In tonight’s NHL Draft, there’s a fairly common consensus of who the top three picks are. With the obvious Alexis Lafrenière at number one and Quinton Byfield and Tim Stützle most likely going at two and three, the real unpredictability starts with the Detroit Red Wings at pick number four. There are at least six players who could viably be taken by Steve Yzerman. The question then is: who should he take? Personally, I think he should take defenseman Jamie Drysdale, and here is why.
Wings Lack Puck-Moving D-Man
In 2012, Niklas Lidstrom retired from the NHL at age 41. One year after Brian Rafalski retired at age 37. Since the loss of those two, the Red Wings have not had a single defenseman have 50 points in a season. It has been a big issue for the Red Wings in their steady decline from Cup contender to worst-in-the-league.
The Red Wings have the worst defensive core in the league. Outside of Filip Hronek, who had 31 points, their leading blue line scorer was Madison Bowey with 17. In terms of Offensive Point Shares (OPS), the Red Wings had two of the bottom three defensemen in the league in Patrik Nemeth (-0.8 OPS) and Alex Biega (-0.7 OPS). They have very little ability to move the puck from the back end and causes the forwards to have to do all the work.
Not only do they not have one on the current NHL roster, but it’s something they lack in their farm system as well. Their top defenseman prospect is Moritz Seider. While Seider is a promising defensive player, the criticism against him is his puck movement. After that, you look to someone like Dennis Cholowski, who looked overwhelmed while in the NHL last year.
That’s where Jamie Drysdale comes in. He is the best offensive defenseman in this draft. A player that has great vision and is a fantastic passer. His skating ability is one of the best in the whole draft, regardless of position. He uses it to create space for himself and his teammates.
Jamie Drysdale can be the head of the power play that this team desperately needs. The Red Wings finished 29th in power-play percentage last year (14.9%), and they haven’t been in the top half of the league since 2016. Adding someone like Drysdale could both spark the young forwards that currently lead this team as well as spark a power play that is in serious need of improvement.
Is Jamie Drysdale the Next Makar or Hughes?
The 2019-20 season was the year of the undersized, strong skating, puck-moving defenseman. Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes were the frontrunners for the Calder Trophy the entire season and with good reason. As rookies, they both became the clear number one defenseman for their respective teams. Hughes finished fourth among all defensemen in points (53), and Makar finished just behind him (50) while missing 13 games to injury en route to the Calder win.
The game of hockey is becoming faster and more skilled. Great puck-moving defensemen who skate well are becoming more and more valuable as the game changes, and these two are proof of that. Jamie Drysdale fits this bill perfectly. He’s small at just 5’11”, but as mentioned earlier, is one of the best skaters in the draft as well as a fantastic passer. He has the skillset to become what Makar and Hughes already are at an NHL level.
Yzerman’s History With Mid-Round Forwards
The biggest argument against taking Jamie Drysdale at four is the amount of top forward prospects who will be available as well. With the likes of Marco Rossi, Lucas Raymond, and the rumored favorite Cole Perfetti all on the board, it’s tempting to add one of them to this Red Wings roster. However, one thing Red Wings fans should look to is Yzerman’s success in taking forwards in the mid-rounds.
Red Wings fans can take a look at what Yzerman did at his previous job to see this success. The 2020 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning are the blueprint for what they want Yzerman to do in Detroit. They had a lack of first-round drafted forwards on their postseason roster. Only one forward drafted in the first round played at all in the playoffs, and that was Steven Stamkos.
It speaks to the success that Yzerman has had taking forwards later in the draft. Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point are both phenomenal players who were picked in the second and third rounds, respectively. Ondrej Palat was on a line with them as a seventh-round pick. Yanni Gourde was undrafted, and he was a huge contributor.
The Red Wings enter the 2020 draft with three second-round picks and two third-round picks. They have plenty of lottery tickets to find these forwards in the later rounds. Meanwhile, the defense that won the Lightning the cup featured five former first-round picks and one second-round pick. With that in mind, the Red Wings should take the best defenseman in the draft at four, and that guy is Jamie Drysdale.
Drysdale is the Guy
The Red Wings really can’t go wrong with pick number four. With so many options in a stacked draft, there are plenty of viable picks. However, the position they need to focus on is defense. Some may argue that Jake Sanderson is the better option than Jamie Drysdale. But to me, the offensive capabilities of Jamie Drysdale pushes him past Sanderson for what the Red Wings need. Having him paired with Mo Seider would be the perfect defensive pairing to lead the Red Wings through their rebuild.
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