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Prospect Update: Drew Helleson
By Thomas Harrington
Acquired from the Colorado Avalanche as part of the Josh Manson deal at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, defenseman Drew Helleson spent most of this past year in San Diego, but did make his NHL debut at the end of the regular season.
With the Gulls, Helleson played in 65 games and scored five goals and 18 points. He missed time in February with an injury and was actually called up to the NHL for the first time in November, but didn’t see any playing time with the Ducks. Helleson was called back up to Anaheim at the end of the season when the Ducks’ blueline had several injuries. He made his NHL debut against Colorado, the team that originally drafted him, and scored his first career goal against Vancouver. Overall, he played in three NHL games and scored one goal. Helleson went back to San Diego after Anaheim’s season ended to play in their final two games. With the Gulls, Helleson was primarily used on their top pairing. In Anaheim, he played an average of 13:39 a game, while seeing a little time on the powerplay and penalty kill units.
Like a lot of San Diego players, Helleson struggled through the first half of the year. In December, the Ducks re-acquired Michael Del Zotto and the two formed a strong defensive pairing. Del Zotto helped Helleson improve in the second half of the season.
Last year, my expectations for Helleson were for him to be one of San Diego’s more consistent defensemen, to play primarily in the top four, and to get time on both the powerplay and penalty kill units. San Diego’s defense was a mess for much of the season, and while Helleson did make mistakes, I do think he was among the team’s better defensemen. This was especially true after Del Zotto joined the team. He also primarily played on the team’s top pairing, and did see time on both the powerplay and penalty kill units, but didn’t flourish on either. I was hoping that he would make his NHL debut, but I didn’t expect that out of him in his first pro season. By making his NHL debut, I certainly consider last year to overall be a successful one for Helleson.
Last year, it’s safe to say the bluelines in both Anaheim and San Diego significantly underperformed. As a result, I expect big changes to the defensive cores on both teams. For Helleson, I think he’ll likely spend some the season with the Gulls, but be among the first defensive callups to the Ducks when needed. However, there’s clearly an open spot or two in Anaheim, and if he has a good enough training camp, he could grab it and stick for the entire season.
I have two expectations for Helleson for next season. First, when he’s in San Diego, to continue to play in the team’s top four and for his overall defensive game to continue to improve. Second, when he’s in Anaheim, to show that he can become a fulltime NHL player in the future. I don’t expect him to spend the entire year in Anaheim this season, but I’m hoping he will in the 2024-2025 season.
Helleson has two more years left on his entry-level deal, and he’ll be a restricted free agent when it’s over. If he spends the final year of that in the NHL like I hope he does, he’ll be re-signed on a one-way contract, probably for two or three years. However, if he’s still spending most of his time in the AHL, he’ll probably get a two-way deal for one or two seasons.
The next prospect update will be on forward Jack Perbix.
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September 12th, 2023