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Getting to Know: Jamie Drysdale

Toronto native top-ranked defenseman among prospects

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

When NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings on April 8, there was only one defenseman among the top three North American skaters.

Among international skaters, no defenseman cracked the top five.

That leaves Erie Otters defenseman Jamie Drysdale in good company, just behind forwards Alexis Lafrenière and Quinton Byfield on the list of top North American skaters.

Drysdale, Lafrenière, Byfield and Tim Stuetzle, the top-ranked international skater, all appeared on a video conference call together the day the final rankings came out.

Tweet from @PR_NHL: Meet four of the top prospects for the 2020 #NHLDraft:Alexis Lafreniere, No. 1 North American SkaterTim Stuetzle, No. 1 International SkaterQuinton Byfield, No. 2 North American Skater (@byfield55)Jamie Drysdale, No. 3 North American SkaterZoom chat:

"Jamie Drysdale is the kind of player that every team is looking for, very smart puck-moving defenseman who can beat you with his vision, beat you with his hockey sense, able to use that great quickness and thinking to defense and strip a puck and turn it around and before you know it it's going the other way and can find the open man on the attack, makes him too tough to pass up if he's available when you're picking," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory said on the April 8 video conference call.

The Otters had claimed a playoff berth as the eighth team in the Ontario Hockey League's Western Conference with 63 points (26-26-4-7).

But on March 23, the OHL, along with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Western Hockey League and the Canadian Hockey League, announced the cancellation of the 2020 President Cup Playoffs a week after canceling the rest of the regular-season games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Obviously it's a bit unfortunate that playoffs aren't able to be played," Drysdale said on the video conference call. "I think everyone was looking forward to that time of year so obviously unfortunate not on that part. I think like everyone else said, it's important that everyone just stays home and stays safe as well as making sure they're staying in shape and doing everything they can to just at the kind of level of hockey they are, whether it's shooting pucks or working out.

"I think that's still important to do. It's not just time off so I think everyone's just kind of trying to stay in hockey shape and do what they can."

Drysdale, listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, was ranked 13th among OHL defensemen with 47 points (9-38-47) in 49 games.

Tweet from @OHLHockey: Top 2020 #NHLDraft prospect Jamie Drysdale kept up a consistent pace on the @ErieOtters blue line and impressed in high-pressure situations on both ends of the ice this past season 🎥

His 0.96 points per game placed him 10th among OHL blueliners.

On the call, Drysdale was asked what qualities are most important for defensemen in today's game.

"I think there's definitely some that are important," Drysdale said. "You look at guys in the NHL that are being really successful right now with the young guys like (Vancouver's) Quinn Hughes and (Colorado's) Cale Makar. Things that stand out with them are skating and just how they think the game, how they have confidence with the puck.

"So I think those are three things that I try and use as much as I can in my game and I think three things that that will lead to success at the next level."

Drysdale spoke on the Detroit News' OctoPulse podcast about his commitment to improving his already highly advanced skating skills.

"I think with skating, it's something you can always get better at," Drysdale said. "It's something that you have to nitpick in order to improve. Everyone can skate, everyone's fast at the next level. Even in the Ontario League so it's just finding the little things that can put you overboard and just help you have that little edge. For me, it's something that I've always been confident with and I want to continue to be that way so just working with skating coaches for the past couple summers and stuff like that. It's definitely something that I'm continuing to work on and want to continue to be one of my strengths."

Of course, not many players are able to skate right now due to the pandemic but Drysdale continues to work hard to stay in shape.

"My parents ordered a bunch of gym equipment so I kind of got a little setup in my living room, kind of gassed all the couches there so we could make it a little gym spot," Drysdale said April 8. "Been doing that, shooting a lot of pucks and just trying to make the most of it.

"I think it's just important to do what you can, everything you can. Every little thing will help benefit you in that aspect. It's just a matter of doing what you can. I think it's just trying to put some strength on, put some size on if you can, show up as best you can."

When he's not working out, Drysdale said he is like many people who are binge watching shows on Netflix or listening to music.

"I'm watching Tiger King right now," Drysdale said. "It's definitely an interesting show. I just found it on Netflix and it's not long but it's just keeping me busy right now. It's pretty entertaining.

"On the music aspect, I've never been a rap guy, I tend to not like the music in the minor hockey league dressing rooms, which is all pretty hardcore rap. I'm more of a country guy, I'm really into country. I think I don't really need rap or rock music to get me fired up. Country will do the job. That's kind of how I work."

Drysdale is a Toronto native so it's not surprising that he looks to the Maple Leafs when asked what player he admires.

Tweet from @PR_NHL: Jamie Drysdale of the @ErieOtters, the No. 3-ranked N.A. skater for the 2020 #NHLDraft, models his game after the two-way play of @MapleLeafs blueliner Morgan Rielly. Full story:

"I've always been a Leafs fan so definitely a guy like Morgan Rielly," Drysdale said. "I think the way he can play both ends of the ice and make an impact, you can trust him in all zones. I think definitely a player that I like to watch and just take anything I can and add it to my game. Another guy, obviously a young stud, Cale Makar. He's pretty hard not to like when you watch him. How he's as young as he is in his first full season and making the impact he is, I think that's just a big confidence factor alongside the skill he has so I think definitely another guy I like to model my game after."

Rielly wears No. 44 but that is not why Drysdale wears No. 4.

"My dad was a big fan of Bobby Orr when he was younger so I think just that aspect of it," Drysdale said. "Arguably the best defenseman to play the game so I think that's definitely one of the reasons I wear it and I've worn it my whole life. My brother wore it when he played so it was just something that we stuck with and it's been working."

The Maple Leafs were third in the Atlantic Division when the season paused so it seems highly unlikely that Drysdale would end up in his hometown whenever the NHL Entry Draft takes place.

Depending on how the draft lottery is conducted, the Wings might end up with a chance to select Drysdale, which would be just fine with the young defenseman.

"The Red Wings are definitely an organization that goes back a while, just a team that I'm sure most kids, most hockey people know a bit about. (Steve) Yzermans and (Nicklas) Lidstroms are names that you can't miss. I think they're definitely special players that have obviously made names for themselves and help make a name for the organization.

"There's definitely a stretch the Red Wings had a lot of good moments, winning Stanley Cups, making it to the Finals over a bunch of years so definitely a really good organization."

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