By Thomas Harrington
Anaheim’s top pick from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Trevor Zegras played for Boston University last season, his only season of NCAA hockey.
As a freshman, Zegras played in 33 of Boston’s 34 games and scored 11 goals and 36 points. He finished fourth on the team in goals, second in assists, third in points, and his +8 rating was third on the team as well. He was a healthy scratch one time early in the season after taking a bad penalty in a game. Zegras recorded his first career assist in his first NCAA game, and had a four-game point streak to start off his college career.
In those four games, he recorded a goal and five points. He had a career-high three points five times with Boston, including one night where he had a three-assist performance. He finished the season similar to how he began it, with assists in four straight games. Zegras had a solid freshman season, but his production wasn’t quite as high as some had hoped for.
While Zegras didn’t dominate in the NCAA, there’s no question that he was absolutely dominant at the 2020 World Juniors. What might be most impressive to me about the tournament that Zegras had is that he started out on Team USA’s fourth line and worked his way up from there. He had an assist in his first game and followed that up with a four-assist performance against Germany. He then had two assists in each of his next two games, giving him nine assists and nine points through four games.
Unfortunately, Zegras was stymied in the quarterfinals against Finland and no one else on the team was able to step up. Team USA lost 1-0. Even though he didn’t record any points in that game and only played in five games overall, Zegras still finished the tournament tied for sixth in scoring and led all players in assists. Even more impressive, each of those nine assists was a primary assist. While Team USA had a disappointing tournament overall, it’s safe to say that Zegras had a great one and really showed what he can do.
After a strong freshman season and stellar World Juniors performance, the Ducks decided that it was time for Zegras to turn pro. He’ll likely spend most of the season in the AHL, adjusting to and learning the pro game. However, I do expect him to make his pro debut at some this season. I don’t think it will be a ton of games, but I think it will be beneficial for his development to get a taste of NHL action.
I think Zegras is still about a year away from being a full-time NHL player. Given his skill level, he could potentially put up some points with Anaheim this coming season. However, I think it will be better for his development to spend time in the AHL and refining his game. If he can do that and make the same kind of plays that he made at the World Juniors, he’ll likely be in the NHL on a full-time basis by next season.
Expectations are difficult to set for players when they transition from college hockey or juniors to professional hockey. Almost every player will hit a wall at some point during that first season, and many hit that wall multiple times. For Zegras, the important thing is to not get frustrated when his offense does dry up and for him to keep working on his game. When he’s in the AHL, I want him playing in a top-six role with the Gulls. Zegras is more known for his passing than his shot, so I’d also like him to be one of San Diego’s top assist men.
As for the NHL, my only expectation for him is that he makes his NHL debut. Whether because of injuries in Anaheim or him playing so well in San Diego that Anaheim has to give him at least a game or two, I do expect Zegras to make his NHL debut with the Ducks at some point this season.
Zegras signed his entry-level contract at the end of March, shortly after the hockey world was put on pause by the pandemic. It will begin this season and run for three seasons. He’ll be a restricted free agent when it concludes. As long as he’s a full-time NHL player by next season, I’m confident that Zegras will get extended on a one-way deal in three years’ time. If he’s good enough, the Ducks may even consider extending him the year before his current contract expires.
The Ducks usually don’t give long-term contracts to players coming off of their entry-level deals, but it’s not unprecedented. Both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry signed five-year deals when their entry-level deals expired, as did Bobby Ryan. More recently, Cam Fowler signed a five-year deal when his entry-level contract expired and Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm both signed six-year extensions. If Zegras can put up numbers close to what Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, or Rakell did, he could be in line for a five- or six-year deal. However, if his progression is a little slower than them, he will probably sign a three-year deal, similar to the one that Troy Terry signed this past July.
Zegras is currently tearing it up at the 2021 World Juniors. He leads all players with 10 points(5 G + 5 A) in just three games so far. In today’s game against the Czech Republic, he had two goals and three assists in an impressive 7-0 win for Team USA.
With the prospect profiles and updates now done, next up, I’ll take a look at which prospects I think we could see in the NHL this season.
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December 29th, 2020