Jonathan Drouin

Looking to make the leap: Jonathan Drouin


Jonathan Drouin was disappointed he didn’t crack Lightning roster last year, and it’s easy to understand why.

The third overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry draft, Drouin was returned to QMJHL Halifax while his Mooseheads teammate — Nathan MacKinnon, taken first overall — stuck with Colorado and had a dazzling rookie campaign, scoring 24 goals and 63 points en route to winning the Calder Trophy.

What’s more, Drouin was the only one of the top six picks that didn’t make his NHL debut last season. Though he was lauded as an “incredible talent” by GM Steve Yzerman, the organization thought another year of seasoning in junior would serve Drouin well.

“As the year went on, Jonathan got better and better,” Yzerman said in July, per the Tampa Tribune. “When he went back, he was like the No. 1 penalty killer, ran the power play, played in all situations.

“He was dominating at both ends of the rink.”

Clearly, things went well for Drouin at the junior level. Now the Bolts will see if their strategy pays off in the bigs.

It’s expected that Drouin will have a job in Tampa Bay come October. Yzerman jettisoned a trio of veteran forwards prior to July 1’s free agent frenzy (Teddy Purcell, Nate Thompson and B.J. Crombeen), bought out the remainder of Ryan Malone’s contract and didn’t re-up with the likes of Tom Pyatt and Dana Tyrell. It’s also tough to think Drouin would gain much from going back to junior, and he isn’t eligible to play with AHL Syracuse.

So the opportunity in Tampa Bay is there, but Drouin will have competition. Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn are entrenched at Drouin’s preferred left wing spot, and it’s possible someone could shift over from the crowded RW situation (where Ryan Callahan, Richard Panik, Nikita Kucherov, J.T. Brown and Brett Connolly currently top the depth chart.)

Another thing to consider is Tampa Bay’s “no rush” mentality. The club has been very deliberate in bringing along its recent prospects and embraces the notion that maturation is a marathon, not a sprint. Drouin is still only 19 years old and relatively small (5-foot-11, 186 pounds) by NHL standards; if he’s not ready for the leap, it sure doesn’t sound like the Bolts will push it.

Just ask head coach Jon Cooper.

“Jonathan Drouin is not someone we’re investing in for one year,” Cooper explained. “We’re investing in him for a decade or more. Why would we want to rush the finished product?”

Canucks spoil Ducks’ home opener via shootout

Adam Cracknell, Ryan Miller

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Ryan Miller and the Vancouver Canucks have already found a groove just three games into the regular season. The Anaheim Ducks are still looking for a way to get their offense going.

Radim Vrbata and Alex Burrows scored in the shootout, and the Canucks spoiled Anaheim’s home opener with a 2-1 victory Monday night.

Miller made 28 saves and Adam Cracknell scored in regulation for Vancouver, which beat the Ducks for just the third time in their last 12 meetings.

Vancouver improved to 2-0 on the road in the young season, with Miller yielding just one goal in each game. That’s encouraging to the veteran, who played in only four games after Feb. 22 last season while dealing with a knee injury.

“I’m just trying to go out there and battle and compete,” said Miller, who stopped a third-period redirection by Carl Hagelin with his mask. “That was my mindset coming off an injury. That’s what it really comes down to, getting back the focus early on. I didn’t play hockey for a while. The technical stuff I worked on this summer and I pay attention to in practice.”

Even with twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin combining for just one shot, the Canucks won the new season’s first meeting between the Pacific Division’s top two teams last year. Anaheim won its third straight division title, while Vancouver finished a surprising second before losing in the opening round of the playoffs.

Sami Vatanen scored and Frederik Andersen stopped 24 shots for the Ducks, who have scored just one goal while going winless in the first two games of a season that begins with Stanley Cup aspirations.

Anaheim was shut out in San Jose on Saturday in its opener before returning to Honda Center for its first real game on home ice since Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, when Chicago advanced to win the Stanley Cup.

Kevin Bieksa played nearly 24 1/2 minutes in his second game with the Ducks. Anaheim acquired the veteran defenseman from Vancouver last summer after he played 10 years with the Canucks, who drafted him in 2001. Bieksa was reunited with Ryan Kesler, the longtime Vancouver forward who moved to Anaheim before last season.

“We fought back a lot better than we did in San Jose,” Bieksa said. “So we need to keep building on this in the rest of this homestand here. If we do that, we’re going to be all right.”

After the Ducks failed to score on a power play during their first official taste of 3-on-3 overtime hockey, Vrbata and Burrows got stuttering, halting shots past Andersen, who stopped Burrows’ shot before watching it trickle under him.

“I’ve done that move a few times against a few goalies, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it against Freddie,” Burrows said. “So I tried it, and I’m lucky it went in tonight. It hit his stick and trickled in.”

Jakob Silfverberg scored in the shootout for the Ducks, who lost their home opener for just the second time in six seasons. Anaheim’s talented offensive players aren’t clicking so far, but nobody is panicking yet.

“I think we’re doing things the right way now,” Vatanen said. “We battled hard. We got some good chances. The season is long, so we’re going the right way.”

Both teams opened at a furious pace, with end-to-end chances throughout. After a scoreless first period, Vatanen got the Ducks’ first goal of the season when his long, low shot went through Mike Santorelli‘s screen.

Cracknell evened it later in the period with a sharp-angled shot that somehow deflected off Andersen’s shoulder or stick and landed behind the goalie. The journeyman got his first regular-season NHL goal since April 4, 2013, and just the seventh of his 85-game NHL career.

“Pretty fortunate goal on their part,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said.

NOTES: A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Honda Center to call for the suspension of Ducks D Clayton Stoner, who faces charges in Canada related to a 2013 grizzly bear hunt. … Cracknell hadn’t scored a goal in his last 49 regular-season games, although he got a postseason goal in 2014 for St. Louis.

Coming Tuesday: Dan Boyle, $4.5M healthy scratch

Brad Marchand, Dan Boyle

Few things say “Oops, bad signing” quite like putting a really expensive player in street clothes (without an injury being involved).

The Philadelphia Flyers set quite the high bar in that regard, but the New York Rangers can’t laugh too much. Not with Dan Boyle expected to be a healthy scratch against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

The word from the Bergen Record is that Dylan McIlrath will draw into the Rangers lineup in Boyle’s space, although Kevin Klein will take over Boyle’s role on the power play.

Let’s face the facts. At 39, Boyle may still boast some zip on offense, but maybe not enough to justify an everyday role.

It’s not the first time the Rangers have decided to make the difficult, awkward season to phase a big name out as he approaches age 40.

Even if it’s just a momentary situation, one cannot help but wonder if Boyle’s career is screeching to halt much like Martin St. Louis’ did in 2014-15 (though the latter’s decline was more sudden).

On the bright side, it sounds like Boyle has a side job lined up with Faith No More.