In the last four seasons, Jack Drury has played for three different teams in three different leagues, and at each level, he's evolved and excelled.
Drury captained the Waterloo Black Hawks to the top of the USHL's Western Conference and was named a second team All-Star in 2017-18 before being drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round (42nd overall) of the 2018 NHL Draft. He then played two seasons at Harvard and recorded 63 points (29g, 34a) in 60 games, earning Second Team All-ECAC, Second Team All-Ivy League and ECAC All-Rookie Team honors in his collegiate career.
With the COVID-19 pandemic wiping out Drury's potential junior season at Harvard, he explored overseas options and landed in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) with the Växjö Lakers. In his first professional season, Drury posted 30 points (10g, 20a) in 41 games and was named one of three finalists for the SHL's Rookie of the Year Award. He then helped the Lakers capture the league championship with 11 points (5g, 6a) in 14 playoff games.
It's a pretty impressive string of hockey for Drury, who now figures to play for his fourth different team in a fourth different league in 2021-22, whether that's the Hurricanes or Chicago Wolves.
"It doesn't seem like the league or competition impacts Jack," Canes Assistant General Manager Darren Yorke said. "He just seems to be able to rise to the occasion. It's incredibly exciting."
Each stop has challenged Drury to mold and refine his game, especially as the level of competition has matured.
"The jump from college hockey to the SHL is a big jump. Now you add going from the regular season to the playoffs in the SHL, and that's a big jump. All these little things allow players to graduate to the next level," Yorke said. "When he gets to Raleigh for training camp, he's going to be further ahead than had he just stayed at Harvard because the level of competition is bigger, faster and stronger."
And, so too now is Drury.
"When I got drafted, I was kind of a scrawny 18-year-old. Now I'm 21 and a lot bigger, faster and stronger," he said in a Zoom availability earlier this week. "I think mentally you just learn how to be pro a little bit more and learn how to be a little bit more consistent. Overall skill development, learning how to read plays and things like that that come with time, and I feel like these last couple of years have really helped me out with that."
Video: "I'm incredibly excited. It's a great feeling."
Drury, of course, has strong hockey bloodlines. Jack is the son of Ted Drury, who played over 400 games in the NHL, and the nephew of Chris Drury, a Calder Trophy winner and a Stanley Cup champion.
Jack has set out to carve his own career path in hockey, and he's done so with a support group - including his mother, Liz, who was a three-time All-American lacrosse player at Harvard - that can relate.
"They can provide me with a lot of input, particularly in tough times," Drury said. "They know the mental approaches needed to get through the dips in your career and how you can use those to really better yourself."
Drury is a self-described "offensive, two-way player" who models his game after a player like Montreal's Nick Suzuki, a Stanley Cup finalist and brother of Canes prospect, Ryan.
"I try to play a bit like him. Strong at both ends of the ice, but offensive scoring ability and playmaking ability, as well," Drury said.
"His game is so transferrable, and it's built off his hockey sense and competitiveness," Yorke said. "You may say, well, maybe he's not the sexy, one-on-one type of player, but it doesn't seem to matter what league or level - he continues to produce, and it's because of how smart and competitive he is, and we do feel like the skill is really good."
After agreeing to terms on his three-year, entry-level contract, Drury is now prepared to take the next step in his professional career, and if his growth over the last three years is any indication, he'll adapt and succeed just as he has before.
"I don't think putting a ceiling on Jack is fair. He's probably had people put expectations and ceilings on him before, and all he does is go right through them," Yorke said. "With Jack, we believe in him as a player, and we believe that his potential is going to be an impact player in the NHL. If he can do that tomorrow, great, but I don't think putting a ceiling on him is fair because all he does is exceed expectations."