With hockey at a standstill entirely in North America, young players have been forced to make some hard choices about the 2020-21 season. Do you wait it out in Canada or the United States, pinning your hopes on your season actually starting, or of actually playing any meaningful games at all? Or do you take the chance and go to Europe, where the pandemic situation is at least marginally more under control — at least, under control enough for sports leagues to resume play, even if it is to largely empty arenas.
Jack Drury, who played two years at Harvard, found himself thrust into that position when the Ivy League schools collectively announced that they were cancelling winter sports for 2020-21, after initially planning on a delayed start to the year. Left without a team to play on at a crucial time in his development, Drury made the decision to leave college in favor of heading to Europe, signing with the SHL’s Växjö Lakers for the season. The Hurricanes retain Drury’s rights.
In his two seasons at Harvard, Drury collected a handful of accolades for himself, leading the team in power play goals in his freshman season and leading in overall goals the following year. He’s already shown that he can handle the level of play in the NCAA, emerging as one of the top defensive forwards in his conference. While Drury may not have been quite ready to go the professional route, the situation created by the pandemic forced his hand.
In terms of Drury’s skills on the ice, he presents as a little bit of the best of both worlds: a player with a strong offensive drive who already had a very well-developed two-way game even prior to beginning college. In many of the young players we’ve profiled so far in this series, we’ve seen issues with defense and consistency, both fairly common in prospects. But Drury already has a strong foundation in his all-around play.
Beautiful spin-o-rama pass by @tzegras11 to Jack Drury and @usahockey takes the lead 3-2! #WorldJuniors pic.twitter.com/i58Ezkc1cb— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 30, 2019
He’s more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, though of course he shows talent for that, too. His awareness of his teammates and the plays developing on the ice is already excellent and will only get better with more experience. Drury played in all situations for Harvard; his defensive skills will be a huge asset to him in his hopes of making the NHL eventually.
Playing in the SHL is a solid next step for Drury, as he now gets to hone his skills playing with and against older, more experienced men. Drury has a respectable 16 points in 23 games, averaging a time on ice of 18:08, which is among the highest of the forwards on the team.
Pontus Holmberg (TOR) takes advantage of a pretty slick bit of playmaking by Jack Drury (CAR) and puts Vaxjo up 1-0. pic.twitter.com/D6ld1sjugb— mostly Veeti Miettinen updates at the moment (@mostlyleafies) October 31, 2020
For many players, making the jump from college or juniors to the AHL comes with an adjustment period as they get used to the increased pace, physicality and skill at the next level. Drury now has the luxury of being able to continue his development in a league that will push him to be a better hockey player. The Hurricanes benefit too, as they get to see how Drury handles this level of play. They will most likely end up with a much better picture of the kind of player they’re getting as they’re evaluating him against players with more significant experience.