Now that the Carolina Hurricanes have had time to digest the tough ending to their 2021-22 campaign, it is now time for them to look forward to next season and begin to make roster decisions with the draft and free agency period less than a month away. One particular prospect in the Hurricanes system has been garnering attention since his brief but impressive NHL debut this past season. Forward Jack Drury got the call last December when the Hurricanes were dealing with Covid issues, the 22-year-old took advantage of the opportunity scoring two goals in two games. He helped Carolina secure two wins despite the depleted roster. Carolina selected Drury with the 42nd overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
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Drury returned to the Chicago Wolves in the American Hockey League (AHL) following the brief call-up. He finished the regular season eighth in AHL rookie scoring with 52 points (20 goals and 32 assists). His solid rookie campaign helped lead the Wolves to a league-best 50-win season that clinched the Central Division crown. Drury has been spectacular in the Calder Cup playoffs, scoring seven goals and producing 16 points for Chicago. The team currently holds a 3-2 series lead over the Stockton Heat needing just one more win to advance to the Calder Cup Final.
The big-time postseason play from Drury has given Canes’ fans optimism heading into next season while igniting a fire behind the push for him to get the call up to Carolina next season. Many expect him to have a solid opportunity to make the opening night roster for Carolina later this year. One major factor that could decide if he makes the jump is what Carolina decides to do to address the need for scoring in the offseason, will they try to make a splash in the free agency market or trust the prospect pool to fill the hole?
Drury Can Bring Consistency to Carolina
One of the Hurricanes’ biggest strengths in 2021-22 was their plethora of depth throughout the roster. While there might be prospects within the system that have higher ceilings than Drury, you’d be hard-pressed to find a prospect that is more NHL-ready than the six-foot forward from New York, New York. A high-energy forward with a low floor could be just what the Hurricanes need to add to the roster heading into the 2022-23 campaign with Stanley Cup aspirations.
He is currently gaining valuable playoff experience with the Wolves. The rookie forward told AHL beat writer, Patrick Williams, about his playoff experience so far. “I think it’s a lot more physical,” Drury said. “You’re going to get hit a lot more times, and you’ve got to be willing to give out hits more often.”
With inevitable changes on the way this offseason, Drury could bring consistency and scoring to Carolina as well as some fresh playoff experience from his time in Chicago. Look for Carolina to utilize him as a plug and place him on the third line should a spot open up after the dust settles on the free agency period.
Drury Has Shown Maturity While Facing Pressure
Drury is no stranger to life in the NHL, as the son of Ted Drury who played eight seasons in the NHL, and nephew of Chris Drury, who had an impressive twelve-season career in the NHL. The latter is now the general manager of the New York Rangers. Jack has always faced pressure to live up to his family name at every level of hockey he’s competed in, it’s a level of pressure that many athletes have succumbed to throughout history. So far, he has done an outstanding job of quieting that noise while continuing to improve his craft as he works to make it to the NHL.
He has done a great job of utilizing the NHL experience his father and uncle have, while also embracing the pressure that stems from it. “Yeah, (my name) brings a little pressure, but pressure is something I’ve always embraced,” Drury said. “Obviously, I’ve been the beneficiary of a lot of great advice from my parents and my uncle, so I’m grateful for that.”
He has shown an incredible amount of maturity on and off the ice since the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. With his college team at Harvard unable to play in 2020-21, he made the decision to sign a one-year deal with the Vaxjo Lakers in the Swedish Hockey League. Despite being in a time zone six hours ahead of Boston, he was able to find time to continue his Harvard education. Wolves Director of Public Relations, Lindsey Willhite, detailed how Drury was able to juggle the professional hockey life while working to receive an Ivy League education.
Next Few Months Will be Crucial
Drury has the opportunity to earn his way onto the Hurricanes 2022-23 opening night roster over the next four months. Continuing to play well for Chicago in the Calder Cup Playoffs as well as showcasing his constantly improving skills at training camp in September will go a long way in his attempt to solidify a place on the roster. With an impressive display, he could make the decision very easy on head coach Rod Brind’Amour and general manager Don Waddell. He was listed as the top prospect within the Hurricanes system in January by The Hockey Writers’ Brandon Staley.
As mentioned earlier, the biggest factor that will determine when Drury could receive the call-up is what decisions Carolina makes throughout free agency. Whether they decide to go get an electric scorer or choose to do their best to re-sign Trocheck and Niederreiter while trusting the prospect pool to produce more depth heading into 2022-23. It could be in the Canes’ best interest to do the latter while trusting Jesperi Kotkaniemi to make a jump and for Drury and other possible additions to solidify depth. It will no doubt be an interesting next four months for Drury as he hopes to make a push to be on the opening night roster for Carolina.