Flyers analysis

Patient Flyers, young Drysdale agree there's ‘a lot of work to do' defensively

The 21-year-old defenseman was acquired by the Flyers last month in the Gauthier trade

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VOORHEES, N.J. — After Jamie Drysdale's first game as a Flyer, John Tortorella stood behind the podium and said he wasn't going to jump up and down.

But the head coach was excited.

Excited about a 21-year-old, right-handed defenseman with advanced skating ability joining a rebuilding Flyers team that wants to grow its roots from the back end.

"It's a perfect timing as far as where we are in our process," Tortorella said about a month ago.

And so the Flyers are being patient with Drysdale's defensive game. He's the youngest player on the club's roster and his position takes the longest for development at the NHL level.

"Just the overall positioning, understanding angles, understanding checking forward — we have a lot of work to do there," Tortorella said Thursday at morning skate. "And we expected that with a 21-year-old kid. But the upside with his skating and how he can escape, it's really encouraging. But as far as his overall game, there is a ton to work on with him."

Drysdale came to the Flyers in the Cutter Gauthier trade last month, a move he didn't see coming at all. A day after the trade, he practiced. Then came his first game a day later. Following his second game, he missed two games of a road trip because of an illness.

All this while finding a new residence.

"My parents, they literally moved me into my new place," Drysdale said. "I'd be toast, there's no way I would have been able to do it by myself. They drive from Toronto all the time now."

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Drysdale has all the tools offensively. Those tools are why he was drafted sixth overall by the Ducks in 2020 and why he has already played 132 NHL games at this young of an age.

With the Flyers, he is adjusting to a different system. Since being acquired, Drysdale has studied film alongside assistant coach Brad Shaw, who is highly regarded for his knowledge of how to play defense.

"Shawsy, I could already tell from Day 1, is an incredible hockey mind," Drysdale said. "I was looking forward to working with him out of the gate. It's all the little things — stick placement, not drifting out of the dots, staying put, sometimes this is the better play, sometimes that's the better play.

"He just talks with so much detail and it's pretty easy to learn from, to be honest. He doesn't overcomplicate anything, he makes it very simple, very plain. I think that's something that's easy to learn from. I'm just going to continue to do that and pick his brain.

"It's no secret that my game needs work. It's a good guy to have and that's the plan."

Thursday against the Jets (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) will be Drysdale's 10th game with the Flyers. He has a goal, two assists, 10 blocked shots and a minus-6 rating while playing 19:24 minutes per game.

Drysdale has had a couple of tough outings against top teams. He was a minus-3 against Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche and a minus-4 against David Pastrnak and the Bruins.

The Flyers just want him to keep playing.

"I think the message to me has been continue to be assertive," Drysdale said, "we'd rather you be assertive and make the wrong play then hold back and just wait for something bad to happen."

Games are important for Drysdale considering he missed the majority of last season because of a torn labrum in his left shoulder and has dealt with a lower-body injury this season.

"I think he's a work in progress, I think he has a lot to learn," Tortorella said. "I think he has a lot to learn about positioning, time and space. He hasn't played a lot, he has been banged up. For the past couple of years, he has been hurt. ... Anaheim played a man-on-man defense and he's trying to figure out how we're playing with our zone coverage."

As Drysdale gets up to speed, his teammates have helped with the transition. During the bye week and All-Star break, a number of them went on a trip together.

"I was going to go home during the All-Star break and then everyone was like, 'What are you talking about? Like, no.' I literally didn't have to do anything," Drysdale said. "They booked the ticket for me, they set up the hotel, everything. I just had to show up. Everyone here has been awesome."

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