Trevor Zegras is ‘a fun watch,’ former Ducks star Bobby Ryan says

The former Ducks star who finished second in 2009 Rookie of the Year voting was on the phone and the topic du jour was Ducks center Trevor Zegras, who was runner-up for the same Calder Trophy in 2022.

Bobby Ryan lives about 40 miles outside of Nashville and there are time-zone issues when it comes to watching most home games of his first NHL team, the Ducks. Still, the skilled Zegras is often must-see TV.

“The skill level, we all know, is off the charts with the things he is able to do,” Ryan said Thursday. “He’s been a fun watch for me. It seems like he’s breaking my records every time he is out there.”

To review: Ryan scored 31 goals and had 57 points in 64 games in 2008-09, his first full NHL season. Zegras had 23 goals and 61 points in 75 games last season.

A reminder of Ryan’s early success popped up Wednesday when Zegras hit the 100-point career mark in the NHL and passed it with two assists in the Ducks’ 3-2 shootout win against visiting Vegas. He also scored in the shootout to help wrap it up.

Only two Ducks players reached the 100-point plateau faster than Zegras – Paul Kariya in 98 games and Ryan in 126 games. Zegras accomplished it in his 135th NHL game.

Only one player from the 2019 NHL draft class – No. 1 pick Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils – has more points than Zegras. Hughes has 147 points in 201 games. Zegras, who was taken ninth in the 2019 draft, has 10 goals and 27 points in 36 games this season.

“He’s taking a step forward,” Ryan said. “He’d probably be one of the first to tell you away from the puck he’s got to get better. But a lot of that team has got to get better in that category.

“At the same time, his poise is beyond what NHL level is – his poise is just incredible. The way he’s able to make space for himself. And he doesn’t do it physically because he’s not a big guy. The way he’s on his edges and the way he sees the rink backs a lot of people off is what I’ve noticed.”

Ryan, the No. 2 pick in the 2005 draft behind the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, doesn’t remember much attention when he hit 100 points in his career. It was, of course, a wildly different era, especially with a crusty coach, Randy Carlyle, at the helm in Anaheim.

“Nobody ever talked to me about it,” Ryan said. “At the beginning of my career, those things just flew under the radar. Especially with the old-school coaches, the old-school mentality. It was, ‘Who cares what he did there? Let’s see what he does in the next game.’

“Which was good for me because it kept me out of a lot of stuff. There was a little hoopla around my rookie year when I scored 30 or whatever it was. (But) social media has changed everything.”

Zegras had been reliably consistent for the rebuilding Ducks until the final games before the holiday break. He went without a point in four consecutive games – his longest drought of the season – before breaking out of the mini-slump against the Golden Knights.

“It’s easy for him to stay consistent in a year like this because of the situation and how it is and how he’s going to eat a ton of minutes,” Ryan said.

“What I’m excited about is to see him next year when the team makes a step. You would hope they make a step next year and he continues to grow as a player because he’s got all the assets on the offensive side. Does he make a step on the defensive side? Does he continue his pace?

“I think he can do all those things. He’s certainly skilled enough to do it.”

Ryan was traded by the Ducks to Ottawa in the summer of 2013 for forwards Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a first-round selection in 2014, which wound up being Nick Ritchie. He would go on to play 455 games with the Senators and wrapped up his NHL career with a 33-game stint in Detroit in 2020-21.

There is still a deep interest in Ottawa from Ryan because he is on a Senators-centric podcast – Coming in Hot with Brent Wallace & Bobby Ryan. Senators forward Tim Stutzle (116 points in the NHL) is the only member of the 2020 draft class to surpass 100 points in his career, and he did it in 146 games.

“I don’t think I had much of an appreciation for Stutzle until I saw him this year more often,” Ryan said. “He makes plays in space that are just incredible. The way he creates space is different from Trevor. Tim’s cutting back, and Tim’s always got an extra spin move that he can go to at all times.

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“I think that Trevor is more of a direct-line player. He’s creative in that direct line where Stutzle finds that five feet of ice that nobody knew about behind him and off his back.”

It makes sense that Ryan, always candid and quotable as a player, is on a podcast. He was the go-to guy in the room with the Ducks and Senators and quickly became a favorite in Detroit.

Reminded that he got to 100 points faster than Zegras, Ryan said, joking, “If I ever meet him, I’m going to tell him, ‘Thanks for saving me one.’”

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