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Prospect Update: Trevor Zegras
By Thomas Harrington
Anaheim’s top pick from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, forward Trevor Zegras played in the NHL, AHL, and World Junior Championships this past season.
Similar to Jamie Drysdale, Zegras’ season didn’t begin until the World Juniors in December. He played for Team USA and had a tournament for the ages, scoring seven goals and 18 points in just seven games, helping Team USA defeat Team Canada in the final game and taking home the gold medal. He was named the tournament MVP and finished with 27 points in two World Junior Championships, tied for the most all-time by an American player at the tournament. His 18 points were the second most by an American in a single tournament.
Following the World Juniors, Zegras went to San Diego to start his professional career. Zegras is a center, but he was started on the wing so he could adjust to the professional game. He recorded five points in his first two AHL games and was named the AHL player of the week. His hot play continued and he recorded nine points in his first eight games. He was promptly called up to Anaheim and made his NHL debut in late February.
After such tremendous success at the World Juniors and AHL levels, Zegras took a little longer to find success at the NHL level. He didn’t record his first assist until his fifth career game and his first goal until his 11th game. However, despite the low offensive production, Zegras was looking dangerous and creating chances all over the offensive zone.
By early April, the points still weren’t coming, but the Ducks were very happy with his development. The decision was made to send him back to San Diego and start playing center against professional competition. The plan was to get him used to playing center in the AHL, and then bring him back to Anaheim before the season ended.
Back in the AHL, Zegras immediately began putting up points again, and finished with 10 goals and 21 points in just 17 games with the Gulls. Despite playing so few games, he finished tied for seventh on the team in scoring, and was tied for 13th in rookie scoring. Every rookie who scored more than him played in more games than Zegras did, some of them significantly more. Happy with his development at center in the AHL, Anaheim called Zegras back up in late April so he could play center against NHL competition.
Zegras only played in nine more games after his recall, but finished with eight points in those nine games. Overall, he played in 24 NHL games and scored three goals and 13 points. It’s clear that Zegras’ time in San Diego served him well, especially the time he was down there playing center. The only thing that he failed to do was record a point on the powerplay, despite leading the team in powerplay ice time per game.
Zegras returned to San Diego for the Pacific Division playoff tournament, and scored a goal and three points in three games. He finished tied for second in points and tied for first in assists on the Gulls in their three-game series.
Zegras easily met my expectations from last season. Since I didn’t know what this past season would look like and where he’d be playing, I left my expectations for him relatively simple. First, when in San Diego, I wanted him to play in the team’s top six. Most nights, he played on their top line and was their number one center for much of the time during his second stint with the Gulls. Second, I wanted him to be one of San Diego’s top assist men. Despite playing only 17 games, his 11 assists were tied for eighth on the team. If he’d played more games with the Gulls he probably would have finished second or third in assists on San Diego. Finally, I wanted him to make his NHL debut. Well, playing 24 games with the Ducks certainly satisfied that requirement.
I have a few expectations for Zegras this coming season, and they are all being made with the assumption that he will spend most, if not all, of the season in Anaheim. He’s shown that he can dominate in the minors; now Zegras needs to show what he can do against NHL competition.
First, while I don’t expect him to win the Calder Trophy or to even be a finalist, I do expect him to be in the conversation throughout the season. Just like Drysdale, Zegras only played 24 games last season and will still be considered a rookie this coming year.
Second, I expect Zegras to play in most of Anaheim’s games. If he needs to be given the occasional night off, that’s fine, but I want that to happen much less often than it did last year. Finally, I want to see him put up some points on the powerplay.
Zegras has two years left on his entry-level deal, and he’ll be a restricted free agent when it’s over. The hope is that Zegras will be Anaheim’s number one center going forward, possibly by the time this contract is over. If he is at that point, the Ducks could give him an eight-year extension. However, if he’s playing well but hasn’t quite reached an elite level of play, they could prefer a bridge deal, hoping that he’ll show that he deserves the long term extension in his next contract.
With the prospect updates now completed, next up I’ll be ranking Anaheim’s prospect positions.
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September 26th, 2021