Jamie Drysdale’s NHL debut could not have gone much better. The Anaheim Ducks defenseman scored his first goal, then assisted on fellow rookie Trevor Zegras’ first NHL tally two-and-a-half minutes later. Those goals helped Anaheim erase a 2-0 Arizona lead and led to an overtime win for the Ducks courtesy of Adam Henrique. Needless to say, Drysdale shined in the spotlight – befitting of a sixth overall draft pick who has always been known for his poise on the ice. Not that the kid is immune to butterflies in his stomach.
“There were definitely nerves, but mostly excitement,” Drysdale said. “It’s a really exciting time for me and my family, so it was really nice to get out there. I was joking with ‘Z’ on the way here, saying if I don’t fall on my solo lap, it’s a win. It’s a lot of fun to get that one under my belt and coming out with the win on top of it made it that much better.”
Drysdale and Zegras represent a massive part of Anaheim’s future as the Ducks begin to restock a veteran lineup that still has ties to the team’s Stanley Cup victory in 2007. The pair started the season with AHL San Diego, living in a house together with Jacob Perreault and Brayden Tracey.
According to Drysdale, there was a lot of video game time at the house when the players weren’t at the rink and not much cooking, even though housemate Perreault told me the smooth defenseman was the best cook of the lot.
“I don’t know if I’m the best cook, I feel like I’m just the only one who has cooked a few meals,” Drysdale said. “There’s a lot of DoorDash going on.”
Kitchen-work aside, there was clearly some great bonding going on in San Diego. Zegras was the first to get the call up to Anaheim and now with Drysdale making the jump, the Ducks have a dynamic rookie duo; one up front and one on the back end – and both capable of doing damage on the scoresheet. And Drysdale’s buddy was pretty impressed with his debut.
“If he was nervous, I don’t think anybody knew it,” Zegras said. “All game he was moving his feet and making big plays.”
The admiration extends to the coaching ranks, too. Kevin Dineen got the first look at Drysdale in San Diego and the Gulls bench boss saw why the Ducks drafted the kid so high in 2020.
“I like the details of his game,” Dineen said. “I like how he defends and his decision-making when it comes to opportunities on the offensive side. He’s got a good feel for the game. He really embraced being with us and learning, not only from our staff, but also from his teammates.”
Heading up the ladder, Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins had similar praise, not only for Drysdale, but also for Ducks GM Bob Murray, whom Eakins believes has an excellent feel for finding defensemen.
“Bob has watched Jamie like a hawk in San Diego and it was time to give him a chance,” he said. “It was amazing to me that this kid…I don’t know, has he even been driving by himself for a year now? And here he is in an NHL lineup and he came in like he had been there for a very long time. He closed like he closed in San Diego, he moved the puck fast and hard, he got shots through and he was a very confident young man. It was a really good first showing at this level and all the people at home should be happy with that draft pick.”
Just before the game started, Drysdale got some encouraging words from captain Ryan Getzlaf. And it was veteran blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk who told Drysdale he had actually scored, since initially it looked like Max Jones might have tipped the shot in front.
Once the game was over, the Ducks had a little fun with Drysdale, abandoning the dressing room and hiding when the rookie entered before erupting into a celebration when he found them soon after.
All in all, it was quite the night for Drysdale and the Ducks – and from the looks of it, there could be many more celebrations once the team’s youngsters begin to take over in the future.