In nine of their 18 games this season, the Anaheim Ducks have scored one goal or less.
If that’s not an indication top prospect Trevor Zegras is going to get some serious opportunity after being called up to the NHL squad ahead of their two-game set in Arizona, that would be surprising. Zegras, who starred at Boston University before having a sparking World Juniors for Team USA, is the shot in the arm the Ducks need, and who fans have been calling for.
At practice on Sunday Zegras skated with Sam Steel and Jakob Silfverberg, though he could slot in just about anywhere to give the Ducks some needed offense. Their lineup is all over the place; Adam Henrique just cleared waivers but was skating with the team again, while Sonny Milano just returned from a conditioning stint with AHL San Diego.
For a team that hasn’t put the puck in the net all too much they have a logjam at forward, but Zegras would, hypothetically, add the offensive punch they’ve lacked.
“He’s obviously had a good start numbers-wise in the American League,” Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins said on Sunday. “I think he’s been working hard at those little parts of the pro game that are so important that can come back and bite you in a game. Things that we talk about here all the time guys. Turnovers, puck management. There’ll be a different level of speed here for him, but he looked so excited.”
The callup isn’t unearned; Zegras already posted four goals and five assists in his first eight games as a pro with the San Diego Gulls.
The NHL is a different beast entirely, but the 19-year-old hasn’t seemed to miss a beat playing against bigger and stronger players in pro hockey.
“Obviously, there’s definitely going to be a step up when you come to the pro game,” he said after Sunday’s practice. “I thought there was obviously less space out there. Probably a little bit harder to make plays. The guys were definitely a lot bigger, stronger, faster. But you know it’s kind of how you just adapt to that.”
Zegras, who will be the 13th 19-year-old to suit up in the NHL this season, has been a points machine wherever he’s played. In his lone season at BU as a freshman he had 36 points in 33 games. He was the tournament MVP for the U.S. en route to a gold medal, posting a whopping 18 points in seven contests.
— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) December 27, 2020
The Ducks are last in the NHL with 1.83 goals per game, along with their measly 34 goals scored, and have the second worst power play at 7.5 percent. There’s a good chance Zegras sees immediate time on the man up unit, just to spark some life.
As rough as its been for the Ducks, their season is salvageable; their 15 standings points are just two behind the Kings for a playoff seed in the top-heavy West, and even then just four points behind the third-place Avalanche.
It seems unlikely they make a meaningful run but if Zegras performs above the already high expectations and the offense finds a groove, perhaps the Ducks season can head in a better direction.
No pressure or anything, though.