Cutter Gauthier is gone. As Coach John Tortorella so eloquently said, "I'm not too interested in talking about him. I'd rather talk about Jamie. He's the guy that's coming here." The Jamie he is talking about is the new Flyers defender, Jamie Drysdale. Who is he? More importantly, what does his addition mean to the club?
First of all, he is the epitome of raw talent. The kid is just 21 years old and was the sixth overall pick in 2020, the same year the Flyers drafted Tyson Foerster with the 23rd overall pick.
Drysdale was a highly sought-after pick. Smaht Scouting said of him: "Drysdale stands out as the top defenseman in the draft –and perhaps the only one selected in the top 10. Drysdale’s status as a modern-day defenseman – someone who can be effective at all ends of the ice and builds much of his game around speed – is unmatched among the draft class. One of the best skaters in the draft based on acceleration, top speed, and start-stop fluidity, Drysdale possesses a smooth, powerful stride that often looks effortless in technique, but eloquent in execution. He’s on the small side of 5-foot-11, so Drysdale’s skating is a big plus – think Cale Makar’s foot speed." Dobber Prospects noted that he was “An offensive-minded defender with elite skating who can be a great power-play quarterback.”
If he is that good, why did the Ducks drop him? So far, he hasn't lived up to the hype. He has just 45 total points in 123 career games, with eight of them being goals. In 10 games this season, he has one goal with four assists. He had 12 power-play assists in 2021-22 for Anaheim, but that doesn't seem like a "power-play QB". To be fair, he has battled some injuries in his young career, playing just eight games last season due to a torn labrum. He was also on a bad Ducks team.
Sometimes, you need a change of scenery. After all, he is just 21. That makes him the youngest defenseman on the team. He is the youngest player on the team being three months younger than Foerster. His addition to the team puts eight blueliners on the roster. That means that someone is going to have to sit. Who will it be?
Currently, the Flyers have two guys over 30 on the backend: Marc Staal (36) and Nick Seeler (30). It was forecast that Staal was brought here to educate the young guys and help them grow. He may also be traded at the deadline for future assets. Seeler has been one of the steadier players on the team since Tortorella took over. Sean Walker, who is 29, has also been a favorite of the head coach and has resurrected his career here.
After that, you have the high priced vets in Travis Sanheim and Rasmus Risotlainen. Both Sanheim and Ristolainen have elevated their games here. It's hard to imagine the Flyers letting them go now.
This leaves us with our young defensive corps of Cam York and Egor Zamula. York is 23 and still has some room to grow. At times, there is a flourish, and you can see what he could become. On other nights, he looks lost. Zamula has been the steadier of the two young guys, but is he the better player? Not sure. Both are young. Do you want to give up on them now?
With Seeler, Walker, and Staal all RFAs at the end of the year, most likely one, if not all three, could be gone at the upcoming trade deadline. I could see Staal staying on if the Flyers are making a playoff run as a way to guide the young blueliners as they head into their first playoff series.
If anything, it signals that GM Daniel Briere is not afraid to make a big move. He made some important ones in the offseason, and he isn't done yet. This team is improving bit by bit and is developing a culture that players want to be here and want to be successful here. Hopefully, Drysdale can be a part of that.
We'll never know what the future holds. Here's what we do know. The Flyers have gotten a young, promising defensive player. He showed flashes of speed and offensive capabilities as a young 19- year-old. Had he not been derailed by injuries, he may be a bit more rounded out.
A player like Drysdale needs to be complimented with a good roster around him. He has seasoned vets like Staal, Sanheim, Seeler, Walker, and Ristolainen who can show him the ropes. He can grow and make connections with York and Zamula and perhaps players like Ronnie Attard and Helge Grans in the future. Being surrounded and mentored by players who can guide him with a coach who can help mold him (remember, Ristolainen said earlier that he wished he had Torts around when he was 18). After all, we've seen a resurgence in Sanheim, Ristolainen, and Walker. Maybe Tortorella and Brad Shaw can work their magic on Drysdale.
Drysdale is still 21. If you remember, it took Travis Konecny a few years to become the star he is now. If Drysdale can put it all together, this trade could be a steal. Every team could use fast-paced, offensive minded defensive players. If he had been drawing comparisons to Cale Makar by hockey scouts, that's a good sign. We've been kicking ourselves for failing to draft Makar in 2017. Maybe we just got the next best thing.