When Trevor Zegras bent down to scoop the puck onto his stick, Anaheim Ducks fans held their breath in anticipation. The exhale came through as a cheer, echoed in magnitude by the rest of the sports world.
They’ve seen the 20-year-old wunderkind set up and nearly pull this trick off a few times before. It’s most commonly referred to as “The Michigan,” though its origins pre-date the goal that gave it the name. It only started to appear in the NHL a few years ago when Andrei Svechnikov scored two of them in 2019. The list of players who have scored a Michigan-style goal in the NHL remains small.
Zegras wasn’t trying to score this time, however. With the puck on his stick and all eyes on him, Zegras lobbed the puck over the net for Sonny Milano to whack in, baseball-style.
Is it a Michigan assist? Hockey’s first alley-oop? Regardless of what name sticks, the highlight-reel goal not only sent waves through hockey media, but the sports world at-large got a look at what the new era of hockey looks like.
The Origin of “The Michigan,” Andrei Svechnikov, Trevor Zegras
The process of getting the puck onto the stick and tucking it into the net from behind has been dubbed “The Michigan” after Mike Legg, University of Michigan, performed the move to tie a playoff game against the University of Minnesota in 1996. Legg first learned of the move from Bill Armstrong, who scored several goals in this style in the American Hockey League. While the origins of the move pre-date the goal for Michigan, it was done on such a large stage the nickname stuck. Despite its existence for the last few decades, it has been seldom seen at the NHL level. Svechnikov remains the only person to have scored multiple goals using the technique, and the list of people who have even tried it seems limited to a younger group of players within the last few seasons.
One of the younger players who have shown off the ability is Zegras. He’s tried the move a handful of times in his brief NHL career, perhaps none closer than his first try against the St. Louis Blues on what could have been his first career goal. But to pivot into a pass?
“I tried it a couple times at the National Team Development Program. I’ve never seen it work, so I was actually pretty shocked when he (Milano) ended up scoring,” Zegras told ESPN’s John Buccigross after the game. “Shocked” was one of several emotions Zegras was showing after the goal. As Milano raced towards him to celebrate, Zegras had his hands on his head in stunned silence. On the bench, he looked like he was willing to plead during the replay review. When it was determined to be a legal goal, Zegras was able to sheepishly smile and laugh alongside Milano.
Expect More Magic From Milano-Zegras-Rakell Line
As I mentioned last week, the Milano-Zegras-Rickard Rakell line is turning into a dominant top line. Milano now has goals in three straight games and seven points in his last four. Not to be outdone, Rakell is also riding a four-game point streak. Despite having no goals during this stretch, Zegras has eight points in his last four games and has now pulled even with Lucas Raymond for points among rookies. While Raymond got off to a scorching start, his time as the sole front-runner for the Calder Memorial Trophy is over, at least for now. With fewer than 60 games remaining in the season, a lot remains to be determined. As it stands in this moment, Zegras is just as likely to win the Calder as Raymond.
Zegras is a rare on-ice talent blended with a mind that sees the game differently. He’s made the Anaheim Ducks appointment-viewing television for the first time since Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne were linemates. Even if the team as a whole isn’t quite ready to emerge from its rebuild, Zegras represents a step in the right direction and will keep the Ducks both competitive and compelling. He isn’t slowing down anytime soon. When asked if he has any other tricks planned, he responded, “I think we play in a couple days, I’ll try to think of some stuff.”