The Anaheim Ducks can’t score. In fact, their current goals for per game rate of 1.94 would be the third-lowest mark of the last decade, only behind two Buffalo Sabres teams (’14 and ’15) that finished at the very bottom of the NHL standings. That rate is lower even than the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings who won just 17 games and posted a historically-low points percentage.
The Anaheim Ducks can’t score.
Somehow though, the Ducks aren’t at the bottom of the NHL standings. They aren’t even in last place in the West Division, instead sitting at 6-7-3 through their first 16 games. Their relatively low mark of 2.56 goals against per game would indicate that if they could just score a little more, they actually might be a formidable opponent. Perhaps even push for a playoff spot this season.
Zegras, 19, was the ninth overall pick in 2019 and has seven points through his first five professional games. The tournament scoring leader and MVP at the recent World Juniors, Zegras has almost limitless offensive potential and could likely help the Ducks’ powerplay the moment he steps on the ice.
Drysdale, 18, meanwhile has five points in his own first five pro games and given he’s a defenseman, has heads turning already. The sixth-overall pick in 2020, Drysdale is an elite puck-moving option, and though his actual scoring upside may not be quite as high as Zegras, his mobility and ability to get the puck quickly to his forwards would help the Anaheim attack.
Remember though that player development is a tricky, always evolving thing. The Ducks obviously have high hopes for the pair and want them to be ready before forcing them into NHL games. The fact that the team wasn’t really expected to challenge for the Stanley Cup this season may be a huge factor as well, given many organizations don’t want to bring their top young players into losing situations.
In Drysdale’s case specifically, they might not be able to keep him in the minors forever. The 18-year-old would normally not be eligible to play there, but with the OHL still suspended he is allowed to suit up in the minor leagues. Once that changes—recent developments have provided some encouragement that the OHL can hold a shortened season in the coming months—Drysdale would need to move up to the NHL or be returned to his Erie Otters team.
For Zegras, there’s nothing forcing him out of the AHL at the moment. As a college player who turned pro last spring, he is eligible for the minors even though he’s just 19.
It’s important to note that in both cases, playing in more than seven NHL games would activate their entry-level contracts. Currently, both Zegras and Drysdale are slide candidates, meaning the three-year deal wouldn’t kick in until next season, keeping them away from restricted free agency longer. But with the Ducks struggling to score and the AHL proving no trouble, is it time to call them up anyway?
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