A year after demanding a trade, Lightning winger Jonathan Drouin says Tampa 'feels like home'

"I didn't [ask for the trade] because of the guys in our dressing room," Jonathan Drouin said. "When I came back, the guys were great. It was like nothing happened. That was huge for me to see that guys didn't really care about what had happened before." AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

TAMPA, Fla. -- To say it has been an interesting year for former junior scoring sensation and No. 3 overall pick Jonathan Drouin is to offend the word interesting.

Just over a year ago, Drouin asked to be traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team that took him with its first selection in 2013. After his demand, the Lightning sent Drouin to the minors, and he subsequently left the organization entirely as he awaited a trade that never materialized.

Five weeks later, Drouin returned to the Lightning's American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse, where he played well. He rejoined the Lightning later that spring for a postseason run to the Eastern Conference finals, which they lost in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Drouin, 21, had five goals and 14 points in 17 playoff games for the Lightning.

Like his entire team, Drouin -- who is in his most productive stretch of the season, with six points in his past four games -- has experienced some ups and downs. ESPN.com caught up with the Montreal native on the eve of an important three-game Western Canadian road trip for his team.

ESPN.com: As a scorer, do you get a feeling of when you're about to go on a hot streak?

Jonathan Drouin: No, you just go out there and play. Some nights you're going to have chances, and some nights you're going to play a real good defensive team. Lately, the puck's going in when I'm shooting. Hopefully that keeps going.

ESPN.com: You went five games without a point before this stretch. When it doesn't happen, are there things you can do to change things up?

Drouin: You obviously look at video of your games, whether you're contributing or you're not. Five games is a little long, but if it's one or two games, maybe you're still playing the right way, playing well, and it's just not going in. But you want to microscope your game a little bit, go to those hard areas to get those bounces -- and then hopefully it starts going in.

ESPN.com: For every young player, there's a learning process of how to break things down and how to change things up. Has that process been difficult for you? Are you more comfortable doing that now?

Drouin: Yeah, I'm way more comfortable now. In junior, you're kind of the old guy, so coming in here with all those veterans is different. You're the young guy. Last year in the playoffs, I think I started to get to know the league, the other players, the systems, what they do -- and to get comfortable.

ESPN.com: What's it like in the dressing room when a team this good is struggling?

Drouin: You want to be in a playoff spot right away, but this is December. Teams are so good, standings are so tight, so we're not hitting the panic button. We're calm, but we still know it's time to step up and get some wins here.

ESPN.com: Is it weird to look at standings and see that you aren't in a playoff spot?

Drouin: For us, for sure. In past years, we were always in a playoff spot. But there are so many good teams, and we're not playing our best hockey right now.

ESPN.com: It's been an eventful year for you. When you look back, do you think you are a different person now?

Drouin: Just [in terms of] maturity. You get used to stuff around the league. You see stuff that maybe you didn't see last year. It was definitely a weird year, with all that stuff, but when I came back here during playoffs, guys were great. It's the same way here now, and it's nice to have the same kind of team.

ESPN.com: When you came back and played so well, did it surprise you how people treated you, that the guys were really good to you?

Drouin: No. Not with these guys. I didn't [ask for the trade] because of the guys in this room. When I came back -- and it was the same in Syracuse -- guys were great, the staff was great. It was like nothing happened. That was huge for me to see that guys didn't really care about what had happened before.

ESPN.com: Did they ever joke with you about it?

Drouin: Yeah, definitely. There have been a couple of jokes.

ESPN.com: Can you tell us what they were?

Drouin: Yeah. "Are you going to go home?" Stuff like that. Guys joke about it, but we're past it now.

ESPN.com: Do you like where your game is now?

Drouin: There's still a lot of stuff I want to improve. But I think it's going in the right direction lately. I think maybe not the past couple of weeks -- I haven't been playing my best hockey -- but the past couple of games I've felt good.

ESPN.com: Have you had family come and stay with you?

Drouin: They visit quite a bit. We're from Montreal, so I see them more [down here in Tampa] in the wintertime. I get a lot of family [visitors] during the wintertime. Sometimes you're alone in your condo, and the time gets pretty long, so it's nice to have them here.

ESPN.com: Do you have a routine away from rink now?

Drouin: At first, it was a little different. Like I said, I'm from Montreal. I'm used to snow and weather changes, but I'm definitely not complaining. [Tampa] is a fun city. It definitely feels like home now.