TAMPA, Fla. — Jonathan Drouin’s NHL debut must wait longer.
Thursday, the Tampa Bay Lightning assigned the promising winger to the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch for a maximum of two weeks to allow him to receive more live action after recovering from a slight fracture in his right thumb. He’s expected to play for Syracuse on Friday.
Drouin, 19, sustained the injury during a rookie practice in September, when he was involved in a minor collision during drills and lost his footing. He was expected to miss three to four weeks at the time.
"I felt ready, I felt in shape — everything felt the way I wanted it to feel when I showed up here," Drouin said in September. "So for this to happen is obviously unfortunate. Not much you can do about it."
As recently as Monday, Lightning coach Jon Cooper called Drouin’s return "close." Drouin’s thumb is healed, but the Syracuse assignment will be used to prepare him for game speed.
The third-overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft, Drouin played in 46 games last season for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He earned 29 goals and 108 points.