Drysdale, Zegras Celebrate Milestone Night With The DucksMar 19, 2021
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
The future of the Anaheim Ducks shone brightly against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night at Honda Center.
Jamie Drysdale – the sixth overall selection at the 2020 NHL Draft - scored a goal and added an assist in his National Hockey League debut, becoming just the third defenseman in league history to record multiple points in his NHL debut at age 18-or-younger (Petr Svoboda of Montreal, Oct. 11, 1984 @ Buffalo & Ray Bourque of Boston, Oct. 11, 1979 @ Winnipeg).
Trevor Zegras – the ninth overall selection at the 2019 NHL Draft – also scored his first NHL goal, becoming the third-youngest U.S.-born player to score a goal for Anaheim (10th-youngest player in club history).
The two rookies scored just over two minutes apart, turning a two-goal deficit into a tied game. The Ducks would go on to complete the come-from-behind victory, scoring a power-play goal in overtime to grab the 3-2 win. The two goals made Drysdale and Zegras the youngest set of teammates in NHL history to each score their first NHL goals less than 2:30 apart.
“Yeah, it's pretty funny,” Zegras said following the win. “I actually didn't know Jamie scored until two minutes ago, which makes it that much better. Pretty funny.”
DRYSDALE’S IMPRESSIVE NHL DEBUT
Drysdale earned his opportunity after a strong start with the San Diego Gulls, making his mark early in the American Hockey League.
The defenseman posted 4-6=10 points with the Gulls, tied for the rookie lead in goals, assists and scoring. He became the youngest Gull to score a goal when he tallied his first professional marker against the Bakersfield Condors on Feb. 6 and is just one of three rookies in team history to earn CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month honors.
The Toronto, Ontario native first thought he might make his debut on Wednesday after practicing with Anaheim.
“It was a morning practice, and I was talking with some of the coaches,” he explained. “I thought I had a chance at getting in. (Anaheim head coach) Dallas (Eakins) called me the night before the game and said, 'You're going in tomorrow kid.' I think it was just a really exciting moment for me. As soon as I got off the call, I called my parents and let them know. I was pretty quick to tell my family and buddies because of how important this is.”
The rookie admitted he grew more anxious as puck drop neared.
“There were definitely nerves,” he said. “It was my first game, a lot of nerves. But definitely excitement. It's an exciting time for me and my family, so it was just really nice to get out there. I was joking with Z on the way here. I was just saying that if I don't fall on my solo lap, it's a win. It was a lot of fun to get that one under my belt, and coming out with the win on top of it made it that much better.”
Drysdale received a shot of confidence right before the start, as Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf relayed a simple message to the first-year defenseman.
“I think he just said, 'Let's go kid,'” Drysdale said. “Something simple like that goes a long way. It's Ryan Getzlaf saying that to you, you know. I grew up watching him, whether it was here with the Ducks or at the Olympics. Standing on the blue line next to a guy like that is pretty cool. Something as simple as that gives you confidence, and everyone on the team has been great so far.”
The defenseman settled in quickly, impressing Eakins and the Ducks with his calm demeanor and smooth skating.
“It was amazing to me that this kid has probably been - I don't know, has he been driving for a year by himself now? Is that when you can you drive by yourself, at 17? - and here he is in an NHL lineup and he came in like he'd been there for a very long time,” Eakins explained. “He closed like we've seen him close in San Diego, he moved the puck fast and hard like we've seen, he got shots through. He was a very, very confident young man. A really, really good first showing at this level. All the people at home should be very, very happy with that draft pick and the job our scouts and management have put into that young man.”
His two-point night put him into impressive company:
The third player in NHL history to record multiple points in his NHL debut at age 18-or-younger (Petr Svoboda of Montreal, Oct. 11, 1984 @ Buffalo & Ray Bourque of Boston, Oct. 11, 1979 @ Winnipeg).
His goal marked only the fourth time in NHL history an 18-year-old scored a goal in his NHL debut (Bourque in the aforementioned game, Scott Stevens of Washington, Oct. 6, 1982 @ New York Rangers & Jason Doig of Winnipeg, Oct. 7, 1995 vs. Dallas).
At 18 years, 344 days, Drysdale is the youngest Ducks player in 25 years and the second-youngest player in franchise history to score a goal in his NHL debut (Chad Kilger, Oct. 9, 1995 at Winnipeg; 18 years, 316 days).
Drysdale is also the third-youngest Ducks defensemen in franchise history to score a goal (fourth-youngest player overall).
The youngest-ever player in franchise history to record two points in his NHL debut (1-1=2).
Drysdale certainly made an impression on his veteran teammates.
“He has a nice way of playing hockey,” goaltender Ryan Miller said. “He's moving his feet, which gives him some separation and some time. He was close to the play, so that gave him the ability to be on the defensive side of things, too. All in all, a good look for him.”
ZEGRAS BREAKS THROUGH
It seems Zegras and the Arizona Coyotes will always share a special link.
The Bedford, N.Y. native made his NHL debut at Gila River Arena in Glendale on Feb. 22, a highly-anticipated first game for fans of the Anaheim organization. The rookie added another milestone, tallying his first career shootout goal in the loss.
Just a few weeks later, Zegras notched yet another career milestone against the desert dogs.
With the Ducks trailing 2-1, Drysdale chipped the puck in the neutral zone to Troy Terry – another former San Diego Gull – who carried the puck into the offensive zone. The wing drew the attention of both defenders, who never saw Zegras streaking down the wing.
Terry floated a pass to Zegras, who collected the puck on his forehand while cutting across the crease. He held just long enough to force Arizona’s goalie, Adin Hill, to make a desperate sliding push to his left, and buried his shot into the top of the net for his first NHL goal.
“Jamie made a great play, stepping up there,” Zegras explained. “I saw Troy just kind of fell on the puck and they gave him a little space coming over the blue line. I just tried to cut in behind the defenseman and make a little move there. One finally went in, which definitely felt good.”
The rookie came close just two nights ago, striking the post with an attempt against the Colorado Avalanche.
“Z could easily have four or five goals already,” Eakins said. “That whole play was Terry, who's a young player with skill, makes a skilled play to another skilled player, who makes a skilled play to put it in the net. Z has very high expectations for himself, which is awesome, so that one going in is kind of that relief he's looking for. Hopefully it builds into something else.”
The debut of Drysdale – and the continued improved play of Zegras – inject more than skill and excitement into the Ducks lineup.
“F-U-N. Fun,” Eakins said when asked about the young players stepping into the lineup. “That's what he brought tonight. The guys were so excited that he was in the lineup. I know he went through the rituals of the warmup here. There was lots of fun through the evening. The players wanted him to read out the opening lineup and not give him the heads up on it. They had some fun with him after the game. That's what youth brings.
“It's no different than your kids. I go home; my kids keep me young. Jamie and Z and these guys, especially Jamie tonight, the guys were excited for him. He brought a whole lot of fun to our dressing room, and that's important.”