Prospect Update: Jamie Drysdale

Photo: AP/Ashley Landis

By Thomas Harrington

Anaheim’s first pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, defenseman Jamie Drysdale played in the NHL, AHL, and World Junior Championships this past season. He was supposed to play in the OHL, but because their entire season was cancelled, he was allowed to play in the AHL well before he was expected to do so. After being drafted in October, Drysdale signed his entry-level contract with Anaheim about a month later.

With no OHL season, Drysdale didn’t start his season until December at the World Juniors. Drysdale and Team Canada finished the tournament with the silver medal, losing to Team USA in the championship game. Drysdale played in all seven games for Team Canada and recorded two assists. Despite the low offensive production, he was one of Canada’s top defensemen. He was paired with Bo Byram on Canada’s top defensive pairing, and they formed the best defensive duo in the tournament.

After the conclusion of the tournament, he went to San Diego to start his professional career much sooner than expected. He started the year on fire and recorded four goals and 10 points in 14 games. In his first eight career AHL games, Drysdale had recorded eight points. If he had played the entire season in the AHL, he likely would have been among the league’s top rookie defensive scorers. Despite how few games he played, he still finished in the top 20 among AHL rookie defensemen, and almost everyone who recorded more points than him played in 10 or more games than Drysdale did. Impressed by his work, Anaheim called him up in the middle of March.

Drysdale didn’t explode onto the NHL scene the way he did in the AHL, but that’s to be expected. In almost every game he played in, he was noticeable on the ice, and finished the season with three goals and eight points in 24 games. In 17 of those games he played over 19 minutes. He also averaged almost two minutes of ice time on the powerplay, second only to Kevin Shattenkirk among Anaheim defensemen. Only once did he play fewer than 15 minutes in a game, and that was when he suffered an upper body injury against St. Louis. He only recorded one powerplay assist, but Anaheim’s powerplay was historically bad. When Drysdale was on the ice with the man advantage, he looked dangerous with and without the puck.

Drysdale returned to the AHL to participate in the Pacific Division’s playoff tournament. He played in all three games for the Gulls and recorded two assists. Both of them were in the first game against Bakersfield, San Diego’s lone win of the playoffs.

I was concerned that Drysdale wasn’t quite NHL ready this past season, but he answered those concerns with his play. Technically, because he played in fewer than 25 games, Drysdale will still be considered a rookie this coming season and he should be with the Ducks for the entire season. It’s currently unclear if the agreement to let Canadian junior players play in the AHL will impact Drysdale or not. He didn’t meet the 20 AHL game minimum threshold, but that’s because he was in the NHL. However, given how well he played for the Ducks this past season, I believe he is ready to be in the NHL on a full-time basis this year and this hopefully won’t be an issue for him.

I have a few expectations for Drysdale in what should be his first full NHL season. First, to play in as many games as possible for the Ducks. I’m fine with him missing a game here or there as needed, but I want him in the lineup almost every night. Second, for his defensive game to improve as the season goes along. Playing defense in the NHL can be very difficult and he’s going to make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them and improve because of them.

Finally, I want to see him put up some points on the powerplay. It would be great if Drysdale was in the Calder Trophy discussion for rookie of the year, but I don’t want to set expectations or hopes too high for him. Also, Drysdale is eligible to play for Team Canada at the World Juniors this year, but since I expect him to be in the NHL, I don’t think the Ducks will let him go.

Drysdale has two years left on his entry-level deal and he’ll be a restricted free agent when it’s over. If he can have a truly great rookie season, I could see Anaheim trying to sign him to an extension as early as next summer. If he has a solid but unspectacular season, then they may wait until the contract is over to give him more NHL experience before re-signing him. Regardless, Anaheim will re-sign Drysdale once his current contract is complete. It remains to be seen if he’ll be Anaheim’s top defenseman for years to come, but he should be among their top four by the time the contract is over, and possibly be there as soon as this season.

The next, and final, prospect update will be on Trevor Zegras.

Related Articles:

Prospect Update: Trevor Janicke

Prospect Update: Jack Perbix

Prospect Update: Black McLaughlin

Prospect Update: Josh Mahura

Prospect Update: Henry Thrun

Prospect Update: Brayden Tracey

Prospect Update: Jacob Perreault

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September 25th, 2021



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