Drouin Looks to Turn Focus Back to Hockey

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Jonathan Drouin wants to put the focus back on hockey.

Three days after being assigned to the Syracuse Crunch, the 20-year-old forward refused to comment on his agent Allan Walsh going public with a request to be traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Drouin is finally feeling 100 percent and ready to play hockey -- wherever that is.

“I’m not going to answer any questions about the trade request,” Drouin said in the brief press conference before an optional skate Tuesday. “It’s between my agent and (Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman). The only thing I can do is play hockey here.”

The Crunch are expected to hit the ice for their first full practice of the week on Wednesday. Syracuse travels to Albany on Friday, hosts Hershey Saturday, and hits the road for a trip to Rochester on Sunday.

It won’t be the first time Drouin has played for the Crunch. He began his professional career on a two-game conditioning stint with Syracuse in 2014, and posted one goal and two assists in a pair of victories.

“I’m excited,” Drouin said. “I was here last year and I had a lot of fun when I was down here last year. I’m excited to get this started on Friday.”

Drouin reportedly battled nagging injuries throughout this season, and has registered two goals and six assists in 19 games with Tampa Bay.

“You obviously want to be up there, but right now it’s not my decision,” Drouin said. “I’m happy to be a part of the Syracuse Crunch right now.”

Syracuse head coach Rob Zettler believes the extra minutes and playing in all situations will benefit both Drouin and the Crunch, who are coming off back-to-back losses in Toronto and sit fifth in the North Division with a 14-13-5-1 record.

“He’s a talented player that we’re going to infuse into our lineup,” Zettler said. “He’ll bring us some energy, he’ll bring some skill into our lineup. We could use a little energy right now. We’ve been rocking at about .500 for the last month or so, and we’ve got to up our game a little bit and he’ll help us do that.”

After an impressive junior career with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Drouin was selected third overall in the 2013 draft by the Lightning. The Quebec native posted four goals and 28 assists for 32 points in 70 games with Tampa Bay during his rookie season, but only dressed in six postseason contests on the Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Drouin had been in and out of the Lightning lineup throughout this season, and didn’t receive consistent minutes on the team’s scoring lines.

When asked on Tuesday, Drouin wasn’t sure if he had played his last game for Tampa Bay.

“It’s hard to say,” Drouin said. “It will be up to me to prove that I can go back up there.”

Pictured: Crunch forward Jonathan Drouin looks to make a pass against the Falcons at the Onondaga County War Memorial during the 2014-15 season.