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Prospect Spotlight: Hunter Drew

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Player preview of Anaheim Ducks prospect Hunter Drew

Anaheim Ducks vs. Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

The 2019 Anaheim Ducks’ Rookie Faceoff took place recently. The Ducks’ rookie team featured numerous well known players who are expected to contribute in some degree to the Ducks this year, including Troy Terry, Sam Steel, Max Comtois, Max Jones, Brendan Guhle and Jacob Larsson. However, despite the crowded field, defensemen Hunter Drew stood out as a prospect to watch.

Who is Hunter Drew and what’s he known for?

Drew was selected 178th in the 6th round of the 2018 NHL entry draft. Listed at 6’2 and 192 lbs, Drew is a solid framed defenseman with room to grow. Scouting reports recognize Drew’s strength in puck carrying and puck protection along with his ability to make a good first pass when exiting the defensive zone.

In recent seasons with the Charlottetown Islanders of the QMJHL, and at the Rookie Faceoff, Drew demonstrated a good use of his frame and strong physical play. Drew plays with grit and led the QMJHL with 159 penalty minutes in the 2017-18 season, racking up a further 141 penalty minutes in 2018-19. His physicality was most noticeable in the Rookie Faceoff: stopping opponent forwards, making clean entries into the offensive zone, preventing drives to the net, and hitting San Jose’s Daniel Yurtaikin. For the most part, Drew effectively used these physical aspects of his game to help shut down opponents’ offensive players.

Drew played in all three of the Ducks Rookie Faceoff games and gave Ducks management something to think about. In addition to his solid defensive play, Drew chipped in offensively, scoring a goal in the game against San Jose and lead the team’s defensemen with nine shots in the three games. Simply put, he looked surprisingly good, in games featuring more established defensive prospects like Josh Mahura, Jacob Larsson and Brendan Guhle.

What are Drew’s chances of making the NHL?

Drew’s probability of cracking the NHL

Traditionally, a mid 6th round pick in the NHL entry draft has limited chance of becoming an established NHL player. TSN analyst Scott Cullen predicts that a draft pick in the 166-180 range only has a 16% chance of playing 100 NHL games. He further predicts that such a pick only have a 6% chance of becoming a Top 6 defenseman and only a 2.3% chance of becoming a Top 4 defenseman.

However, there are exceptions to the statistics regarding players picked in this range, as many defensemen- Pavel Datsyuk, Andrew Brunette and Marek Zidlicky, in particular- were all picked within this range. Indeed, Anaheim’s own Josh Manson was selected in the 6th round of the NHL entry draft and he has gone on to play over 300 NHL games, and is closing in on scoring 100 NHL points. Therefore, while statistically it is improbable that Hunter Drew makes an NHL impact, it is not impossible, and his recent play suggests he can make a good run of it.

Current NHL comparisons

There are a number of NHL defensemen that have been either: (I) selected from the QMJHL, and/or (II) been selected at a similar position in the draft. These QMJHL alumni serve as a good comparison for Drew:

QMJHL Alumni

Player (QMJHL seasons) Total QMJHL regular season games played Total QMJHL regular season goals Total QMJHL regular season assists Total QMJHL regular season points Average QMJHL regular season PPG NHL entry draft position
Player (QMJHL seasons) Total QMJHL regular season games played Total QMJHL regular season goals Total QMJHL regular season assists Total QMJHL regular season points Average QMJHL regular season PPG NHL entry draft position
MacKenzie Weegar (2012-2014) 123 20 83 103 0.84 2013 7th Round: 206th Overall
Jason Demers (2004-2008) 215 17 91 108 0.5 2008 7th Round: 186th Overall
Nathan Beaulieu (2008-2012) 233 37 115 152 0.65 2011 1st Round: 17th Overall
Marco Scandella (2007-2010) 154 23 59 82 0.53 2008 2nd Round: 55th Overall
Mark Barberio (2006-2010) 261 46 122 168 0.64 2008 6th Round: 152nd Overall
Samuel Girard (2014-2017) 190 24 168 192 1.01 2016 2nd Round: 47th Overall
David Savard (2007-2010) 199 23 110 133 0.67 2009 4th Round: 94th Overall
Keith Yandle (2005-2006) 66 25 59 84 1.27 2005 4th Round: 105th Overall
Andrew MacDonald (2005-2007) 133 20 84 104 0.78 2006 6th Round: 160th Overall
Kris Letang (2004-2007) 170 52 100 152 0.89 2005 3rd Round: 62nd Overall

These QMJHL players went on to produce the following points in the NHL:

