The Anaheim Ducks sure look like they found a good one in Trevor Zegras.
After a grueling four-month stretch without hockey – nine months if you happen to be a fan of a team like the Anaheim Ducks who didn’t make it to the NHL Bubble – fans got a nice little appetizer for the NHL in the form of the World Juniors Championships.
Taking place over 11 days starting on Christmas Day in Edmonton, Alberta, 10 teams from four different continents competed early and often in 25 games to extensively decide who has the best prospect pool in the country. Is it an exact science? No, especially when players like Jack Hughes are blocked from competing, but as a general rule, the fans in (virtual) attendance are greeted with some of the best young hockey you’ll see this side of the NHLPA Rookie Showcase.
And do you know who the shining star of the entire escapade was? That’d be Anaheim Ducks draftee Trevor Zegras, who led the tournament with 18 points and was named the WJC MVP for his efforts.
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The ninth overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Zegras is a native of Bedford, New York, who spent his 2019-20 season at Boston University. While many an external observer viewed Zegras fondly during the pre-draft process, with Hockeyprospects.com calling the then-18-year-old “… one of the best playmakers in this class who can make unique plays by using his dynamic passing ability.” (as per Elite Prospect), few placed the forward in the same class at Jack Hughes,
Kaapo Kakko, and Kirby Dach, the forwards who went one-two-three overall.
In hindsight, that was probably a mistake.
Over his first, and potentially only, season at BU, Zegras scored 11 goals in 33 appearances and ranked among the rare college forwards who averaged more than a point per game over an entire season (36). While this didn’t miraculously transform the Terriers into a favorite in the Hockey East Conference, as the team finished out the 2019-20 season with a 13-13-8 record – and the season was ultimately canceled before the HEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament could go down – Zegras’ performances in the WJC more than made up for it.
Now for the sake of complete comparable transparency, Zegras was competing against a collection of teenagers, many of whom won’t be playing in the NHL next season, but the 6-foot, 173-pound forward consistently stood out every time he stepped his skates onto the ice – exhibiting fantastic range, even better playmaking, and a wicked slapshot that wouldn’t look out of place playing alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell.
Could we see that trio – well, not that trio per se but a similar one – on the ice in Anaheim in a few short days when the Ducks open up the 2020-21 schedule against Vegas on December 14th? Dan Rosen and E.J. Hradek of the NHL.com sure think so, as they project Zegras to start the season out on the Ducks’ third line sandwiched between Max Jones and Troy Terry.
You know, after suffering through an underwhelming 2019-20 and the better part of a year without hockey, I think the Ducks could really use some gold medal-pedigree in their middle-six.
If the Anaheim Ducks’ dominance of the mid-2010s really is approaching its end and the team is approaching a youth-based re-tooling, having a cornerstone player from which to build around is paramount. While some will point to the Ducks’ supremely talented goaltender John Gibson as such a player, having a sub-20-year-old forward to pair with the 27-year-old netminder is the perfect makings for a speedy return to playoff prominence. Though the sample size is rather small and against players not yet old enough to buy beer (in the USA), I think Trevor Zegras very well might be that player moving forward.