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Prospect Update: Hunter Drew
By Michael Walters
A sixth-round pick from 2018, Hunter Drew just completed his first professional season, splitting time between the AHL and ECHL.
Drew played a majority of the season in San Diego but did suit up for five ECHL games. With the Tulsa Oilers, he recorded four assists. In San Diego, he played in 29 games and scored two goals and seven points. One of his goals was scored on the powerplay. Drew played primarily on the bottom pairing, but he did get top-four minutes some nights. He wasn’t one of San Diego’s top defensemen, and that was reflected in his playing time as the season went along.
He played more in the first couple of months in the season, but, as San Diego was gearing up for the playoff push, his ice time was diminished and he was a healthy scratch several times. He ended up only playing one game in February before he was assigned to the ECHL for his five-game stint.
Drew somewhat met my expectations for him from last summer. I wanted to see him play in a ton of games with San Diego. 29 games is pretty good, but he was a healthy scratch often enough and he did play in the ECHL. However, I do feel that he got better as the season went on and looked comfortable playing on the team’s bottom pair, two things that I also wanted to see out of him. So while he didn’t live up to my expectations from a year ago, I don’t think he failed them either.
This coming season, Drew will return to San Diego. The Gulls have already lost Chris Wideman and Joel Persson, while Jacob Larsson, Brendan Guhle, Josh Mahura, and Jani Hakanpaa all hope to play more in the NHL next season. Those six players account for over 180 games in San Diego last year. As a result, there could be a number of defensive holes in San Diego for Drew to step into.
I have a number of expectations for Drew this coming season. First, spend the entire year in the AHL and avoid the ECHL. He only played five games in Tulsa last season, and that was when San Diego was getting ready for the stretch run. This year, if the Gulls do push for a playoff spot, I’d like to see him involved in that and not put to the sideline. Second, I’d like to see him play in more games for the Gulls. Drew’s game is a little rough around the edges, but more games will help show his improvement. Finally, I’d like to see a little more offense out of him.
Drew isn’t known for his offensive skills and instincts. However, he’s a right-handed shot and has one of the harder shots on San Diego’s roster. I’d like to see him use it a little more and hopefully score some more goals. A nice bonus would be for him to get more powerplay time.
In terms of his NHL future, Drew is still a ways away from making it to Anaheim. I expect him to spend all of next season in the minors. However, if he can develop into one of San Diego’s top defensemen, he could get a shot at the NHL in the 2021-2022 season. The reason why I think he’ll have a chance is that he’s a right-handed shot, something that NHL teams are always on the lookout for.
Despite playing professionally last season, Drew was actually not signed to an NHL deal. He was on an AHL only deal after he decided to not return to the QMJHL for an overage season. However, he played well enough that Anaheim signed him to an entry-level deal in late March. It will begin this coming season and last for three years. He’ll be a restricted free agent when it’s up. If Drew has become an NHL regular by then, or even a player on the cusp of being one, I expect Anaheim to re-sign him in three years. However, if he has yet to play in an NHL game and is still seeing time in the ECHL, I don’t think the Ducks would give him a qualifying offer and he would leave as a free agent.
The next prospect update will be on Chase De Leo.
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August 5th, 2020