It’s finally time folks! We finally have a defenseman breaking onto our draft board! Our first entry is Jamie Drysdale, a smooth skating right handed defenseman coming off of a really strong season with Erie of the OHL. There’s a lot to like about Drysdale’s game, and some scouts believe that he has the potential to charm a team into taking him in the top five (or even top three!). And why’s that? Well, let’s get right into the particulars.
BSH 2020 Community Draft Board, No. 7: Jamie Drysdale
Team: Erie Otters, OHL
Statistics: 9 G, 38 A in 49 GP
No. 3 (NA Skaters) by NHL Central Scouting
No. 7 by Future Considerations
No. 3 by ISS Hockey
No. 8 by Wheeler/The Athletic
What’s there to like?
We led this profile with his stat line from last season, so let’s just talk about that one first, because it is quite impressive. Drysdale totalled 47 points in 49 games with Erie last season, which was good for 13th in scoring among all defensemen in the OHL (and, for what it’s worth, all of the players ahead of him played more games). He has an accurate shot, and when asked to hang out at the point and walk the line, he excels, and does well at getting shots through traffic.
What also really stands out about Drysdale is that he’s an incredibly smooth skater, which makes him, to use a favorite buzz term, a highly mobile puck-moving defenseman. His stride is easy, and his edgework on cuts and pivots is solid, and this plus his strong vision helps him to be really strong on the breakouts and in transition. His passing is crisp as well, so both of his options on breakouts can be solid, whether trying to skate the puck out on his own or trying to find a seam to hit a teammate for a pass to let them get things moving.
And as for his defensive game, we might expect it would be a bit shaky, considering Drysdale is a young, offensive minded defenseman, but really that defensive game is generally pretty solid. He shows strong defensive positioning, has a good stick to break up plays, and overall has pretty good gap control. This side isn’t perfect, but there’s still a lot to like, and reason for optimism that it can continue to improve.
What’s not to like?
There really aren’t any major holes in Drysdale’s in game. He is smaller for a defenseman, at 5’11 and 170 pounds, that’s worth noting. And while the height isn’t necessarily something to be fussed about—we’ve seen smaller defensemen be successful at the NHL level—he will need to get stronger as he continues to develop. He can be exposed from time to time as it is, out-muscled by other players, and that’s something that’s going to need to come along.
His defensive game, as we’ve noted, already looks pretty good, but there’s still room for improvement. His gap control could use a bit more work, as well as his coverage on 2-on-1s, for example. He might not ever develop into a full shutdown defenseman, that’s not his game, but that doesn’t mean he can’t put in a bit more work to at least get a little bit closer to it. A little more polish never hurt anyone.
How would he fit in the Flyers’ system?
Looking at their prospect pool, the Flyers are a bit thinner at defense, particularly in terms of players who project to be really top-end defenders, and Drysdale certainly checks that box, and would bolster the Flyers’ system where they most need it.
Now, there are concerns (and that might even be too strong of a word) among some that Drysdale, even if he hits his ceiling, might not grade out as a number one defenseman, but you know what? That would be okay here! Ivan Provorov is already in that role, Travis Sanheim still has the potential to hit his ceiling as a top pair defenseman, so in a system like this one, a player like Drysdale wouldn’t face the pressure to be perfect in order to live up to his pedigree, he just has to develop and be good and he could well have a place in the lineup. He can be useful without needing to be The Guy.
Could the Flyers actually get him?
If he goes somewhere around seventh as our board projects him to, we are getting into the territory where it seems a little more possible that a team could move up to get him, but as we’ve mentioned before, the package the Flyers would have to put together to move up that much would be really significant. And there really aren’t any indications that Drysdale is going to fall way down in the draft—he has a high upside on his own, and we know how hot of a commodity even mediocre RHD can be in the NHL, so that would make him a pretty enticing pick. If he falls into a team’s lap as the best available pick, it’s hard to imagine a team passing on him, or at least too many of them where it would matter to the Flyers.