QMJHL Alumni - NHL Points

Player (Current NHL team) Total NHL regular season games played Total NHL regular season goals Total NHL regular season assists Total NHL regular season points
Player (Current NHL team) Total NHL regular season games played Total NHL regular season goals Total NHL regular season assists Total NHL regular season points
MacKenzie Weegar (Florida Panthers) 127 6 17 23
Jason Demers (Arizona Coyotes) 608 45 154 199
Nathan Beaulieu (Winnipeg Jets) 332 11 70 81
Marco Scandella (Buffalo Sabres) 518 38 86 124
Mark Barberio (Colorado Avalanche) 251 14 40 54
Samuel Girard (Colorado Avalanche) 155 8 42 50
David Savard (Columbus Blue Jackets) 489 40 109 149
Keith Yandle (Florida Panthers) 907 94 434 528
Andrew MacDonald (Calgary Flames) 586 28 133 161
Kris Letang (Pittsburgh Penguins) 747 112 381 493

In comparison to these players, Hunter Drew produced the following statistics in the QMJHL:

Hunter Drew

Player (QMJHL seasons) Total QMJHL regular season games played Total QMJHL goals Total QMJHL assists Total QMJHL points PPG NHL entry draft position
Player (QMJHL seasons) Total QMJHL regular season games played Total QMJHL goals Total QMJHL assists Total QMJHL points PPG NHL entry draft position
Hunter Drew (2016-2019) 167 24 68 92 0.55 2018 6th Round: 178th Overall

On the face of it, it appears that Hunter Drew has a lower end PPG when compared to other QMJHL alumni that went on to play in the NHL; only Jason Demers and Marco Scandella have lower PPG. However, Drew only scored three points in his first QMJHL season and is generally regarded as a late bloomer. Removing his first season (42 games) from the statistics, Drew scored 89 points in 125 games, good for a 0.71 PPG, which is approximately the average of other QMJHL defensemen that went on to play in the NHL.

In his final season in the QMJHL, Drew scored 16 goals and 34 assists for 50 points in 61 games (0.82 PPG). His 50 points was 8th best QMJHL defensemen and his 16 goals ranked 4th among QMJHL defensemen. He also leaves the Charlottetown Islanders as second all-time leader in goals and points.

Given both his draft position and PPG (especially in his later QMJHL seasons), useful comparatives for Hunter Drew are MacKenzie Weegar, Jason Demers, Mark Barberio, and Andrew MacDonald. Each of these players has had a successful NHL career. PPG is not the most accurate measure of whether a player will be successful at the next level; however it does give us some indication of the type of player Drew could turn out to be and the level of scoring that he could achieve as his career develops.

Although the probability of late picks of having successful NHL careers is not great, there is a path through and Drew has the individual offensive statistics to back up that route. A season (or two) in the AHL will help provide great insight into what Drew’s potential really is and help to demonstrate his ceiling.

Comparison with Josh Manson

In addition to QMJHL alumni, Hunter Drew has at times been compared to Josh Manson. Both are right hand defensemen, have a similarly sized frame, play a physical game with some offensive upside, and were 6th Round selections (Manson 160th Overall in 2011).

A large amount of Manson’s success is attributed (by him, coaches and analysts) to how hard he had to work to achieve success. Drew has faced similar adversity. In 2016, he only made the Charlottetown Islanders after a camp try out and has regularly had to prove skeptics wrong at each level he has played. In March 2019, Jim Hulton, Head Coach of the Charlottetown Islanders said: “Hunter is going to be a story that we tell for years to come because of the path he took and how he handled some adversity. It’s easy to talk the talk, it’s really difficult to put that to action, but he did.

Hopefully, this development journey will help him to channel his inner grit and establish himself as a solid, physical, two-way NHL defenseman.

What is Hunter Drew’s NHL timeline?

Despite a strong showing at the Rookie Faceoff, Drew is unlikely to be ready to play in the NHL this year. During the Rookie Faceoff, he missed some defensive assignments and he is yet to play at the professional level or against men. A year or two in the AHL will allow Drew to adjust to a quicker game, hone his skating, solidify his defensive abilities, and to build upon his frame.

In the event that the Ducks trade for Justin Faulk, the right side will become busier and Drew will likely be given more time to develop in the AHL. That being said, Drew is a right-handed defenseman, which is something lacking amongst Ducks’ prospects - Joshua Mahura, Larson and Guhle are all left-handed. If Drew continues to make a good impression, injuries occur and Dallas Eakins does not believe that Korbinian Holzer, Michael Del Zotto and Jani Hakanpaa have what it takes to regularly take on a greater role, Drew may find himself leapfrogging other prospects and getting a shot.

In any event, it remains to be seen the impact that Hunter Drew will have on the Anaheim Ducks, however, his Rookie Faceoff performance gives some hope that he’ll break through in the not too distant future.