DISCOVER WHO IS THE BEST DEFENSEMAN SO FAR IN 2020

The heady days of Connor McDavid, Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome are gone in Erie, but the Otters still have a top-end player in defenseman Jamie Drysdale. Sure, they OHL team won’t be competing for a title this season, but Drysdale looks like the uncontested top defenseman in the NHL draft this summer and getting plenty of reps in Erie has helped his development the past couple seasons.

“I love it,” he said. “Everything in Erie – the guys the staff – is top-notch. I’m not afraid to make a mistake out there and when I play, I’m challenging myself to make a difference. That’s the mindset and I’m happy playing that role.”

Drysdale is averaging more than a point per game on the rebuilding squad and just in case scouts needed a different viewing, he put on a show at the world juniors, too. Though he was the youngest blueliner on Canada’s gold-medal entry, Drysdale stepped up from his No. 7 role when Colorado prospect Bowen Byram was too ill to play in the semifinal. Drysdale’s skating and smarts are simply other-worldly and it’s amazing to think he’s just getting started. Unless he’s in the NHL next year, he’ll be eligible to go for back-to-back WJC titles and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him wear a letter for Canada.

Back in the OHL, Drysdale is trying to process a draft year that is always crazy, but at least he has long-time pal Quinton Byfield going through the same thing in Sudbury – the two have known each other since they were 11 and playing spring hockey together.

“It comes at you fast and it’s still sinking in,” Drysdale said. “You just do what you can and play your game. With ‘Q’ and I being friends, we’ve known each other a long time and it’s good to know people in the same situation. You can talk about it, you can let it go in your mind.”

Scouts will definitely have Drysdale on their minds when the draft hits Montreal this summer and based on how well he has played already, they probably won’t have to wait long before he’s patrolling an NHL blueline for whichever franchise selects him.


Here are 10 more 2020 draft prospects making noise right now:

Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL) – Bourque went off on Halifax this weekend with seven points in a 7-4 victory. He’s a high-skill player who skates well and has a great one-timer.

Seth Jarvis, RW, Portland Winterhawks (WHL) – Speed and anticipation make Jarvis a major threat on the ice and his 29 points in 10 games earned him WHL player of the month honors for January.

Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa 67’s (OHL) – Scouts are really loving Rossi this year and it’s not just because he’s the OHL’s top scorer with 88 points in 40 games. The kid plays the game the right way and mixes a ton of skill with an edge.

David Ma, D, Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres (Minn. HS) – An effective rushing defenseman with nice vision, Ma has 29 points in 27 games for the Sabres. He’s a Princeton commit.

Ryan Francis, RW, Cape Breton Eagles (QMJHL) – Most impressive about Francis’ output is that he’s not loading up on power-play points – only two of his 19 tallies have come on the man advantage. The kid has great hands in tight, too.

Roni Hirvonen, LW, Assat Pori (Fin.) – January was Hirvonen’s most productive in the Liiga, as he posted five points and saw his ice time continue to climb. He’ll bring his great vision and playmaking to the Five Nations in Czechia this week.

Colby Ambrosio, C, Tri-City Storm (USHL) – A smaller player with great speed and individual skill, Ambrosio has 14 points in his past 10 games for the Storm. He’s a Boston College commit.

Calle Clang, G, Rogle (Swe.) – Playing on a weaker Rogle junior team, Clang has put up some pretty decent numbers this year. Now the netminder gets an international stage to play on, courtesy the under-18 Five Nations tournament.

Sam Colangelo, RW, Chicago Steel (USHL) – Riding a five-game point streak, Colangelo is a big kid with a great shot and a lot of strength. The Northeastern commit needs to go to the hard areas a little more.

Ozzy Wiesblatt, C, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL) – Wiesblatt has five points in his past four games while winning his faceoffs and going to the tough areas for offense. He’s putting together a nice little campaign.