The Lightning relied more on rookies than any other team last season.

A league-high eight played in at least 40 games. Thirteen saw action overall. Two, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, were finalists for the Calder Trophy, the league's rookie of the year award.

But wing Jonathan Drouin, the hyped third overall pick in the 2013 draft, spent the year back with Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

So though it seems like a virtual certainty Drouin not only will make the Lightning next season but make a big impact, forgive the 19-year-old for not making any guarantees.

"I'm closer than I was last year," Drouin said Wednesday, when the Lightning opened its five-day development camp at the Ice Sports Forum. "But it's not given to you. They proved it to me last year."

Drouin was definitely disappointed about not making the Lightning last season, but he believes that in the end, it's going to help him. He believes he rounded his game more with a third year in juniors, improving his faceoffs, getting stronger defensively and becoming a leader as captain.

"I think I'm a better player," he said.

Drouin has always been a gifted scorer, racking up 108 points (79 assists) in the regular season last year, along with a league-leading 41 in the playoffs. But it was the other areas of his game the Lightning was impressed by the most. Drouin wasn't just taking shots, he was blocking them.

"As the year went on, Jonathan got better and better," general manager Steve Yzerman said. "What I really like is when he went back (to juniors), he was the No. 1 penalty killer, ran the power play, played in all situations. We watched him play. He was dominating at both ends of the rink. His game evolved over one year. He got the opportunity there to do it, and I believe he's a better player because of it."