The Anaheim Ducks addressed an area of need in this year’s NHL Draft, selecting right-handed defenseman Jamie Drysdale with the sixth-overall pick. But while Drysdale is sure to be a key player with the Ducks for a long time to come, how soon could he make the jump to the NHL?
Drysdale had 47 points in 49 OHL games with the Erie Otters last season and it’s up for debate as to how much he can actually continue to develop in junior hockey. Obviously, the ideal route would be for him to head to the AHL but that won’t be an option for another two years.
If Drysdale was to start with the Ducks right away this season, he could be eased in, as Josh Manson and Kevin Shattenkirk will play on the right side in the top-four. On the bottom pairing, Drysdale could play sheltered minutes and wouldn’t be forced into a role he’s not ready for.
However, Anaheim is fairly deep defensively and Kodie Curran, Christian Djoos, Brendan Guhle, Jacob Larsson and Josh Mahura will all be looking for ice time as well. It could certainly make more sense for the Ducks to see what they have in their older prospects right now and avoid burning a year of Drysdale’s entry-level contract.
On top of that, usually most top defensive prospects from the CHL return to junior for another year, as seen with Bowen Byram, Evan Bouchard and Noah Dobson. It’s always better to have a player who’s slightly overdeveloped as opposed to underdeveloped, especially in the case of a defenseman. I’d imagine we see Drysdale return to Erie, even if the level of competition won’t be overly high in the OHL.
However, assuming things go according to plan next season, I can't imagine Drysdale returning to the OHL for a fourth season in 2021. He simply wouldn't be able to further his development without facing tougher competition and at that point, I think it's likely we'd see him turn to professional hockey, even if he can't start in the AHL. It's possible we'd see him eased in on a reduced schedule, like what the New York Islanders did with Noah Dobson this past season.
While Drysdale projects as a future top-pairing defenseman and it's possible that he could get a trial run in the NHL this year, it’s likely we don’t see him earn a spot with the Ducks until the 2021-22 season.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
When will Jamie Drysdale earn a spot in Anaheim's lineup?