Coming to a new team in the middle of the season is never easy, especially this late into the year. It's helpful when you enter a locker room with more than a few familiar faces. That was the situation that Jamie Drysdale was in coming over from Anaheim. The team has been welcoming in the 24+ hours he has been a Flyer.
Drysdale played with Nic Deslauriers back in Anaheim. Cam York has been a longtime friend and will host Drysdale at his house. He also met Morgan Frost this summer. One of his other relationships comes in the form of Scott Laughton. The two train together back in the Toronto area every summer.
""It was funny, I think if you told us in the summer that we'd be playing together, I don't know if we would have believed you," Drysdale said after practice on Tuesday. "It's exciting. He's an unbelievable guy, I'm sure you guys know. Unbelievable guy, great player, great guy to be around. I gave him a big hug when we got here. He's definitely a guy that will be in my ear and helping me out.""
Laughton also had nothing but good things to say about Drysdale as well. One thing he mentioned was the young defender's speed. That is a part of his game that has been well-documented. And it's partly why John Tortorella wants him to focus on his offense more than his defense right now. Brad Shaw will have his hands on the defensive part of the game at some point. He has helped Rasmus Ristolainen and Sean Walker turn things around. There is a belief that he will be able to do the same for Drysdale.
Drysdale even described his defensive game as "a work in progress." It's an area of the game that will come to him as he learns the systems in Philadelphia. And it also hasn't helped that he has missed a significant amount of time during the last two seasons. He was limited to just eight games last year because of a torn labrum in his left shoulder. And after a contract stalemate that ended in a three-year deal just before the season, he played two games before a lower-body injury knocked him out for over two months.
He is healthy now and had one goal and five points in 10 games with the Ducks. With injuries out of the way, Drysdale is ready to focus on being healthy and playing in as many games as possible. He played in all but one game during the 2021-22 season where he posted four goals and 32 points. 12 of those points came on a power play, a spot Tortorella is expected to use him in immediately.
"I'm good to play. That's where my head's at, just making sure I'm ready for the games, everything's feeling good. It's just good to be back on the ice. I'm looking to stay in as long as I can and play as many consecutive games as possible. I feel good and I don't plan on changing that.""
The Flyers continue to get younger with the addition of Drysdale. He is now the youngest player on the team, just a few months younger than Foerster. That's what happens during a rebuild, and Philadelphia isn't shying away from things. It's why a player like Deslauriers won't be in the lineup against the Canadiens. As the Flyers continue to shift toward their youth, veteran players will end up losing time on the ice. And, in this case, a lineup spot altogether.
Adding a potential number-one defenseman was at the top of Danny Briere's list. Cam York has the potential, but he hasn't reached it in terms of consistency. Travis Sanheim has turned things around and is eating a lot of minutes for the Flyers. He is 27-years-old, though. If this season is truly who he is, Philadelphia has a little less to worry about. But bringing in a young defenseman who has the tools to become a top player is something they couldn't pass up.
""It's such a good age for us, that's what's exciting," Tortorella said regarding Drysdale. "A 21-year-old, a righty, skill, lateral movement. It's such a good deal for us. In the process that we're at right now, it's perfect timing.""
Drysdale was a very well liked player in Anaheim. It was clear to see with the reaction they had to losing him. It wasn't a shock, necessarily, to be traded. With the defensive prospects the Ducks have at the moment, it was clear to Drysdale that someone was going to be on the move.
But in coming to Philadelphia, this could be a place where he fits in. Regarding playing for the Flyers, Drysdale heard nothing but nice things about the organization from numerous people around the league. It was the same kind of news when it came to playing for Tortorella.
""Literally the second I heard about it, my phone blew up from just people around the hockey world saying it's an unbelievable place, first-class organization, a lot of great guys on the team, great team. Not one bad thing to be said across the board.""