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Graduated Prospect: Trevor Zegras
By Thomas Harrington
Anaheim’s first round pick from 2019, Trevor Zegras just completed what was arguably the Ducks’ most dominant rookie season in franchise history. For his efforts, he was nominated as a Calder Trophy finalist but lost to Moritz Seider.
In October, Zegras was named the recipient of the Bob Johnson Award for the 2020-2021 season. The award is given by USA Hockey to recognize excellence in international hockey in a specific season of play. The 2020-2021 season saw Zegras put up insane numbers at the World Juniors tournament, finishing second in assists and points at a single tournament by an American. He was named the tournament MVP.
Zegras spent the entire year with the Ducks, playing in 73 games and scoring 23 goals and 61 points. His 38 assists and 61 points are both Anaheim rookie records. He finished second in rookie scoring to Michael Bunting, second in rookie assists to Bunting, and tied for second in rookie goals with Lucas Raymond, Cole Caufield, and Bunting. Among rookies who played at least 60 games, his 0.81 points-per-game was first. Matt Boldy finished with 0.83 points-per-game but he played in only 47 games. Zegras led all rookies in powerplay goals and was third in powerplay points. He was named the NHL’s rookie of the month in December and named to the All-Rookie Team at the end of the season.
Among Anaheim skaters, only Troy Terry had a better points-per-game average with 0.89. Zegras led the team in assists, and finished second in goals and points. His nine powerplay goals led the team, while his 17 powerplay points were second to only Cam Fowler. He also had five game-winning goals, one of them coming in overtime. The one area he really struggled in was the faceoff circle, winning just under 40% of his draws, but that’s expected from a rookie. Hopefully he can improve on that next season.
Though it took a while for them to play together, when they finally did, Zegras and Sonny Milano seemed to have instant chemistry. Their play was highlighted by Zegras’ assist to Milano when he flipped the puck over the net and Milano batted it in. Zegras also scored two Michigan goals, one of the few players in NHL history to pull off the lacrosse-style goal. He had 19 multi-point games, and three three-point games.
Zegras more than met my expectations from a year ago. I wasn’t expecting him to be a Calder Trophy finalist or even win it, I just wanted him to be in the conversation. He was one of the three finalists for the Calder Trophy and ended up finishing second in voting. Second, I wanted him to play in most of Anaheim’s games. A bout with COVID kept him out of action midway through the season, but he only missed nine games all year, certainly meeting that expectation. Finally, I wanted him to put up some points on the powerplay. Leading the team in powerplay goals and being second in powerplay points certainly met that expectation.
Anaheim’s forward group will look very different next season, but one thing for sure is that Zegras will be expected to take on a bigger load in his sophomore season. With Ryan Getzlaf gone, Zegras is unquestionably Anaheim’s top center, unless they make a trade or bring someone in via free agency. Even if they do, Zegras will still likely be counted on to be the Ducks’ top center. It remains to be seen who he plays with, but after the chemistry he had with Milano last season, I’d love to see the two of them get significantly more time together. Terry was Anaheim’s other breakout star from last season, and seeing what he and Zegras can do together for a full season is an enticing idea. I’d also be interested in seeing Max Jones, Max Comtois, or Adam Henrique next to Zegras to see how they fare. Regardless of who he plays with, I hope that Zegras is on a more stable line and that it leads to a better offensive year from him.
Zegras has one year left on his entry-level deal and he’ll be a restricted free agent next summer. After the explosive rookie year he just had, I fully believe the Ducks should sign him to an eight-year contract extension before next season starts. A potential comparable that could be used is Jack Hughes. With a year left on his entry-level deal, Hughes signed an eight-year extension worth $8 million a season. At the time, Hughes’ career high in points was only 31, but that was in the 56 game shortened season, so over a full season that would put him in the 45 to 50 point range. Zegras has already passed that, but Hughes was the first overall pick while Zegras was ninth. I’d be surprised if Zegras got more than Hughes and would be happy to see him sign essentially the same contract this summer. If the Ducks wait until next summer to sign him, he might cost the team significantly more.
The next and final graduated prospect will be on Jamie Drysdale.
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June 24th, 2022