, a second-round pick in 2011, scored the only goal for Team Stamkos, which also featured 2012 second-round pick Brian Hart along with Artem Sergeev and Saku Salminen.
Team Hedman featured the top scorer in the tournament, Cedric Paquette, who finished with six goals and 18 points. Kucherov finished second with 15 points.
Drouin, playing with Joel Vermin, Milan and Mullin, finished with three goals and seven points.
Goaltender Andrey Vasilevskiy led all netminders with an .866 save percentage, more than half a percentage point better than any of the other three goalies in camp.