The idea of being NHL teammates might take some getting used to for first round picks Jamie Drysdale and Jacob Perreault, but it’s an idea they’re embracing as they prepare to make an impression at the next level with the Anaheim Ducks.
Selected 6th and 27th overall respectively at the 2020 NHL Draft last month, the Erie Otters defenceman and Sarnia Sting offensive specialist are far from strangers when it comes to honing in on each other’s playing style.
“It’s fun, but at the same time, not fun to play against him. The high talent level he has,” Drysdale said of his fellow Ducks prospect.
“He’s an awesome guy, first and foremost, and then you put that together with how he is on the ice, known for his goal scoring and just how he can put the puck in the net.”
Both skaters tout superb offensive instincts and electrifying speed. Their relationship stems beyond their Western Conference rivalry and back to when they were much younger, facing off against each other with the Chicago Mission and Toronto Marlboros; Perreault up front for the Mission and Drysdale on the Marlies’ blue line.
“Growing up in Chicago playing for the Mission, our biggest rival was the Toronto Marlies where Jamie played and he was always one of their best players,” Perreault remembers. “I’ve played against him so many times in my hockey career. I got to play with him at Team Canada events, at the Top Prospects game. He’s a really good player and we understand the game the same way, so I’m really happy to have him and looking forward to playing with him.”
Upon hearing Perreault’s name called out later on that first night of the draft, the two have been in contact ever since.
“Hearing his name called that night was definitely really cool for me,” Drysdale said. “We’ve been texting and talking about it. We’re both really excited to have the opportunity.”
Having good teammates is an integral part of any player’s development, something Perreault expressed in thanking his fellow Sting skaters for all they’ve taught him over the past couple years leading up to his big moment. Five-year Sting veteran Ryan McGregor was one that stood out.
“He’s been in the league for so long. There are so many things I can look up to and learn from and I was really lucky to have him as a mentor these past two years to look up to,” said Perreault of the Sting graduate. “What he does on and off the ice, how he treats his teammates and how he’s so positive in the room. That’s the biggest part about being a good teammate, you push yourself as the same time as you push others.”
He also credits teammate Jamieson Rees, a second round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes at the 2019 NHL Draft, with helping him prepare for the NHL Draft process and instilling in him an even greater motivation to follow up his 39-goal, 70-point sophomore season with a stronger showing.
“We bonded so well. After practices we’re always trying to improve our games and I think I got that from him,” Perreault continued. “He had a successful draft year and after that really good accomplishment, he came out even better. His offseason was unbelievable, he was dominant, he was owning every opponent. I think that’s something I look up to for next season, to come into a better player.”
Of course, Drysdale can vouch for the same, referring to the friendships with his teammates as the best part about growing with the Otters organization over the past two seasons.
“We kind of have that bond, that relationship where you’re not just a team, you’re brothers. It’s a really tight-knit team and I think that’s one of the reasons why everyone likes playing in Erie,” he said.
With the NHL Draft officially in the books, both skaters are looking ahead to next season, and whether that means earning their first shot on NHL ice or facing off on opposite ends of the ice for a third OHL stint, they’re excited to be sharing the journey.
“I’m not sure when we’re going to get to go out to Anaheim and visit but we’ll be ready,” said Perreault. “We’re really excited to be on the same team.”