After failing to make the postseason for the fourth straight season, the Anaheim Ducks are officially in off-season mode. With the 2021-22 season in the rearview mirror, here’s a look back at some of the Ducks’ individual seasons and where they fit moving forward.
Trevor Zegras emerged as one of the most exciting players in the league this season. The 21-year-old rookie finished with a team-leading 38 assists, and his 61 points set a new franchise record in rookie scoring. While that total was good for second among all rookies this season, it was how he scored that drew attention from around the league. From alley-oop assists to Michigan goals to every video game-style stick move, he had his share of viral moments, culminating in a Calder Trophy nomination as the league’s top rookie.
Zegras Goes Viral with Several Highlight-Reel Plays
Before heading to Anaheim after being selected ninth overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, Zegras showed himself to be an elite playmaker with the United States National Team Development Program. In just his fourth NHL game, he tried to score his first goal with “The Michigan,” a lacrosse-style maneuver that involves getting the puck balanced on the blade of the stick and tucked in the net with an ariel wraparound.
The move’s namesake dates back to the University of Michigan’s Mike Legg, who scored with it in the 1996 NCAA tournament, but it’s rarely been used since then. However, Zegras’ creativity isn’t bound by the conventional, as evidenced in his first highlight play of the season. In a December game against the Buffalo Sabres, Zegras put the puck on his blade to complete the first step in The Michigan, but instead of reaching around to tuck the puck in the net, he flipped the puck over the net to a waiting Sonny Milano.
Zegras’ remarkable stickwork was on display during All-Star Weekend as well. Despite not being named to the All-Star Game, he was invited to participate in the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition in Las Vegas. Similar to the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest, this challenge is about showmanship and flair as much as shooting the puck in the net; it’s made for a player like Zegras.
For his turn, Zegras took the ice wearing a Peter LaFleur Average Joe’s jersey from the movie Dodgeball, an homage to the film’s tournament that takes place in Las Vegas. After putting on a blindfold to complete the look from the movie, Zegras attempted his breakaway, combining a handful of stick moves and a full spin before flipping the puck into the net.
Celebrity judge John Hamm gave Vegas’ Alex Pietrangelo 19 out of a possible 10 points, pushing Zegras’ score to third in the competition. Despite the questionable judging, Zegras’ goal was the highlight of the evening, and he’ll likely be invited to this competition for years to come.
Zegras’ Calder Trophy Nomination
In early May, the NHL announced Zegras is a finalist for the Calder Trophy, along with Detroit Red Wing Moritz Seider and Toronto Maple Leaf Michael Bunting. In 75 games, Zegras ranked second in goals (23), second in points (61), and third in assists (38) among his fellow rookies.
Zegras could become the first Duck to win the Calder in franchise history. Past finalists include Bobby Ryan, who finished second in voting in 2008-09, and Paul Kariya, who finished third in 1994-95. Each of this year’s finalists had strong performances in different ways, meaning voting will come down to the voters’ interpretation of what a “proficient” season is, as the award description states. For his part, Zegras joined an offensively deficient team and anchored a productive line as an emerging top-line center. His dazzling goals represent a shift in the sport that rewards creativity as it emerges from a dead-puck era.
Ducks’ Future Is in Good Hands with Zegras
The Ducks have built an impressive stockpile of prospects and young talent, but Zegras shines the brightest. His impressive rookie season delivered a level of excitement and star power that the franchise has not seen in some time. With Ryan Getzlaf’s retirement, Zegras should be considered the team’s top center for the foreseeable future. He has one more season on his entry-level contract before becoming a restricted free agent, but the Ducks have a significant amount of money coming off the books to clear the way to sign their future star to a long-term deal.
I was born and raised in Mission Viejo, California, and currently live in Visalia, California. Graduated from CSUF in 2016 with a B.A. in Cinema and Television Arts. I’ve been a sports fan for my entire life, rooting for the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Rams and Miami Heat. In my free time, I enjoy playing video games, trying to pour a perfect cup of coffee, and testing out a local craft beer.