Forward Jonathan Drouin's bid to prove to the Tampa Bay Lightning that he deserves to be back in the NHL hit another setback in the minors.
Syracuse Crunch general manager Julien BriseBois announced Drouin wouldn't play in the American Hockey League team's game at Utica on Wednesday night after the player missed the team's pre-practice meeting a day earlier.
BriseBois said it's a one-game punishment, and Drouin will return for the Crunch's next game against Albany on Friday.
The Syracuse Post-Standard first reported Drouin being benched. The newspaper reported Drouin has apologized to the team, and said he missed the meeting because of an issue with his alarm clock.
Drouin's agent Allan Walsh declined comment.
The 20-year-old had just rejoined the Lightning's AHL affiliate on March 7 after he had been suspended indefinitely for leaving the Crunch before a game on Jan. 20.
The timing doesn't help Drouin, even though BriseBois said this latest misstep doesn't change the organization's outlook toward the player, who was selected with the No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft.
The discipline comes a little more than a week after Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman called the possibility "very realistic" of Drouin being recalled to Tampa Bay before the end of this season.
Drouin acknowledged to The Associated Press last weekend that the responsibility fell on him.
"I don't make those decisions. But it's definitely nice to [hear]," he said, referring to Yzerman's comments. "I've said it since Day 1 I showed up back here: It'll be up to my play to prove that I can go back up there."
Tumultuous season for young forward
It has been a tumultuous season for Drouin, in which his career has been derailed by injuries, a demotion to the minors, his agent going public with a trade demand, and with Drouin informing the Crunch he would no longer play for them.
He was reinstated by the Lightning after Drouin contacted Yzerman.
"At one point, I realized maybe it's time to get back to playing hockey," Drouin said.
Drouin had two goals and an assist in seven games before he left the Crunch. And he has five goals and an assist in six games since being reinstated, including a two-goal game in a 6-2 win over St. John's on Sunday.
After scoring the Crunch's fifth goal on a wraparound, he made it 6-2 with a power-play goal. Breaking up the right wing, Drouin sneaked past defenceman John Scott along the boards, drove in alone on net and snapped a shot that beat Zachary Fucale high on the short side.
Scoring was never an issue for Drouin in the Quebec Major Junior League, where he combined for 77 goals and 242 points in 128 games.
At the NHL level, Drouin's defensive play was suspect, which led to him having difficulty earning a regular role with the Lightning.
"There's a reason why people are down here. If you were that good, if you were doing everything right, you wouldn't be down here," Crunch coach and former NHLer Rob Zettler said last weekend. "His play away from the puck has got to be better, and I think he knows that."
Zettler is focusing on the future rather than the past.
"He's part of the big picture of the Tampa Bay Lightning," Zettler said. "And what that means going forward, who knows. But the bottom line is he has to play well to help us win, which in turn will help Tampa Bay win, and everybody looks good."
Drouin isn't second-guessing himself.
"Looking back in a couple of years, I'll probably see a couple of things that maybe you did right or wrong. But right now, it's hard to say," Drouin said. "Definitely some bumps in the road, so it's better to learn from them and grow from them."