Jonathan Drouin's NHL debut has been anticipated more than a year. The #3 selection in the 2013 NHL draft would have likely cracked the lineup for many NHL teams last season but failed to do so with Tampa for the 2013-14 season. Blame that on both foot issues, position shifting and Lightning team depth.
2014-15 is different, as Drouin is with the Lightning... Well, has been. He just hasn't participated in scrimmages, exhibition games or early season games with thanks to a fracture in his thumb, sustained (likely) during September's prospect tournament in Tennessee. Drouin has participated in practice and drills, most often in a no-contact jersey, but he has not done much more than that.
With the Bolts heading on a western Canada trip this weekend, and with Drouin close to a return, the Lightning have decided to give Drouin exactly what he needs: practice; competitive practice. The club optioned Drouin to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL this morning to partake in a conditioning stint. While a player Drouin's age - 19 years old - is not supposed to be able to play at the AHL level, a quirk in the rules allows him to be sent down for a maximum of two weeks. That window allows Drouin to play with the Crunch up until October 30th (2 weeks from today). These 14 days have the Crunch playing five games(two home, three away) would both amount to a preseason for Drouin as well as buying the Lightning time to clear a roster spot for Drouin. The team currently stands at 23 players while Drouin is on injured reserve.