By Kaylee Herndon/Reading, PA - David Drake found his way into ice skates at the age of four, before playing in the mini mites leagues at six.“My first coach’s name was Gus. Obviously I didn’t start out too serious with hockey, just kind of messed around. I think my mom’s friend actually recommended that I skate because I could rollerblade well.”It would be a long journey from "skating because his mom’s friend recommended it" to spending the 2018-19 season with the Reading Royals. Drake shone in the junior leagues, playing the 2013-14 season for the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers. The old Buccaneer Arena is an old hockey barn, with the jumbotron hanging only about 25 feet above the ice. Drake registered five assists in the 2013-14 season. The previous season he split time between the Buccaneers, registering one goal, and the Chicago Fury U18 of the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League, scoring two goals and notching two assists.“I don’t score many goals but my first memorable goal was in juniors. I was in Des Moines and I actually scored from the red line. It was a flukey goal but it was my first one in juniors so it was pretty special,” Drake said.He went on to be selected in the seventh round by the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2013 NHL Entry Draft before attending the University of Connecticut.“My favorite hockey memory? I think when I got drafted in 2013 was pretty cool,” Drake said. “I was a later pick so I didn’t go to the draft but I was on the couch with my parents and it was a special moment to share with them. In a way it gave them a little payback for all that they have done for me.”Before his debut with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2018 he tallied four goals, 25 points, and 177 blocked shots across 124 games played at UConn. Drake was the UConn player to score the program’s first Hockey East goal in their first conference game at Merrimack on Oct. 18, 2014.“There was actually a little controversy,” Drake explained about the goal. “The puck went to the point, I shot it, it might have gotten deflected by a teammate. But I ended up getting the goal.”Drake ranked 11th among Hockey East rookie defensemen in blocked shots. He also notched an assist on Spencer Naas’ overtime game-winner to beat Maine, 2-1, on Jan. 30, 2015. Naas now plays for the Texas Stars (AHL). Former Royals teammate Steven Swavely also played for Maine in the 2015 season. Swavely signed a contract with the Phantoms during the 2018-19 season after playing 26 games with Reading.Drake was named an alternate captain his junior season at UConn, had an average of 1.61 blocked shots per game, and registered his first career multi-point game. His senior season he had a career-high of 56 blocked shots, ranking third on the team and 12th in Hockey East. He also notched a career-high eight assists.“Defense has always been first with me. But, throughout college, I’ve tried to jump into plays and join the rush more. As my game has matured, my offensive game has come along,” said Drake in an interview for SB Nation College Hockey. “My stick has always been a strength of my game. I’ve learned a lot about positioning here. Positioning can be huge to playing good defense.”After graduating from UConn, he played seven games with the Phantoms at the end of the 2017-18 season before signing an AHL contract with Lehigh in June of 2018. Drake appeared in the Phantoms’ home opener on Oct. 6, 2018.Drake was loaned to the Reading Royals on Oct. 23, 2018, has played in 59 games this season and has one goal (6 pts). The goal opened scoring for the Royals in their 5-4 victory against the Manchester Monarchs on Dec. 21. Drake danced around a defender at the blue line before walking into a slap shot that got past Chris Driedger, who now plays for the Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL).There are a few major differences when it comes to college and pro hockey. Drake stays focused on changing and improving his game to measure up to new challenges.“It is a much longer season and getting used to...playing three games in a row and learning how to keep it simple and grind,” Drake said.Royals Head Coach Kirk MacDonald and Assistant Coach Mike Marcou have had a large influence on him as he adjusts to playing pro.“Coming out of college it is a different game and out here you are against grown men fighting for jobs and their livelihood. They have kept me in line when I have maybe strayed away a little bit from playing my game. They have had a good influence so far,” Drake explained.
Defenseman David Drake ‘keeps it simple’
Thursday, March 28th