Three precocious members of the 2020 NHL draft class already have logged more than 100 games in the league.
Two are easy answers considering they were drafted first and third, respectively: New York Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere (135 games) and Ottawa Senators forward Tim Stutzle (132).
The third happens to be Ducks defenseman Jamie Drysdale (105 games), who was taken sixth in the first round. That’s notable for several reasons given that defensemen – at least ones not named Cale Makar – traditionally take longer to develop. Everyone is anxious to see a finished product, instantly. But it takes much longer for most mortals to mature on the blue line.
Drysdale, 20, will start his second full season in the league with a new number and a fresh look on the defense with additions John Klingberg and Dmitry Kulikov, the latter who might end up being Drysdale’s D partner.
Drysdale spoke about those topics and more with the Southern California News Group in interviews from his offseason home in Toronto and Sunday at Honda Center at a meet-and-greet event associated with the number changes for Trevor Zegras and Drysdale.
How exactly did the number change, to No. 6 from No. 34, come about?
Drysdale: To be honest, it was a little bit of a weird situation. I brought it up to our equipment managers that I wanted to switch numbers at some point. When that would be, I wasn’t sure. I told them that I would change to six if it came up.
Then this summer, I got a new helmet with the No. 6 on it. It was a surprise to me that they put the new number on it. It was pretty cool.
I had only ever worn four. At international tournaments, I was always No. 6. Obviously Cam (Fowler) is No. 4. I wanted to switch to a single digit – so six looked good.
Did you ever buy a jersey when you were a kid growing up in Toronto?
Drysdale: I had a few. I had an (Alex) Ovechkin jersey for a while. I must have had a couple of (Toronto Maple) Leafs – I was on that bandwagon.
You played in 81 games in 2021-22 – the most you’ve played in one season – so what were your primary takeaways from that experience?
Drysdale: It’s a long year. With the regular season alone and the travel and the schedule, it’s long and tough. It was a lot of fun just being around the guys every day. You go into the rink and playing in Anaheim is pretty sweet. You walk out and it is 25 degrees (Celsius, equal to 77 Fahrenheit) and perfectly sunny and you’ve got palm trees everywhere. Being my first full year, I learned a lot. I was fortunate enough to catch Getzy’s (Ryan Getzlaf) last year, which was awesome.
What did you gain from that long season that you can carry into this upcoming season?
Drysdale: I’d say two main things, that go hand in hand. The first thing is to have a short memory. You’re going to have a (bad) game every once in a while. If you play enough of them, not everything is going to go your way. On the flip side, the good part about that is that you can play (poorly) and you have a game the next night. It’s a quick turnaround. The second thing is playing with confidence. We’re always told by coaches and players that you’re on the team for a reason. Don’t change what you’re doing or try to play a certain way to try and please people.
Did you change anything in your summer training regime to get ready for camp?
Drysdale: The most important thing is putting on size. I’m not the biggest guy – just putting on some weight. I put on about 10 pounds this summer. I’m happy with that, being able to play at a heavier weight.
That was probably the main priority. I was doing my standard ramping up the skating about a month out from camp, on the ice four or five times a week.
Hockey DB had you listed at 183 pounds, so are you up to 190-195 now?
Drysdale (laughing): Not quite, just shy of 190. I played all of last year at just under 180. I think 183 was my first weigh-in at camp and I usually lose weight during the year.
What was the messaging you received from the coaching staff at the end of the season?
Drysdale: They just said they thought I had a good year – a little bit of a tough situation trading some top guys at the deadline. I was playing big minutes and playing against a lot of top lines in the league. It’s tough. They were saying, ‘it’s going to be good for you in the long run.’ They were happy with the year. For lack of a better word, work my (butt) off this summer and come into camp with confidence.
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Have you spent much time studying the games of top defensemen around the league, including your new teammate John Klingberg?
Drysdale: One hundred percent. Anytime you can catch games and watch guys and see what they do, it’s only beneficial. If you can take a thing here or there, why not? I used to not be the biggest fan of watching too much hockey But I started to watch it way more.
He (Klingberg) is a guy that I can learn a lot from personally. I’m looking forward to it, Right-handed, offensive-style D. When you sign someone of that caliber, it’s always positive.
How is it living with Zegras? It certainly has the makings of a legit reality show.
Drysdale: We lived together at the end of last year and our first year we lived together too. I don’t think either of us could get mad at one another for being messy because we’re both messy. So at least that cancels each other.
I keep telling myself I’m going to chef up a little bit. But when push comes to shove, I get home after a game or a practice, I don’t know if I want to be cooking.