Despite another year of rebuilding, there are plenty of reasons for Anaheim Ducks fans to be excited about next season. Probably the most exciting part about next season will be watching Trevor Zegras grow into his role as an NHL center. Ducks fans aren’t the only ones that should be excited either, as fans league-wide should be excited about the emergence of another young, electric forward. He is an early favorite for the Calder Trophy for good reason, and I wanted to look at what the expectations should be on this superstar in the making.
Production at His Age
The first thing that should be remembered when setting expectations on Zegras is his age. So, I wanted to look at what players under 21 have produced in the past. What I found is that most top-end young players have produced between .50 points per game (P/GP) and 0.65 P/GP, so between around 40 to 55 points roughly — with only the best young players producing at a higher rate.
Last season, just one player under 21 produced at a 60-point pace, Andrei Svechnikov, and you must go back to the 2017-18 season to find a year where more than three players in this age range produced at the same pace. All of this is to say, it’s very hard for young players to produce elite-offensive numbers, but not impossible, especially for a player of Zegras’ immense talent.
Looking at his 24 games in the NHL last season, a small sample size, he produced at a 0.54 P/GP pace, good for 44 points across 82 games. Given what players at his age produce league-wide, and how he produced last season, I think a minimum of 45 points should be the expectation — with the possibility that he breaks into that elite 60-point range still likely.
Another important thing to remember when setting his expectations is the team he is on. This is a Ducks team that finished 31st in goals for last season, while also posting the league’s worst power-play percentage, with 8.9%. This inability to create offense will make it more difficult for Zegras to produce a high number of points. Of course, adding a dynamic player like him into this lineup will help, but expecting one player to fix all your offensive problems could spell disaster.
His partnership with last season’s leading scorer Max Comtois should yield plenty of offense, though. The line of Comtois-Zegras-Troy Terry was fantastic in their few games together, posting a 61.1% expected goals % according to MoneyPuck.com. If they can carry over that play into next season, the points should flow for Zegras.
His status as the team’s likely number one center also presents some challenges. With this role, he will be playing against other team’s best centers, or best shut-down centers, on a nightly basis. This means coming up against players like Connor McDavid, Elias Pettersson, Anze Kopitar, etc., making life very difficult for Zegras. It could be a baptism of fire for the young center, as Anaheim looks to continue its rebuilding process.
What the Expectations Should Be
The expectations should still be high on Zegras, but they also need to be realistic. He is undoubtedly one of the best young players in hockey — but the situation surrounding him will make producing massive numbers difficult. I would still consider him an early favorite for the Calder Trophy because he is such a fantastic player, but it’s okay if there are growing pains next season. The expectation should be at least 45 points, with the hope being 60-plus points. I would also expect the NHL’s highlight reel to feature a lot more of No. 46 next season.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.