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A roster and production crunch led Jonathan Drouin to the Syracuse Crunch

A numbers crunch for the Lightning means Jonathan Drouin goes to the Syracuse Crunch.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the forward corps finally returning to full strength plus a streaking Jonathan Marchessault, another Jonathan got the short end of a numbers crunch. Jonathan Drouin has been assigned to the Syracuse Crunch and it's not a conditioning stint.

With 14 healthy forwards now, it would have become quite a juggling game for head coach Jon Cooper to scratch two healthy forwards every game and maintain consistency in the bottom half of the lineup while managing time for all the forwards. As the only forward not requiring waivers to be sent down and having not gotten a chance to really show everything in the NHL, Drouin was the odd man out.

In 19 games, Drouin was averaging 14:07 TOI with a season high of 17:48.  In Syracuse, expect for him to be consistently seeing 20+ minutes every night as one of the top wing options.

It was reported that Drouin was visibly unhappy and you can certainly understand that of him. He's been in the NHL since the start of the 2014-15 season (outside of a 2 game conditioning stint in October 2014), he's a high draft selection, and he's a fierce competitor. The best-case scenario is that he goes down, works hard, plays hard, and earns his way back to Tampa. He's perfectly capable of putting up better than a point per game in the AHL. The worst-case scenario is that he'll sulk and his game will suffer and he won't perform, making it much harder for him to make it back to Tampa. And there has to be concerns that that can happen and would severely impact his development.

One of the biggest factors to this decision though is Jonathan Marchessault's emergence as an NHL capable winger. He's gotten a great opportunity on the power play and has seized it. While his five on five ice time has decreased with the return of top six forwards to the lineup, he should still be getting 12 to 14 minutes a night on the third line and power play. He's had points in seven of the last eight games including a streak of six games that had been the team high for the season until Nikita Kucherov surpassed it with his current seven-game streak. In that span Marchessault has had four goals and four assists evenly split between even strength and the power play.

With Marchessault, it's been evident for a while that he had the skill to potentially make it on the third line in the NHL. However as a smaller forward, it was harder for him to get the opportunities to succeed. While he did play well in limited showings with the Lightning after he was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets, he never lit it up to force the team to keep him. Now with all of the injuries up front, he's had that opportunity and he has seized it making it impossible for the organization to send him through waivers where he'd assuredly be claimed.

I'll be watching Syracuse closely over the next few weeks to see how Drouin adjusts to playing in the AHL. Best case scenario is that he blows it up, goes on a complete tear, and regains his confidence allowing the team to bring him back up and slot him next to Steven Stamkos again. Worst case scenario, he sulks, doesn't perform and spends the rest of the year in the AHL. Only time will tell how this goes.