Erie Otters defenceman Jamie Drysdale is arguably the top-ranked defensive prospect in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Although Jake Sanderson has shot up the ranks, there’s no doubt that Jamie Drysdale has the talent to be a top-10 pick in the draft.
Future Considerations – 7th
ISS – 3rd
NHLCS (NA) – 3rd
Drysdale, 18, is a 5-11, 170 lbs right-shot defenceman who was tasked with quarterbacking Erie’s offence from the backend.
The Toronto ON, native has a smooth skating stride, elite offensive instincts and has a well-rounded defensive game that fits the mold of a modern NHL defenceman.
Throughout my work as an OHL beat reporter for ohlnetwork.ca (covering the IceDogs), I was lucky enough to get three live viewings of Drysdale and watched him and the Erie Otters on a regular basis.
October 17th 2019 – Erie vs Niagara
Erie (7) – Niagara (3)
The Niagara IceDogs struggled this season to the tune of the 2nd worst team in the OHL, however at the beginning of the year Niagara did have Phil Tomasino and Akil Thomas (2 of the OHL’s best players).
In this game Drysdale did what you would expect any top prospect to do…he flat out dominated.
As an 18-year-old defenceman of Drysdale’s caliber there is a lot of pressure to not only look like an elite hockey player but to produce points as well.
Drysdale did both on October 17th, from a points perspective, Drysdale scored twice and added an assist for a three-point night.
Drysadale’s calling card is his skating ability, against the IceDogs on October 17th Drysdale’s transition game stood out. Although I didn’t have the resources to track the game, Drysdale could exit his defensive zone whenever he wanted, and the IceDogs couldn’t do anything to stop him.
His lone assist came on the powerplay, against Niagara Drysdale showed his ability to QB a team’s number one powerplay unit.
Drysdale possesses great vision which allows him to find tough passing lanes and gives him the ability to get his shots through.
He ended the night as the game’s first star of the game.
November 21st – Erie vs Niagara
Erie (4) – Niagara (5) SO
A rather pedestrian night from Drysdale in November. The Erie defender was quiet on the stat sheet, only recording 3 shots on goal.
He was still effective in transition and helped the Otters exit their zone with ease on a consistent basis.
The Otters came back from a 4-2 defecit to force a OT and a shootout before eventually losing.
Drysdale went head-to-head with Akil Thomas in overtime and defended him extremely well while they were on the ice together.
Although his offensive game was quiet, it was still a positive to see Drysdale effectively breakout of his own zone and defend one of the best players in the OHL.
March 7th – Erie vs Niagara
Erie (4) – Niagara (2)
Drysdale picked up one assist in the win for Erie.
He did his regular thing, shining with his ability to exit the zone with puck control and hit his teammates with crisp accurate breakout passes.
The main bright spot for Drysdale in this game was his ability on the powerplay. Although Erie only went 1/3, Drysdale set up Erie’s lone PP goal.
On the goal, two of the IceDogs defenders swarmed Drysdale on the half-wall, he stayed calm, spun away from a check and delivered a perfect pass to Drew Hunter who’s shot got tipped in for the goal.
Now that I provided a brief description of my live viewings of Drysdale, I will dive deeper into his all-around game. Highlighting three areas discussed above:
– Transition Game
– Offensive abilities
– Defensive game
In today’s NHL an effective player must able to excel in the transition game.
Drysdale’s skating ability and his offensive instincts make him excellent in transition. For this article I tracked the 2019-20 Hlinka Gretzky Cup Semi-Finals and Championship game.
In the semi-finals against Sweden, Drysdale was a driving force in Canada’s breakout strategy. In the Gold Medal game against Russia, Drysdale wasn’t as prominent in the breakout game, but he was still a contributor.
Controlled Breakouts – 9
Controlled Entries – 1
Controlled Breakouts – 2
Controlled Entries – 2
Drysdale had a breakout rate of 93.3% and an entry rate of 37.5%, while the entry rate isn’t all that impressive it’s important to note that Drysdale only attempted 8 entries in those games.
While his breakout ability is one of his best assets, I would like to see Drysdale be more aggressive in his puck carrying.
At 5v5 Drysdale uses his passing to help transition into offence, but once he’s on the powerplay his mentality tends to switch.
While on the man advantage, Drysdale becomes more aggressive and attempts to carry the puck in more often and has substantial success.
As a defenceman, it isn’t all that alarming that Drysdale isn’t aggressive in his zone entries. He uses his vision and his passing ability to make accurate passes in the neutral zone that put his teammates in prime position to enter the zone with ease.
Jamie Drysdale (Erie) appreciation tweet. Solid backcheck along the boards. Goes zone to zone with the puck.
— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) January 17, 2020
In the above play you can see (after an excellent defensive play) Drysdale skates to the other side of the ice, receives the pass at the circles and uses his skating to effectively breakout and enter the opposing zone with control. This is an excellent example of
Drysdale’s effectiveness in transition he has the skating ability and the smarts to execute a controlled breakout and entry on a beautiful end-to-end rush. Drysdale’s effectiveness in transition allows his team to set up in the offensive zone with control of the puck.
