Jamie Drysdale is the first defenseman examined in our prospect draft series. He is an 18-year-old (April birthday), right-handed defenseman. The Canadian is listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds and has played his whole junior career in Canada, most recently spending the past two seasons in the OHL with the Erie Otters. The Otters’ alternate captain also played for his country in the past two World Junior Championships (WJC). Drysdale finished ranked third in the final 2020 North American Draft Prospect Rankings.
In the 2018-19 season, Drysdale played in 63 games with an Erie Otters’ team that was ranked third worse in the OHL in terms of points. In these 63 games, he tallied the fourth-most points on his team, with 40 in 63 games. He also had a team-worst rating of minus-24. This year was not much better for the Otters, as they were once again last in the OHL’s Midwest Division. However, Drysdale improved, as he tallied 47 points (nine goals, 38 assists) and contributed a plus-nine rating in 49 games. As mentioned above, he also participated in this year’s WJC where he helped Team Canada capture a gold medal, contributing a goal and two assists in seven games.
The Scouting Report
Drysdale is a terrific two-way defenseman. What makes him an elite prospect is his unreal skating ability. Watching his tape shows a guy that can fly, not only skating forward, but he excels at swinging his hips and skating backward as well. This skating ability gives him the ability to make it tough on opponents to get past him and allows him to help his partner out if they get beat. He is easily one of the best skaters in this draft.
Another strength of Drysdale’s is his awareness and hockey-IQ. This ability helps him constantly keep possessions alive in the offensive zone and be crafty in ensuring entries out of his own end. Additionally, he has capabilities to serve as a point-man on the power play. Although he lacks size, he likes to play physical along the boards, which is great to see in young defensemen.
There are some areas where Drysdale can improve. As mentioned above, he is a terrific skater. But because of this, he can become over-reliant on this trait. His skating ability results in him playing extremely aggressive, which can result in him getting sucked into a play on defense or pinching in at inopportune times on offense. Each of these can hurt his team, especially if his safety-net, his skating, does not bail him out.
Another area that can be improved on is his shot. For a defenseman, his slapshot is not as powerful as it should be. This, of course, will be addressed as the 170-pounder bulks up with age. Having a heavy shot will also help improve his power play prowess.
Drysdale is by far the best defenseman in this draft class, and he’s going to develop into a great top-pairing defenseman. Whoever drafts him will get a guy who’s better in the defensive end but more than capable offensively. He’ll also have the capabilities to be a point man on a second power play unit.
Being the top defenseman in the draft, I project he will be off the board anywhere between selections three and seven. This means the Devils may not have a shot at Drysdale if they remain at six.
Fit With the Devils
The Devils need both offense and defense. Luckily, the team has three first-round selections in the upcoming draft, so the team’s general manager will be able to address both needs. However, the Devils should not use its first pick on a defenseman. This should rule out Drysdale unless he somehow drops down to around 10, where the Coyotes’ pick the Devils own may be.
The forward talent at the top of the board is just too good. And given the Devils have struggled to put the puck in the back of the net for seemingly years, it’d be better to address this need with the team’s first pick. This while using either one of the other two first-rounders on defense.
Ranking of Evaluated Prospects
1. Marco Rossi (04/30/2020)
2. Alexander Holtz (04/29/2020)
3. Jamie Drysdale (Today)
4. Lucas Raymond (04/28/2020)