Skip to main content


Struggling Zegras an intriguing potential trade target

Trevor Zegras Anaheim Ducks Trevor Zegras - The Canadian Press

Just a few seasons ago, the Anaheim Ducks selected centre Trevor Zegras with the ninth pick of the 2019 draft.

The early returns were significant: Zegras’ 61-point campaign was good enough for second place in the 2021-22 Calder Trophy race behind Red Wings defenceman Moritz Seider.

But there has been a shifting landscape in Southern California. First-year head coach Greg Cronin — who replaced Dallas Eakins in the off-season — has had a whale of a time keeping a rebuilding Anaheim team competitive. Losses have accelerated, and finding underperforming players in the Ducks lineup is not a difficult chore.

Chief among them is Zegras, who now finds himself part of the market speculation in advance of the approaching trade deadline.

Zegras has real pedigree and a previous record of success at the NHL level, and as a 22-year-old centre on a very reasonable contract, could generate some of the largest returns at the deadline — if Anaheim chooses to go down that path.

Now, the million-dollar question: Amidst a down season that notably includes a broken ankle, what exactly has happened to Zegras? Is Anaheim crazy to even consider moving a player of such talent? Is the injury still factoring into his play? Or is Anaheim aggressively trying to move ahead of market sentiment, suspicious of Zegras’ stalling development and stagnation?

What’s become noticeable with Zegras is the quieting offensive output, with just seven points in 20 games on his ledger this season. Zegras’ rate scoring is down considerably, but it is not because of opportunity – at least as it pertains to Zegras’ ability to generate offensive output, where his shot rates are promisingly near a three-year high.

On the sharp scoring decline, it must be noted that the average league forward is averaging about 1.7 points per 60 minutes played across all situations – considerably ahead of where Zegras is producing right now, and right around his two-year average.

On the other hand, it’s uncommon to see scoring grind down like that while a player’s offensive volume (in this case, measured by shot rates) is moving in the opposite direction. Historically, these divergences tend to lead to sharp and favourable regressions. In the case of Zegras, I would expect his scoring to spike to the upside going forward, assuming he remains similarly aggressive in the offensive zone.

Now let’s look at on-ice results. From a teammates standpoint, Zegras has mostly played with Anaheim’s other young star in Troy Terry, backstopped by the Cam Fowler and Pavel Mintyukov defensive pairing. It’s a nearly identical profile of teammates compared to his sophomore season. That’s notable if you think continuity matters; also notable if you are bearish on the quality of the team around him:

In a league where teams are increasingly relying on young players to drive performance, you wonder what to make of Zegras being a net-negative on-ice across the past three seasons. Again, decoupling team effects can be difficult here. The Ducks have been a talent-poor team for the entirety of Zegras’ stint in Anaheim, and expecting him to drive big goal differentials in that environment would be a fool’s bet.

And while I think there is little reason to be concerned with Zegras’ offensive play for now, those defensive numbers are glaringly bad and have been since he entered the league. It’s enough to consider whether Zegras would be a better long-term fit on the wing.

Development and performance are intrinsically tied together. So much of sustained development is about playing with quality teammates in winning environments, something that’s been quite limited in Anaheim. And yet, there have been many examples of productive young forwards on talent-constrained teams over the past decade that it does force you to question things.

I’ll end on this note: Zegras is obviously talented, and his reasonable contract alone should push Anaheim towards selling other assets across their lineup – to say nothing of the difficult injury profile this year and the relatively limited talent around him.

But it’s that combination that makes him so alluring. And if Anaheim has any reason or indication to think Zegras may not develop into the blue-chip talent the league saw just a few seasons ago, he is an incredible trade piece – one that could generate significant returns for a franchise stuck in rebuild-mode.

Data via Natural Stat Trick,, Evolving Hockey,