EL SEGUNDO, CA — 2009-10 was Davis Drewiske’s first full season in the National Hockey League, and he made the most of his opportunity during the first half of the season, filling the role of a solid, stay-at-home defenseman more than adequately.
But the 25-year-old defenseman’s season was derailed by a seemingly routine body check on January 4, 2010, at San Jose.
The 6-2, 218-pound native of Hudson, Wisconsin had just thrown a clearing pass in the right corner of the Kings’ zone when he took a hit that was nothing like the punishing body checks often seen on the highlight reels.
But for all intents and purposes, it may as well have been a bone-crunching hit—Drewiske suffered a dislocated shoulder on the play.
“My arm was up at a bad angle and I got hit the right way,” said Drewiske. “That popped the shoulder out.”
Drewiske was activated from injured reserve on February 8, and ended up missing 15 games due to the injury. But he was unable to work his way back into the lineup on a consistent basis. He ended up missing 39 regular season games and sat out the Kings’ first round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks.
Head coach Terry Murray said that Drewiske’s problems were both physical and mental.
“He had a very unfortunate injury last year and I think it really had a big effect on him emotionally because of other injuries he’s been through,” Murray said during an interview with Frozen Royalty on September 3.
“The hardest thing for me last year was taking him out of the lineup because he cares so much and tries so hard,” Murray added on September 18, the first day of training camp.
The process of getting Drewiske back on track started during his exit meeting with Murray at season’s end.
“He stressed to me the importance of having a good summer and coming back with confidence, to know that you’re a veteran player who can play in this league and play with confidence,” said Drewiske.
Indeed, Drewiske’s problems were mostly on the mental side of the ledger.
“It was a combination of a few things, a little bit physical, a lot mental,” he said. “I was losing my confidence, losing that ability to play at a high pace. But that’s behind me. You learn from it, move on and get ready for this year.”
“I’ve been pretty fortunate,” he added. “That’s the first time I’ve missed any games due to injury in six or seven years. Hopefully, I can go another six or seven years without being hurt again.”
Now in the midst of the Kings’ 2010 training camp, Drewiske is focused on moving back into the team’s top six defensemen once again.
“[I’m working on] getting back to playing hard and physical, and just playing simple,” said Drewiske. “Our team can use a guy who just plays reliably, hard and physical in our end, and is a solid defender. So I’ll start there, establish that, and let my game expand from there. But, first and foremost, just play hard, play physical, and be a good defender.”
“I’m feeling good, I’m ready to go and I’m excited for the season to start.”
During the summer, Drewiske was on a strength and conditioning program, like the rest of his teammates, and has added noticable upper body strength.
“I’m about the same weight, a little bit stronger in the upper body than I was last year,” said Drewiske. “You’ve got to prepare yourself physically. I’ve set myself up well, now it’s time to go out there and play.”
“Our [strength and conditioning] staff here brought to our attention nutrition, diet and recovery,” added Drewiske. “The better nutrition you have, the better recovery you have. It allows you to work more and work harder.”
“Adding that to the repertoire helped this summer [in that] I was able to work more, work longer and harder. That really helped. It was a good summer. I’m feeling really good, much better than I did at this time last year.”
The added strength, along with a new attitude, appears to have Drewiske headed back in the right direction.
“I’ve had some experience, I’ve had some success here, so I know what that’s like,” he emphasized. “I know that I can play. I’m excited to be back in there on a regular basis and get going.”
“You really just have to earn it every night,” he elaborated. “Terry’s going to make decisions that are best for the team on the way he sees fit, and that’s not an easy job for him. But he’s going to do what’s best for the team, and as long as you’re playing with confidence and you’re playing hard, you’re going to be in the mix.”
Murray has taken note of Drewiske’s added strength, along with the change in his attitude and outlook.
“Drewiske is going to be ready to go,” said Murray. “He’s hungry, he looks great, he’s been working out hard. He’s going to be a player we’re going to rely on to get going.”
“[He] tested really well [in training camp physical testing],” added Murray. “He feels good, he’s confident. He’s going to bounce back and grab a spot at the end of training camp.”
“I love the attitude he’s come back to camp with.”
The Kings will need Drewiske to solidify their third defenseman pairing with Matt Greene out for at least the first month of the season due to a shoulder injury, and Murray believes Drewiske can be more than a capable fill-in.
“With Matt Greene out of the lineup, we need someone to step up and fill in there,” Murray noted. “Drewiske is ready to go, and he fits in that grouping,”
“With Greene out, that’s a big loss at the start of the year with the way that he plays,” said Drewiske. “He’s physical, he’s tough, he blocks shots, he kills penalties. The other half is that he’s a very vocal guy, he’s one of the guys we rely upon as a leader.”
“I think I can try to fill his shoes a little bit in the physical play, the shot blocking—that side.”
Even with the added weight of increased responsibilities and expectations resting firmly on his shoulders, Drewiske is relishing the challenge.
“I just want to be relied upon every night and bring a consistent game every night, something the team can count on—a physical, hard defender,” Drewiske stressed. “That’s part of my game, it’s something I can do well. That’s the role I want to fill.”
“There’s no question that he’s an experienced guy,” said Murray. “He’s been there and has done it for us, and we have confidence that he’s going to get it all back together on the playing side of things.”
Raw Audio Interview with Davis Drewiske (6:02; edited to remove extraneous material and dead air)
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