After returning to practice (albeit in a non-contact jersey) on Tuesday, Jonathan Drouin told the St. Petersburg Times that he’s hoping he can play in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s season-opener on Oct. 9.
“I want the home opener to be my goal,” Drouin said. “If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. But that’s around those days I’m thinking (of coming back). We’ve got a lot of time left to see what’s going to go on with this, not going to rush anything obviously.”
Indeed, the season-opener isn’t that far outside of the three-to-four week prognosis that Drouin received for a fractured right thumb on Oct. 23.
The 19-year-old admitted that “there’s still a little bit of pain” in the thumb but overall “progress has been really good.”
The cautious approach is obviously the wisest here, yet it’s understandable if Drouin is itching to get into the swing of things with the big club. Tampa Bay decided to keep the third pick of the 2013 NHL Draft at the junior level – where he dominated, again – last season while other high draft picks such as Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Seth Jones and Sean Monahan got their feet wet and even thrived as immediate NHL rookies.
When it comes to picking possible 2015 Calder Trophy winners, Drouin is high on most prognosticators’ lists (or at least he was before the injury), yet the promising prospect has plenty of talented competition for ice time in Tampa Bay.
All that aside, the Lightning are wise to maintain the long view with Drouin, which means making sure he’s really ready to go if that Oct. 9 game is even a possibility.