Look no further than the two teams currently fighting for the Stanley Cup to get a sense of how valuable first round selections can be – Boston has six playing on their team, and St. Louis has nine. Those numbers equate to nearly 40% of the players suiting up each night. This makes it not only important to make your picks count, but especially with high-end talent who can help you win.
In Los Angeles, the mindset has definitely shifted in recent years. After ‘going for it’ for several seasons — and netting two Cups of their own in the process — the Kings are now hoarding picks like sandbags before a flood. Anticipation over who they will select with their two first round picks is starting to ramp up. And with the Draft itself just a few weeks away, we press on with our player previews. This time around, we’re taking a deep dive on one of the truly exceptional players from the United States National Team Development (USNTDP). Although probably not a top-5 pick, should the Kings trade down a few spots, given the fluidity of the 2019 NHL Draft, this player might still be still available somewhere in the 6-10 range.
Date of Birth: March 20, 2001
Weight: 173 lbs
Position: Center/Left Wing
Zegras spent his entire 2018-19 season with the USNTDP U-18 Team, recording 87 points (26 G, 61 A) in 60 games – third on the team. He also had nine assists in five matches for Team USA in the U-18 World Championship, en route to a bronze medal. Allegedly, he had a bit of a banged up shoulder at the U18 tournament, which could explain the lack of goals.
Zegras maintained his NCAA eligibility by not playing for the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League, who drafted him in the fourth round (65th overall). Instead, he is expected to join the Boston University Terriers and play collegiate hockey next season.
For what it’s worth, there are a few former Terriers who also have ties to the Kings, with perhaps the most notable being Jack Ferreira – one of the key ‘behind-the-scenes’ names during the Dean Lombardi era. Ferreira was with the Kings for 11 seasons, prior to leaving for Minnesota last year. Another prominent alumnus was Mark Bavis, a Kings scout who tragically passed away during the 9/11 attacks. Among the players connected to both sides, the names would likely only be recognizable to the most hardcore Kings fans; Peter Ahola and David Van Der Gulik both played for Los Angeles, and John Preston was a late round draft pick from 1987.
Are You Quick to Remember?
Prior to joining the USNTDP, Zegras played hockey at Avon Old Farms School, which just so happens to also be the old stomping ground for Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick.
Out Of the Shadows
One of the issues Zegras dealt with this season is playing in Jack Hughes’ shadow, serving as either Team USA’s top line left wing or second line center. However, USNTDP coach John Wroblewski seemed to have no issues moving Zegras around as needed – especially while teammate Alex Turcotte was out with an injury.
Rankings by Independent Scouting Services
- 4th by The Draft Analyst, who laid out some very high praise, “Zegras led the Five Nations tournament in scoring as Team USA’s top center. The debate between whether Turcotte or Zegras is the better prospect has been going on for quite some time, and may continue right up to draft day. For now, we’ll give the Boston University-bound Zegras the slightest of edges because of his Hughes-esque dynamism.”
- 5th by Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects, who wrote: “A creative player with exciting puck skills. Zegras blends good speed with unique lines to cause separation through the neutral zone and distribute effectively to his mates. If you weren’t looking at the nameplate, you may confuse him with Hughes on occasion. High-end production follows him around; as does the puck. The best pure passer in the crop. His blend of patience, visions and soft touch will fill more than a few barrels full of apples in the bigs.”
- 6th in McKeen’s final rankings – where they noted Zegras has better pure speed than Hughes, while also contending for the title of the best playmaker in the draft. Further commentary centered on his ability to get into prime scoring areas, along with his strong and accurate wrist shot contributing to a 20+% shooting percentage.
See For Yourself
While highlights never tell a complete story, it’s very easy to be wowed when you see the top end talent displayed by Zegras here:
The Kings were the worst team in the league this season who managed to retain their first-round pick – sorry Ottawa. That said, it was a real gut punch to the organization when they dropped to fifth overall in the Draft Lottery. Yet, while the Kings have lost out on the Jack Hughes sweepstakes, they may benefit from selecting the player who exists in his shadow. Zegras is a dynamic player who is said to have high-end vision and be a player who knows how to create offense – something that would certainly be a welcome addition to a club like Los Angeles.
NOTE: David Hofreiter was the lead contributor in the gathering of information used in this article. You can find him on Twitter @Davidenkness to talk more hockey.
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