Dryden Hunt provides above-average defensive value as a depth forward

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
1 year ago
The Calgary Flames acquired forward Dryden Hunt from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Radim Zohorna, which was the first move of their entire trade deadline season. Hunt will help the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers at first, but if there were to be injuries down the line, he would most likely be one of the call-up candidates, given his previous (but limited) NHL experience.
Hunt was undrafted and signed by the Florida Panthers to jump-start his NHL career. He is being paid $762,500 per CapFriendly, and at 27 years old, he has bounced around from NHL franchise to NHL franchise, trying to find a secure spot. He spent time with three NHL teams before Calgary this season, the New York Rangers, Colorado Avalanche, and Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s played 37 games in total with those teams and has only registered 3 points in the form of 3 goals. He has only averaged slightly over eight minutes of ice time.
There is reason to be optimistic that he can make an NHL impact on the scoresheet if head coach Darryl Sutter plays him for more than eight minutes a night. Last season, Hunt averaged the highest ice time of his career at 12:17, scoring 6 goals and 11 assists for 17 points in 76 games. The production isn’t stunning by any means, but it’s production, nonetheless.
Offence isn’t Hunt’s thing, though. It’s on the defensive side of the ice where he is at his best, and adding a depth forward that is good in his defensive zone may not be the worst thing in the world, considering the goaltending the Flames are getting. Below is his regularized adjusted plus-minus chart from Evolving-Hockey that spans from 2020 to the present 2023.
Having above one standard deviation means that Hunt is better than most players at limiting high-danger chances and shot attempts. Even though it may not be against the strongest competition, the results suggest he can be an effective player when given a primarily defensive role. The offence leaves a ton to be desired, but that’s not why any team, including the Flames, acquires him.
Hunt, in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies, scored 9 points in 15 games, and with the Wranglers, he has a goal and an assist in one game. The sample is small, but he will be of use at that level and, once again, should be eligible for a call-up at some point if things get dire.
Flames management did not make many moves at the trade deadline, and many people were slightly confused that Hunt was the first player they acquired. Luckily, they made another move a little more to the 1 p.m. MT deadline on Friday that will impact the NHL roster, but still, the choice to many is confusing. Hunt is primarily an AHL piece that may bounce back and forth between the AHL and NHL like he has his whole career. The Flames got an effective depth defensive forward that may or may not play NHL games, so the needle isn’t moved very much.

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