It couldn’t have been a more perfect NHL debut for Jamie Drysdale. Not only did he score his first career NHL goal, but he also assisted on the first NHL goal of Trevor Zegras, with whom he competed against at the World Juniors and then roomed with when the pair were both playing for the San Diego Gulls in the AHL.
But even with the storybook beginning, it would make sense to ensure that Drysdale doesn’t play every remaining game on the Ducks’ schedule in order to give him a better chance to win the Calder Trophy, the NHL’s version of Rookie of the Year.
Don’t Dress Drysdale
The Ducks currently have 22 games remaining in their season following Monday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. If Drysdale plays all of the Ducks’ remaining games, he will no longer be eligible to win the Calder next season. The qualifications to be eligible to win the Calder mean that you cannot have played more than 25 games in a single season. It would surely be a disappointment to see Drysdale miss out on a shot at winning the Calder next season because he barely surpassed the 25-game threshold this season.
The obvious solution to this would be to make Drysdale a healthy scratch for at least two games, ensuring that he will remain eligible to win the Calder next season. The Ducks have been fairly cautious with their young players in the past and even recently scratched Zegras in one of the games of a back-to-back in their series against the Colorado Avalanche. Utilizing a similar method with Drysdale looks to be the most logical decision.
Scratching the young defenseman will by no means be detrimental to his development either. A game or two in the press box can allow a player to see the game from a different vantage point and pick out what improvements he can make once he returns to the lineup. A game off is also a chance to clear your head and be ready to go again the next night out. In a season as quick and hectic as this one, some time off can be a good thing.
Return to the AHL?
Another option that the Ducks could choose is to send Drysdale back to the AHL. A combination of the defensemen’s solid play in the minors and the Ducks’ growing list of injured blueliners necessitated a call-up of the 18-year-old, but the blue line will be crowded once Hampus Lindholm returns from injury––Josh Manson recently returned on Monday after missing six games. Josh Mahura, who was recently reassigned to San Diego, is also competing for a full-time spot and should have a better shot in the long-term at securing one than current stopgaps Jacob Larsson and Ben Hutton.
Not to be forgotten is offseason signing Kodie Curran, the 30-year-old who won MVP in the Swedish Hockey League during the 2019-20 season. Given the Ducks’ abysmal showing this season, head coach Dallas Eakins may opt to give some new faces a look as the season nears its conclusion. The Gulls are also still in the Calder Cup race so a playoff berth for them could mean that Drysdale spends more time in the AHL as one of their offensive leaders.
Preparing for the Future
You only get one chance in your NHL career to win the Calder but with or without it, Drysdale is going to be a big part of the Ducks’ future. They currently lack a surplus of right-handed defensemen in their organization behind Manson and Drysdale and there’s no guarantee that the former will remain beyond next season when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Drysdale will turn 19 next month and it’s quite possible that he might not have set foot in the Ducks’ lineup at all if it weren’t for the unusual nature of this season. He’s already displaying his skills at such a young age and the Ducks will obviously want to make sure his development progresses in the best and most efficient manner. Perhaps part of that will involve him winning the Calder Trophy.
Derek has been a hockey fan for almost a decade and has been a sports fan in general for more than two decades.
He graduated from UCCS in Colorado Springs, CO in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Communication. He spent the last several years as part of UCCS’ on-campus student newspaper staff (both as a reporter and editor) and is now creating Ducks-related content from his home in Southern California.