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In this week’s column we feature another defenseman at the top of the 2021 NHL Draft in Simon Edvinsson from Sweden with a profile by Jimmy Hamrin. We have now covered the top six prospects we had ranked for the 2021 NHL Draft in this space. You can find our full ranking and an overview here on our site. A top-heavy year for defenders with four of the top six being blueliners and one of the others, a goaltender. You can read the other profiles for that group we have written at the end of the article. You can dive deeper on Edvinsson with an in-depth scouting report from Jimmy complete with video on our site here for subscribers.
As a prelude to a much longer piece on from Brock Otten on McKeen’s Hockey, he profiles one player who has made an immediate impact in a short time as a pro in Jamie Drysdale, the Anaheim Ducks sixth overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. He is one of a number of top OHL prospects skating unexpectedly in the AHL this season because of the uncertainty of the OHL return to play this season. Look for the full piece, including the other top OHL prospects, in the coming weeks. In next weeks article, Prospect Director Ryan Wagman will profile his future teammate, and the top ranked prospect on our preseason list, Trevor Zegras, who made his NHL debut last night. Drysdale may find himself lining up with him as soon as this season showcasing two building blocks for the Anaheim reconstruction underway.
The McKeen’s team are scouting and writing about prospects all season long and provide in-depth reports on our website: www.mckeenshockey.com
Prospects in the News: Drysdale looks ready in pro debut in the AHL, is the NHL far away?
By Brock Otten
2019-21 Erie, OHL, 49GP-9G-38A-47PTS
2020-21 San Diego, AHL, 8GP-3G-5A-8PTS
2020-21 Canada, WJC, 7GP-0G-2A-2PTS
Under different circumstances, right now Jamie Drysdale would be gearing up for the stretch drive with the Erie Otters of the OHL. Cut from the Anaheim Ducks, the most recent sixth overall pick would be playing with Erie because, as an 18-year-old CHL player, he would not be eligible for the AHL. But 2021 is not a normal year. The Ontario Hockey League season still has not yet begun due to restrictions on minor hockey in the province of Ontario. As such, when the Ducks released Drysdale from training camp in mid-January, he could be sent to San Diego of the AHL. Due to the fact that the WHL and OHL have not yet commenced, the AHL has been flooded with junior aged players who would otherwise not have been able to play in the league. In fact, seven of the top nine rookie scoring leaders in the AHL (as of writing this) would be ineligible in a normal year (and may not be able to finish the year in the AHL if their leagues start up). Jamie Drysdale is one of those five and the current defenseman scoring leader in the league.
Overall, the last calendar year has been an absolute whirlwind for Drysdale. First, his NHL draft was delayed three months due to the pandemic and pushed to an online format. This, of course, robbed Drysdale (and his draftmates) of being able to step onto that stage to put on that Anaheim Ducks jersey. Second, Drysdale had to spend 53 days in a hotel, with some of that time involving quarantine, in order to participate in the 2021 World Junior Championships for Team Canada. Playing at his second straight WJC’s, Drysdale was a standout for the silver medal Canadians as he paired with Colorado’s Bowen Byram to be one of the tournament’s best defenders. Third, his NHL training camp got off to a late start due to that World Juniors appearance and as such, he found himself on the outside looking in (along with fellow top prospect Trevor Zegras) and was demoted to San Diego.
However, the bright side for Anaheim and Drysdale is that he is getting ice time professionally at an earlier stage in his development than he would have been able to in a normal season. He was always facing an uphill battle for a roster spot with the Ducks out of training camp. The Ducks were not likely to rush the development of their prized defensive prospect in a rebuilding year. Instead of dominating his peers at the OHL level, he is now getting his feet wet in the AHL against stronger and faster competition. Thus far, the results have been exemplary. As mentioned, he currently leads all AHL defenseman in scoring and is excelling in all situations for the Gulls, leading the team in ice time.
The talking point of Drysdale’s game is his skating ability. An effortless mover, Drysdale walks the line laterally quicker than some players move forward. His four-way mobility is such an asset in all three zones as it helps him initiate the breakout, but also defend in transition. On top of moving quicker and more efficiently than others, he also processes the game quicker than nearly any other player on the ice. With eyes in the back of his head, Drysdale reads and reacts to situations like a 20-year pro already, as teams have difficulty hemming the Gulls in their own zone when Drysdale is on the ice because of how effectively he tracks and moves the puck.
The supposed weaker points of Drysdale’s game (strength in traffic, aggressiveness/confidence offensively) have already shown significant growth in the AHL. It is clear that he put in the work to get stronger during the prolonged offseason as he has found more success defending traffic than one would have expected earlier on. Is there still room for growth? Absolutely. According to InStat Hockey, he is still losing more puck battles than he is winning, which is not ideal for a defender. However, he has increased his physical intensity and as such, is making players work harder to gain leverage on him. Additionally, he is already exhibiting confidence in leading the attack and is looking to get more pucks on net as a powerplay QB than he did previously. Expecting Drysdale to come into the AHL and be one of the league’s top defenders thus far would not have been realistic, yet here we are.
The question is...what do the Anaheim Ducks do with Drysdale? They currently have the worst winning percentage in the West Division and are the lowest scoring team in the entire NHL. No question, this is not a team competing for a playoff spot in a shortened season. Based on how he is playing in the AHL, Drysdale would likely be an upgrade on the likes of Ben Hutton, Kevin Shattenkirk, or Andy Welinski. But is there an incentive to potentially rushing his development?
