Review of Anaheim Ducks prospects at the World Junior Championships

Cam York #4 of the United States gives a gold medal to teammate Trevor Zegras #9 after defeating Canada (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
Cam York #4 of the United States gives a gold medal to teammate Trevor Zegras #9 after defeating Canada (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /
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Anaheim Ducks
Jamie Drysdale #6 of Canada takes a shot as Manuel Alberg #28 of Germany defends during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /

Our Saviors – Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale

The Anaheim Ducks prospects that fans are most excited about are, of course, the team’s first picks in the past two drafts. For the second year in a row, we got to see Jamie Drysdale represent Team Canada and Trevor Zegras represent Team USA. The Ducks’ first-round pick in 2019, Zegras, was playing in his second tournament after being a part of Team USA the year prior. Drysdale was also playing his second tournament as he got the rare opportunity to play for Team Canada prior to his draft season as a 17-year old. Both players showed growth from last year’s opportunity to be two of the most impactful players in the tournament.

On last year’s team, Zegras join the Americans as a depth forward rather than the focal point, however, he made the best of his opportunity. In 5 games, the Ducks’ prospect put up 9 assists, leading the tournament in that category. While Zegras himself did not light the lamp he did put on a clinic showing off his playmaking skills, putting the hockey world on notice.

Coming back as one of the leaders for Team USA, Zegras was put on the top line with Kings prospects (sigh) Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev and from the start of the tournament, the trio played critical minutes and were trusted to play in many scenarios. While the Americans came out slow in their first game against the Russians, Zegras managed to score a goal which began his streak of at least a point a game.

Zegras ended up leading the tournament in points with 18 in 7 games played, 10 more than his closest teammates Kaliyev and Turcotte. His performance has been well document so I won’t dive too deep into it, but ending your World Junior career tied as the highest-scoring American (in 7 fewer games) is something to really hang your hat on.

Similar to Zegras, Drysdale was also returning for his second WJC. As one of four non-drafted players on last year’s Team Canada, Drysdale joined the team as their seventh defensemen and in limited playing time was able to put up a goal and 4 points in his 7 games. But more importantly, the 17-year showed that he belonged and was not outmatched in the tournament.

Fast forward to this year’s tournament and Drysdale was to be a focal point of the team. Paired with fellow returnee Bowen Byram, the two formed one of the best defensive pairings in recent memory. As the top pairing, the two young defensemen played in numerous situations throughout the tournament, especially in the defeat against the Gold Medal game against the Americans where it seemed they did not leave the ice.

Drysdale finished the tournament with just 2 assists but it was his commitment to winning that really stood out. While he is known as an offensively gifted player who is a great skater and moves the puck well, being paired with a similar player in Byram meant that one of the players would have to step up and play the stronger defensive game. In this case, it was the older Byram as the main man on the unit rushing the puck and jumping into the play.

With his partner getting the most out of the offensive chances, Drysdale was a fantastic compliment and took to his role very well. However, it does beg the question about how he would have played if that pairing was split and he joined a more defensive player like Thomas Harley. But, it was good that he was unselfish in this regard but the most important sign to see was his progression in his defensive game. If he can continue to show the defensive development that was displayed in the tournament, we could see Drysdale patrolling the Ducks blueline sooner rather than later.