<
>

GM Steve Yzerman: 'Very realistic' Jonathan Drouin will be called up

Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said there is a "very realistic" possibility that prospect Jonathan Drouin gets recalled before the end of the season.

Drouin, who was sent to the Lightning's AHL affiliate in Syracuse after 19 games this season, was suspended without pay by the team on Jan. 20 when he refused to show up for an AHL game in Toronto. That suspension was lifted last Monday, and Drouin has since reported to the AHL club.

"Jonathan played his first three games back on the weekend," Yzerman said. "He played Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I wasn't at the games live, but watched them all on the AHL website. I thought considering the length of time he was out, he looked good. His conditioning was good, his speed was good, he played well, and ultimately I go back to when he was first assigned to the AHL.

"It wasn't a demotion, it was simply to go down -- though not on conditioning -- was strictly as conditioning to get some games after missing a lot due to injury," Yzerman said, referring to Drouin's lower-body injury, which caused him to miss eight games in December. "The plan was for him to go down and play and come back, so with the situation right now, if it is good for our team and it is the right thing to do, he will be recalled. So it's very realistic."

Drouin, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft, asked for a trade from the Lightning in November, and his agent expressed the Drouin camp's disappointment at the team's handling of him in early January when he was sent to the minors.

There was speculation that Drouin would be traded by Tampa Bay before the Feb. 29 trade deadline, but no deal was made.

Asked again Tuesday about whether a call-up was really possible, Yzerman left that door open.

"We're trying to clinch a playoff spot right now, and hopefully we can do that and then ultimately be successful in the playoffs," he said. "I think it's my responsibility to make any decision based on what's going to help us, one, make the playoffs, and two, win in the playoffs.

"My feeling was, my first responsibility was to the organization: What is the right thing to do for us, and what's going to make us a better team? I try to act on that basis and make my decision according to that, and that's what I'll continue to do."

Drouin, 20, has scored six goals in 89 career NHL games.