Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks is the NHL’s hottest young boy.
He’s 21, he’s flashy, he’s creative. He’s also a lot of fun and makes a lot of fans happy, which pisses off some hard-core NHL opponents.
Do you remember when Andrei Svechnikov of the Carolina Hurricanes caused a stir with two lacrosse-like goals – known as “Michigan” – a few years ago? Zegras, in his first full season in the NHL, now has two.
Not everyone likes his showmanship. Recently, Zegras suffered a rough cross-check behind the back of Jay Beagle of the Arizona Coyotes. When Troy Terry of the Ducks came to Zegras’ defense, Beagle beat him, leaving Terry bloodied and Zegras upset and making biting comments about Beagle after the game.
Zegras and Svechnikov, who just turned 22, could be on the ice together on Sunday when the Canes and Ducks face off at PNC Arena. It’s unclear what could come of the two strikers, given their talent, flair and unpredictability.
Canes forwards Jordan Staal and Derek Stepan are two ‘old school’ type guys. Neither veteran has a problem with what a Zegras or a Svechnikov has brought to a league that can sometimes be too stuffy.
“If you can score a goal like that, you’ll have more power,” Staal said of the lacrosse shots.
Staal smiled, adding: “I just struggle to find the back of the net and these guys turn it over on their stick and find the back of the net that way. I think that’s really cool.
“If I see someone trying to do it, am I going to expose them? Yeah, I’ll try. It’s not an easy move for a goalkeeper to stop and these guys make it look easy. I think it’s great.”
Staal said he could only wonder what was next.
“I don’t quite have the imagination of these guys,” he said. “The skills with the puck, how much they work on that and how difficult it is, I don’t think most people realize how difficult that is.”
Zegras put a new spin on his second lacrosse goal. With teammate Sonny Milano near the post, Zegras flipped the puck around Milan and passed Coyotes goalie Karel Vejmelka. The disgusted look on Arizona coach Andre Tourigny after the goal was telling. There was no “wow” in his eyes.
Earlier this season at Buffalo, Zegras picked up the puck on his blade behind the Sabers net and lifted it over the goalie’s head in the front crease. Milano was in position to hit the puck for a goal as Sabers defenseman 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 little ones. They can all do it. They can all pick it up on their stick.
“It’s something that has flourished in our game.”
Zegras, selected ninth overall by Anaheim in the 2019 NHL Draft, has 18 goals and 33 assists this season. The Bedford, New York native played a year of college hockey at Boston University before turning pro and helped Team USA win a gold medal at the 2021 World Junior Championship while being named MVP of the tournament.
Invited to the 2022 NHL Skills Contest during All-Star Weekend, Zegras was a hit with his blindfolded goal. Dressed at average Joe’s Dodgeball held, he would swing and spin and score with balls thrown at him. Las Vegas audiences loved it.
It was a trick shot. His plays in NHL games have resulted in goals. Svechnikov did the same.
“The reason they’re doing this is because they can,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I don’t consider it showmanship. When the slapshot happened 100 years ago, some people probably said “What is it?” Well the guy can do it. The guy can rip it into the net and it’s effective, and now it’s an effective way to score a goal.
“It doesn’t show the other team. You are trying to win a hockey game.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Anaheim Ducks
When: Sunday, 6 p.m.
Or: PNC Arena, Raleigh.
TV/RADIO: Bally Sports South, WCMC-99.9 FM.
This story was originally published April 9, 2022 6:39 a.m.