It's Duck hunting season. Except the Ducks are the ones doing the hunting.
There's so much positive energy surrounding the Anaheim Ducks, who currently are on an eight-game winning streak and holding first place in the Pacific Division. Would they be at the top of a stronger division? Perhaps, but that's irrelevant because they're not in another division. The Ducks are currently the top team in the Western Conference, and they continue to show their strength in many different ways.
Troy Terry has been the obvious bright point of the team, leading the group with 11 goals and 21 points in 16 games. But there's also Trevor Zegras, who's still a rookie despite a 24-game stint with the club last year, that's turning heads.
With six goals and 10 points in 15 games, Zegras is currently fourth among rookies in scoring. By playing 24 games last year, he kept his rookie eligibility by just one game, allowing him to chase the Calder Trophy this season.
And he's putting in a strong case.
It's still early, and Zegras did have a four-game pointless streak before his recent run of five goals over the past two games. His ice time has dropped slightly, from averaging 19 minutes a night near the end of October to around 14 minutes the past few games. Maybe the more favorable matchups are working in his favor, because Zegras has looked especially strong in recent wins against Vancouver and Washington.
Among all rookies with at least 150 minutes of 5-on-5 action this season, Zegras' 2.16 points-per-60 is good for fifth (he's second behind Lucas Raymond's 2.55 among players with at least 190 minutes). He's more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer, but Zegras has a tremendous wrist shot and it's working for him thus far.
Zegras' power-play prowess hasn't been overly impressive, considering he is third among Ducks players with 39:28 in power-play ice time, but with just two goals and no assists to show for. But it's all part of the learning curve, and after a weird 2020-21 that saw him not play until the December World Junior Championship before splitting time in the NHL and AHL, his confidence is starting to emerge.
And confidence is a huge thing for top prospects. You could tell that Cole Caufield was struggling in Montreal, with just one point in 10 games prior to being sent down to the AHL earlier this month. Caufield had a dominant 2020-21 by all accounts, playing key minutes for Montreal in the team's surprising run to the Stanley Cup final. But the team felt Caufield needed a bit of a shake-up and sent him back down to Laval. He impressed at points and was called up Thursday morning, allowing him to resume his Calder chase.
The Ducks could have done the same with Zegras after a bit of a streaky start, but he's figuring it out now. And with the Ducks thriving in the Pacific, keeping him locked and loaded the entire time has been vital. Zegras looks like a threat every time he hits the ice, and he is making the team a whole lot better as a result.
The Ducks have so many reasons to get excited about the future. Terry has been fantastic, Jamie Drysdale is the defenseman of the future and Zegras, among other forwards, is getting ready to lead the team to a strong long-term future. Zegras' story has just begun, and it's a fun time to be an Anaheim Ducks fan.