📝 by Patrick Williams

For the Chicago Wolves and rookie forward Jack Drury, the Calder Cup Playoffs have been more of the same.

Much like the regular season, in which their 50-16-5-5 record ranked first in the American Hockey League, the Wolves continue to win in the postseason. For Drury, the Carolina Hurricanes’ second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, his own regular-season success has also carried through the first two rounds of the Wolves’ postseason run.

After finishing eighth in AHL rookie scoring with 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists) in 68 games, Drury has nine points (five goals, four assists) through seven Calder Cup Playoff contests.

Deliver unyielding attention to detail, and the team wins and personal success can follow. More of the same for the Wolves and Drury.

Following practice as the Wolves’ preparations for the Western Conference Finals against Stockton continued, the 22-year-old Drury pitched a theory for that team-wide and personal consistency that goes back to October.

“We’ve all been on the same page all year,” Drury began. “And I think when everyone understands their role and knows the systems, once you transition into playoffs you’re still able to maintain that same level of play.”

They certainly have. Through a season that is now nearly eight months long, the Wolves have never lost back-to-back games in regulation. Their longest winless streak was an 0-1-2-0 stretch in late January.

And for Drury, he managed to record at least one shot on goal in 62 of his 68 regular-season appearances, and he has had six separate scoring streaks of at least three games.

The son of former NHL and AHL forward Ted Drury ― himself a 20-goal scorer with the Wolves in 2000-01 ― Jack came into the pro game last season following two years at Harvard and a season with Vaxjo in the Swedish Hockey League. He also competed for Team USA at the 2021 IIHF World Championship in Latvia.

This season, with a deep NHL roster, Carolina could exhibit patience with Drury’s development and give him nearly a full campaign in the AHL as a second-year pro. Drury made his NHL debut with the Hurricanes in December and scored a goal in each of his first two games, but spent the rest of the season rounding out his two-way game with the Wolves, receiving steady instruction from head coach Ryan Warsofsky and the Chicago coaching staff as well as some of the AHL’s top playing talent on the Chicago roster.

“I think I’ve improved my skating quite a bit,” Drury said of his season with the Wolves, “and turned it into one of my more strong suits. I think this year, being able to develop more on some of the offensive game, being around some really good players [to] learn from them and the coaches as well has been good.”

The seven playoff games that the Wolves now have played have provided Drury with a further idea of what he can expect to see when he does eventually stick with the Hurricanes, perhaps as soon as next season. After back-to-back series against Central Division rivals in the Rockford IceHogs and Milwaukee Admirals, the Wolves will face an all-new challenge from the Heat beginning with this Friday’s Game 1 at Allstate Arena.

“I think [the Calder Cup Playoffs] teach you how to play in high-pressure situations,” Drury said. “The more you get used to that, I think the more successful you can be in those moments. And I think it shows you when you get to the highest level how it’s going to be on a more consistent basis with everyone going full-speed 100 percent when there’s a lot of pressure. I think it’s preparing you for that and just trying to bring out the best of your game.”

At 6-foot and 180 pounds, Drury knows the postseason means learning how to adapt to the relentless physical play that opponents deliver in an attempt to contain a Chicago offensive attack that can pick apart even the smallest error.

“I think it’s a lot more physical,” Drury said of his AHL playoff experience so far. “You’re going to get hit a lot more times, and you’ve got to be willing to give out hits more often. When you’re playing the same team multiple games in a row, you’ve got to set that precedent that both teams try to do that.”

Drury’s NHL outlook looks bright, and there is every reason to think that he can push for a role with Carolina at training camp this September.

But that NHL bid will wait. The mission as June begins is capturing eight more wins and bringing the Calder Cup to Chicago once again.

“I think it just comes to our being in the present moment,” Drury explained. “Today we’re on the Chicago Wolves, we’re in the playoffs, and we’re looking to get better and win games.”

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