October 5, 2020

Drysdale, Sanderson hope to embody new-age defenders

The NHL defenseman is seeing a massive change.

Defenders aren’t just sticking to the blue line.

They aren’t just watching the forwards make offensive plays.

They are right there in the mix of things, creating offensive chances and dictating the pace of the play – often in game-breaking ways.

Two defenders from the 2020 NHL Draft will be looking to do just that in the near future.

Jamie Drysdale and Jake Sanderson are the undisputed top two defenders of the draft and bring with them excellent transition games, skating, and playmaking.

In a recent conference call, the defenders touched on their evolving position and how they look to fit the mould of the mobile, dynamic defender.

Luckily for them, they’ve had some excellent examples recently.

“It’s pretty hard to look away from the three young D in Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes in the NHL right now,” Drysdale, FCHockey’s No. 7-ranked prospect for the 2020 draft, said in a conference call last week. “Just how they control the play and the confidence they have and possess and the skill they have is really something pretty cool.

“I hope to follow in their footsteps.”

“I’ve really watched Miro Heiskanen,” added Sanderson, FCHockey’s No. 12-ranked prospect. “He’s someone who I like to play like, just the way he skates, how mature he is and he’s just so efficient how he plays the game. He’s a very mature player for his age, even though he’s one of the younger players in the league. He just plays really smart. Also, John Klingberg, he kind of dances at the blue line.”

Drysdale is coming from the OHL’s Erie Otters, where he wore the “A” for the team while collecting 47 points (nine goals, 38 assists) in 49 games. He was honored for his season by being named to the OHL First All-Star Team. The young defender also laced up for Team Canada at the 2020 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, earning silver medal as the team’s captain, and the 2020 World Junior Championships, netting gold.

Sanderson has shown off his craft with the United States National Development Program, where this season he captained the National U18 Team, racking up 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 47 games, adding 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 19 USHL games.

Focusing in on their position, the young NHL players they mentioned have provided excellent examples of what they hope to accomplish and where they need to be.

“The things I like to look at and put in my game are, one, the confidence that these young defensemen have in their game,” Drysdale said. “They know they can make a play and if they see it, they’re going to try to make it.

“I think that that’s big. That’s the way I want to play, have the confidence to make a play if I see it and not refrain from that. That’s one thing, as well as just being mobile on the ice, having the ability to get up and down the ice, so you’re not a liability on the back end but you can also contribute on the offensive side of the game.”

Sanderson’s game tends to lean more to the defensive side, but he possesses that confidence and mobility that Drysdale touched on.

“I describe myself as a two-way defenseman,” he added. “Someone you can put in all situations on the ice, whether it’s penalty kill or power play. I think I’m someone that thrives in those situations. I think I’m a unique player, just because I can play that hard-nosed style defensive game, but also use my skating, my skill and my hockey sense up the ice as well.”

Both players have been using the NHL’s young, star defenders to evaluate their own games and find where they need to improve or how they can apply their strengths to their own game.

That mentality and drive to improve looks like it should earn both a top-10 selection in the 2020 draft.

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