Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks is the hot, young kid in the NHL.
He’s 21, he’s flashy, he’s creative. He also has a lot of fun and makes many fans happy in the process, which gets some tough NHL opponents on the nerves.
Do you remember when Andrei Svechnikov of the Carolina Hurricanes created two lacrosse-type messes – known to many as “The Michigan” – a few years ago? The Zegras now have two of them in their first full season in the NHL.
Not everyone likes his showmanship. Recently, the Zegras took a rough cross check in the back from Jay Beagle of the Arizona Coyotes. When the Ducks ‘Troy Terry came to Zegras’ defense, Beagle beat him, leaving Terry bloody and Zegras upset and making some biting comments about Beagle after the fight.
Zegras and Svechnikov, who have just turned 22, can be on the ice together on Sunday when the Canes and Ducks show up at the PNC Arena. There is no telling what could come from the two attackers, given their skill, flair and unpredictability.
Canes forwards Jordan Staal and Derek Stepan are two “old-school” guys. None of the veterans have a problem with what a Zegras or Svechnikov has brought to a league that can be overly stable at times.
“If you can score a goal like that, you get more power,” Staal said of the lacrosse shots.
Staal smiled and added, “I’m just struggling to find the back of the net, and these guys are turning it on their stick and finding the back of the net that way. I think it’s really cool.
“If I see someone try to do it, will I then put him out? Yes, I will try. It’s not an easy move for a goalkeeper to stop and these guys make it look easy. I think it is fantastic.”
Staal said he can only wonder what will come next.
“I do not quite have the imagination the guys have,” he said. “The puck skills, how much they work on it, and how hard it is, I don’t think most people realize how hard it is.”
Zegras put a new twist on his second lacrosse goal. With teammate Sonny Milano close to the post, Zegras turned the puck around Milan and past Coyotes goalkeeper Karel Vejmelka. The disgusting look at Arizona coach Andre Tourigny after the goal was telling. There was no “wow” in his appearance.
Earlier in the season in Buffalo, Zegras scooped the puck up on his blade behind the Sabers net and lifted it over the goalie’s head towards the front of the fold. Milan were in a position to hit the puck into a goal when Saber defender Rasmus Dahlin stood there stunned.
“It’s a unique skill, and let’s be honest, all kids can do it now,” Stepan said. “Even the very young. They can all. They can all pick it up on their stick.
“It’s something that has blossomed in our game.”
Zegras, selected as number nine overall by Anaheim in the 2019 NHL draft, has 18 goals and 33 assists this season. The native of Bedford, New York, played a year of college hockey at Boston University before becoming a professional, helping Team USA win a gold medal in the 2021 World Junior Championship while being named the tournament’s MVP.
Zegras was invited to the 2022 NHL Skills Competition during All-Star Weekend and was a hit with his blindfolded goal. Dressed in Average Joe’s Dodge ball outfit, he dangled and spun and scored with balls hurled after him. The audience in Las Vegas loved it.
It was a trick shot. His play in NHL games has resulted in goals. Svechnikov has done the same.
“The reason they do it is because they can,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I do not see it as showmanship. When slapshot came in 100 years ago, some probably said ‘What is this?’ Well, the guy can do it.The guy can rip it into the net and it’s effective and now this is an effective way to score a goal.
“It does not show the other team. You are trying to win a hockey game.”
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Anaheim Ducks
When: Sunday at 18
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh.
TV / RADIO: Bally Sports South, WCMC-99.9 FM.
This story was originally published April 9, 2022 at 06.39.