That’s when Drysdale can put his excellent offensive instincts on display.
For the most part, player ability can be measured in 3 different ways:
– Possession Numbers and Advanced Metrics
– Eye Test
Offensive ability can fly under the same categories.
While offensive production should be the lowest measurement for a defenceman’s ability to be effective on offence, Drysdale’s production in the OHL is impossible to ignore.
In his rookie year, Drysdale appeared in 63 games, scoring seven times and adding 33 assists (40 points).
A leap in production was expected heading into his draft year and he delivered (47 points in 49 games).
Since the 2014 NHL Draft, 6 CHL defenceman have been drafted in the top-10…Drysdale’s 0.95 points/game would rank 3rd on that list:
Evan Bouchard (2018 10th overall) 1.29 points/game Bowen Byram (2019 4th overall) 1.05 points/game Jamie Drysdale (2020 NHL Draft) 0.95 points/game
Aaron Ekblad (2014 1st overall) 0.91 points/game Mikhail Sergachev (2016 9th overall) 0.85 points/game
Olli Juolevi (2016 5th overall) 0.73 points/game
Haydn Fleury (2014 7th overall) 0.65 points/game
Production may not be that important for offensive minded production, but it’s impossible to ignore Drysdale’s ability to produce points.
Jamie Drysdale walks right in, doesn’t even take his shoes off.pic.twitter.com/z6OMCojBoA
— #WorldJuniors (@HC_WJC) January 4, 2020
Drysdale uses his skating ability and his offensive instincts to get into a prime scoring location (the slot) and wires a shot past the Finnish goaltender.
These types of plays were the norm for Drysdale throughout the 2019-20 season, here are a few more examples.
Rookie renaissance for @ErieOtters.
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) December 2, 2018
Drysdale’s goal (2nd goal in the video) comes off a beautiful end-to-end rush and a slick toe-drag goal from the slot. Even for a defenceman, Drysdale has a nose for getting to slot for scoring chances.
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisNHL) August 5, 2019
On this assist, Drysdale uses his skating ability to get into the slot, then uses his vision and passing ability to fire an accurate cross-ice pass to Cole Perfetti for the goal.
Just by watching Drysdale you can see that he is a top-level prospect. His production numbers match what you see when you watch him play.
Although there are areas Drysdale can work on, he has all the tools you would want in a prospect.
Possession Numbers/Advanced Metrics
While his production numbers are impressive, those numbers lose meaning if a defencman has to rely solely on his stats to prove he’s a good hockey player (see Rasmus Ristolainen).
Drysdale doesn’t appear to have that problem.
Using the same two games from the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup I tracked, Drysdale’s numbers appear as such:
Semi-Finals vs Sweden
– CF% – 70.2%
– SCF% – 81.3%
– Shot Assists – 9
– Shot Attempts (Shots) – 6 (3)
Finals vs Russia
– CF% – 61.9%
– SCF% – 85.7%
– Shot Assists – 2
– Shot Attempts (Shots) – 2 (1)
In the two games, Drysdale’s possession numbers are through the roof. While it’s only a two-game sample it’s easy to see that when he’s on the ice, his team tends to dominate the play and these games were no different.
The other important stat is shot assists, while the Sweden game was far more impressive…Drysdale was able to show an ability to consistently hit his teammates with accurate passes to put them in scoring/shooting positions.
In the modern NHL, it’s easy to get caught up in a defenceman’s ability to put points on the board.
However people tend to forget just how important the defensive side of the game is. Drysdale’s defensive game is very impressive.
If there’s any area of his game that is overlooked, it’s his defensive game, but he is a very polished defender who will only continue to improve.
His ability to skate backwards, use an active stick and keep his opponents from beating him outside or inside impresses me.
Here’s the Perfetti assist from last night. Never gave up after a timely play by Jamie Drysdale. No coincidence that he knew where the puck was. If Perfetti was a split second slower to react, #93 red Foudy takes the puck. This is fantastic anticipation in the blink of an eye. pic.twitter.com/5dqoVEKts9
— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) January 17, 2020
Despite the puck ending up in the back of the net later in the video, Drysdale makes an excellent play on Perfetti at the beginning. He keeps him out wide and uses his stick to breakup Perfetti’s initial rush.
Any team that is lucky enough to draft Drysdale will be getting an excellent prospect. Like I said in this profile, he’s the perfect defensive prospect for a modern NHL.
He’s got the offensive game to produce at the next level, and he possesses the defensive ability to help shutdown his opponent’s top players. I think Drysdale can easily project as a top-4 defenceman in the NHL.
From a Sabres perspective: Although the Sabres should heavily consider taking a highly skilled forward like Lucas Raymond or Alex Holtz, if they MUST take a defenceman Sabres fans should hope it’s Drysdale.