NEWARK, N.J. - Leading up to the NHL Entry Draft, Steve Yzerman threw every conceivable scenario at head scout Al Murray and the rest of the scouting staff.
How Tampa Bay ended up selecting talented left wing Jonathan Drouin with the third overall pick did not come up too often in those conversations, until recently.
Colorado stood to its word, selecting center Nathan MacKinnon with the first overall pick, but when Florida opted to go with Finnish center Aleksander Barkov with the second pick, the Lightning found themselves in the enviable position of having to choose between potential top-two defenseman Seth Jones or the slick offensive talent Drouin.
An argument could have been made for either to have been the first overall pick.
Not too many mock drafts predicted Tampa Bay would have to make the decision between the two.
“We didn't really expect to,'' Yzerman said. “But in the last couple of days there were some rumblings, so we thought there was a good possibility we would have to make a decision (between the two). ... We simply rated Jonathan ahead of Seth.''
When that decision was presented to the table, there was little hesitation among the Lightning scouts as to who they were going to select, having at least been presented with the possibility previously.
“Steve was very good. He went through every single possibility that could come our way, so we knew who we wanted ahead of who and what the potential was for those top four players,'' Murray said. “So we were prepared for all situations and we got who we felt was the best player.''
In the end, Drouin's talent level proved too unique of a package to pass up.
“In Jonathan's case, he has a special compete level and a special skill set that you very rarely see come along,'' Murray said. “When you see some of the things he can do and how he attacks people and beat people one-on-one and beat goaltenders, the best thing he does is set up other players around him. He really is a complete forward.''
Drouin rated just ahead of Jones on Tampa Bay's list. With a rare set of puck skills, ability to see and read the game at an elite level and make plays at a high level, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound winger has a chance to make an immediate impact on the Lightning roster as soon as next season.
And that's what he plans to do.
“I want to step in next year. I'm pretty confident about that,'' Drouin said. “I've been getting ready already and I think I'll be ready next year.''
There are a few highlight reels on YouTube of Drouin in action. His ability to stick handle is unmatched by anybody in the draft and how he shifts in and away from traffic with the puck on his stick can make opponents look foolish while teammates know to be ready for Drouin to find their sticks.
“He's a very special player, a player with special vision and great hockey sense,'' said MacKinnon, a linemate of Drouin's at Halifax the past two seasons. “He's going to have a long, great career in the NHL. He's a very special guy and a very special player. He's going to do wonders with (Tampa Bay). ... I think his puck-handling stands out for me.
"That he creates the other things with his hockey sense. His decision-making as well is one of the best on the job, so he's a very special player.''
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper did his homework on the players Tampa Bay could potentially select, watching the Memorial Cup and tape of the World Junior Championships. Cooper liked what he saw in Drouin.
“When you can get into a situation where you get a player that is not only elite, but makes everybody around him better ... we couldn't be happier to be able to get him,'' Cooper said.
“The NHL is the best of the best and there is going to be that learning curve, there is going to be that bump in the road. ... I'm fairly sure that he is going to jump the curve a little sooner than others.''