Prospect Profile: Drew Helleson

Photo: USA Today

By Thomas Harrington

With Anaheim’s offseason upon us, it’s time to begin the summer prospect write-ups. This summer, I’ll be starting with the prospect profiles for prospects that Anaheim has acquired over the past year. First up is defenseman Drew Helleson.

On March 14th, the Anaheim Ducks traded Josh Manson to the Colorado Avalanche for Helleson and a 2023 second round draft pick. Colorado had chosen Helleson 47th overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

After being drafted, Helleson played at Boston College for three seasons. His offensive totals improved each year, and his defensive play picked up as well. As a freshman, he suited up for 28 games and scored one goal and six points. Other than truly elite players, freshmen at good NCAA programs usually don’t get a ton of ice time and don’t put up a ton of points. Helleson didn’t get into quite as many games in his sophomore year, but upped his offensive numbers to four goals and 15 points in 22 games. He was named to the NCAA (East) Second All-American Team, the NCAA (Hockey East) First All-Star Team, and was named the NCAA (Hockey East) Best Defensive Defenseman. In his final year of college hockey, Helleson appeared in a career-high 32 games and scored four goals and 25 points.

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Besides his time at Boston College, Helleson has also played for Team USA a couple of times. He played for them at the 2021 World Junior Championships, scoring two goals and four points in seven games, helping Team USA win gold. That team had several other Anaheim prospects: Trevor Zegras, Sam Colangelo, Jackson LaCombe, and Henry Thrun. With the NHL not going to the recent Olympic games, several NCAA players were named to Team USA, and Helleson was one of them. He played in three of the USA’s games and recorded one assist.

After completing his junior year, Helleson signed his entry-level deal with Anaheim and joined the Gulls on an ATO to finish the year. He immediately stepped onto the team’s second pairing, and played in the top four to finish off the season. Helleson played in 17 games and recorded two assists. In the playoffs, he played on San Diego’s second pair in both games and recorded his first AHL multipoint game with a two assist performance in game one. They were his only points of the two game series.

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Helleson is a right-handed shooting defenseman, something that Anaheim has stocked up on in recent years. He put up good offensive numbers in college, but Helleson is better known for his defensive play and skating ability. He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes and can shut down the opposition’s top players.

This coming season, I expect Helleson to spend most of the season with the Gulls. Depending on what the Ducks do in the offseason, there could be an open spot on Anaheim’s defensive core, but that remains to be seen. Even if there is a spot to be won, I think it’ll be good for him to spend a full year in the AHL before going for the NHL. Jumping from college to the NHL is asking a lot for a player. Giving him a year in the minor leagues should be beneficial for his development.

With San Diego, I expect Helleson to play in their top four and see time on both the powerplay and penalty kill units. He doesn’t need to put up a ton of points, but I do expect him to be one of San Diego’s more consistent blueliners. If Helleson has a good enough training camp or is dominating during the season with the Gulls, I could see him making his NHL debut as early as next season, but it’s not something I’m going to expect out of him.

In terms of his NHL future, I don’t think Helleson will ever be a true top pairing defenseman, but similar to Manson, he’s a player who could play on a top pairing and do well. I think he’s more suited for a team’s second defensive pairing, though. While he could make his NHL debut next season, I don’t think we’ll see him get significant time with the Ducks until the 2023-2024 season at the earliest.

Shortly after acquiring Helleson, the Ducks signed him to a three-year entry level contract. It will begin next season and he’ll be a restricted free agent when it ends. Assuming he progresses over the next few years, I fully expect him to be re-signed when his entry-level deal is up. What kind of deal he gets then really comes down to what kind of player he has become.

The next prospect profile will be on Calle Clang.

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June 11th, 2022


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