If he plays out the season in the AHL (and/or returns to the OHL at some point), his ELC will slide to the following year, giving the Ducks another year at his rookie max ($925,000) salary. The ELC slide games limit was pro-rated this season to seven games. As such, it would appear that the obvious choice would be to let Drysdale continue to find success at the AHL level with the opportunity to call him up for a few games at the NHL level before having to send him back to Erie for the OHL season in April (players will likely have to return sometime in March to complete their quarantine). However, what if Drysdale performs extremely well in that limited look? Do they give him 20-30 games (depending on when or if they call him up) the rest of the way and believe that is better for his development?
Regardless of what they decide, or what happens during the rest of the 2021 season, Drysdale has made it known that he is among the best young defenders on the planet. Whether you compare him to Duncan Keith, or Dan Boyle, or Cale Makar, he appears close to being an impact player for the Ducks; perhaps closer than many of us would have imagined.
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2021 NHL Draft Prospect: Edvinsson is quickly getting comfortable in Swedish senior hockey
By Jimmy Hamrin
2020-21 Frolunda U20, U20 Nationell 14GP-1G-5A-6PTS
2020-21 Frolunda, SHL, 10GP-0G-1A-1PTS
2020-21 Vasteras, Allvenskan, 8GP-0G-4A-4PTS
Edvinsson’s season has, as it has for most players this year, been bumpy. His play has not, but when the junior season in Sweden was cancelled, he found himself stuck as a seventh defenseman on Frolunda SHL team. He also participated in a long selection camp for the World Junior Championship just to get snubbed as one of the last players to be cut. Recently, Frolunda chose to loan him out to Allsvenskan where he plays for Vasteras and there, he can play decent minutes and work on his game in competitive high level senior hockey as the playoffs are closing in and the team is struggling for important points.
When you watch Simon Edvinsson playing senior hockey the only thing that gives away his age is the bird cage on his helmet which all European U18 players is regulated to play with at every level. Other than that, Edvinsson looks like a comfortable veteran and is always one of the biggest players on the ice at 6´5” tall, possessing an equal amount of poise on the ice.
Edvinsson is in many ways still raw as a player. He has grown fast, with a lanky teenage body, but with elite speed. He can pinch high in the offensive zone and still get back to cover up if he misses. His reach and speed make him tough to beat. Often, he times his pinches well and is effective shutting down the play in the neutral and offensive zone. He still lacks physical strength to match his height and is not that effective in physical battles yet. In senior hockey he can get in some trouble in tight situations in front of the net and can look a bit clumsy and stressed reaching for the puck. When he gets stronger his balance will be better and he can be able to handle those situations more calmly.
Edvinsson’s offensive game has a high ceiling. His vision stands out for his age. He adapts his play well to the situation and looks prepared for the next play when he gets the puck, having already thought of what to do with it. He makes strong breakout passes and moves the puck well both passing or literally skating out with the puck. He has long strides and gain a lot of ice with just a few strides. This stands out at senior level and he is hard to catch up with, especially on the big European ice. His puck skills are fun to watch as well. He uses his huge wingspan to move the puck fast from one extreme position on his body to the other. He can use that in almost Rasmus Dahlin-style from the blue line to create space.
One area for improvement is his shot. It is neither hard nor accurate and he has only scored one goal this season (on a breakaway). With his puck touch and other puck skills though, it does not seem a stretch to think that he could improve his shot quickly. He will need to hone that area of his game to be more effective on the power play.
His point production has been good but not impressive so far with four points (all at even strength) in eight games this season with Allvenskan. He produces three to four shot attempts per game in 14 min/game of ice time. He delivers two to three breakouts per game by passing and another one or two by stickhandling. His entries are over two per game when it comes to stickhandling and another one or two per game by passing. As a result, he drives a lot of offense play per minute on a good, middle of the league team.
Edvinsson is one of the top defensemen of the 2021 draft class and a future NHL defenseman. He has both a high ceiling and a high floor. If he can level up his play on the power play, he can be a number one defenseman or a strong number two. I can also see the talent floor as high and he should not be less than a top four defenseman in the NHL. A hockey career is a marathon, and it is all about finding the way to make your game as effective as your talent allows. Edvinsson can already play strong in all areas of the ice but prevails mostly in his puck moving abilities. His transition game is strong, and he can join the attack with the skating ability to get back when necessary. He rarely overhandles the puck and makes the smart play when needed to. When he grows into his body, he can become a scary force for the team that picks him.
PAST NBCSports EDGE MCKEEN’S 2021 NHL DRAFT PROSPECT REPORTS – In this weekly column we cover an NHL Draft prospect. Check out what we have written to date here listed by our most recent ranking.
#1 - Matthew Beniers C, University of Michigan, NCAA, C, 6’1” 175 lbs
#2 – Owen Power, D, University of Michigan, NCAA, C, 6’6” 215 lbs
#3 – Luke Hughes, D, USNTDP U18, D, 6’2” 175 lbs
#4 - Jesper Wallstedt G, Lulea, Sweden, G, 6’3” 200lbs
#5 – Simon Edvinsson, D, Vasteras, Allvenskan, 6’5”, 200lbs
#6 - Brandt Clarke, D, Nove Zamky, Slovakia, D, 6’1” 180 lbs