‘It’s hard playing eight minutes a night,’ says Drouin

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Here are the ice times for Tampa Bay rookie Jonathan Drouin over the last five games:

Feb. 10 vs. Nashville: 9:06

Feb. 12 vs. St. Louis: 10:44

Feb. 15 vs. San Jose: 8:59

Feb. 16 vs. L.A.: 7:47

Feb. 18 vs. Anaheim: 10:52

As you might expect, the diminished role is starting to wear on Drouin — the third overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft — just a bit.

“For sure, it’s hard playing eight minutes a night, but that’s the way it goes up here, I think,” Drouin said, per the Tampa Bay Tribune. “I just have to keep moving forward and try to be positive. And we are winning, so that’s the biggest thing that I want to be a part of — winning.”

The Lightning are doing their fair share of winning this season — they head into Friday’s play with 78 points, one back of Montreal for top spot in the Atlantic Division — and are blessed with a wealth of talent at forward, part of the reason for Drouin’s meager minutes.

Leaders like Steve Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan all get over 18 a night.  “The Triplets” — Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov — all average least 15 — while the likes of Alex Killorn, Cedric Paquette, Brian Boyle, Brett Connolly, Brenden Morrow and J.T. Brown each get theirs as well, which makes for some pretty tough decisions in terms of ice-time distribution.

The guy in charge of making those decisions, head coach Jon Cooper, said Drouin’s minutes are more a reflection of Tampa Bay’s depth and the fact that, despite his draft pedigree, Drouin is still a 19-year-old kid learning how to play in the NHL.

“Unfortunately, you are going to have to point out some faults, but a lot of times you are going to point out the positives,” Cooper said. “When there are positives, which there have been, you lean on this and show that progress has definitely been made.

“But it’s unfair to say at 19 years old that you are going to come in here and dominate the league. The fact that he’s playing every day is pretty good for a 19-year-old.”