Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek defends Trevor Zegras’ lacrosse-style goals: ‘He respects the game’
Anaheim Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek has defended his star rookie Trevor Zegras for the lacrosse-like goals he has scored this season, which has drawn criticism in some quarters as well as the widespread attention and praise the goals sparked on flagship shows and social media.
Talk with Athleticism and the Southern California News Group ahead of the Ducks’ game against Florida, Verbeek said he himself had evolved in his view of the skillful plays of 21-year-old Zegras. Verbeek has scored 522 goals, 1,062 points and 2,905 penalty minutes in his 20-year NHL career.
“From my point of view, if you would have done that in my time, it is frowned upon. To the right? Very frowned upon,” Verbeek said. “So I think there’s still a bit of that mentality there. We’ve got a lot of feedback now. A lot of people (think) it’s a positive thing. I think people light up when you watch (Connor) McDavid going through and totally undressing the players. Correcting? Through the neutral zone with the speed and the skill. The ability to be able to handle the puck with speed and do it. For me, people like that. I love watching this.
“Now when I watch Trevor it’s just another unreal skill set and a creative way of scoring goals. I guess what I’m trying to do, I’m really trying to defend my player in the sense that there are people who really think it’s hot dog or it doesn’t respect the game. I don’t feel that way anymore.”
On April 1, Zegras went behind the net against Arizona and pulled off a lacrosse-like move with his stick to wrap a shot around teammate Sonny Milano in the net in the Ducks’ 5-0 win over the Coyotes. . Late in the third period, Zegras pushed a loose puck that tripped Arizona forward Jay Beagle. Beagle’s cross-check on Zegras sparked a response from Ducks teammate Troy Terry, which led to Beagle punching Terry several times and leaving the Anaheim leading scorer’s face bruised and bloodied.
Coyotes television analyst Tyson Nash defended Beagle’s actions and later criticized Zegras for waving Ducks fans inside Gila River Arena after scoring and pushing the puck that the Arizona goaltender Josef Korenar was trying to secure in a game that was decided.
“Instead of maybe saying (on air) if you want to improve, I should have said hot dog,” Nash said in a podcast on the PHNX Sports website the next day. “And maybe that would have been a better thing to say.”
“I talked to Trevor about it,” Verbeek said. “I said to Trevor, ‘I’ve scored a few goals in this league. And I said, there’s no way I could ever score a goal like that. I’ve come to respect that. So when Trevor and I talked about the game, he understands. He respects the game, and he respects the traditions of the game.
“For me, it’s just another way for him to really show his creativity. And, really at the end of the day, unreal skills. Unreal hands and skills. I really want to defend my player in that sense. And I want others to kind of realize that you shouldn’t blame yourself for that kind of goal. You shouldn’t blame yourself in the sense that you become embarrassed. Because I don’t think that’s the way it is.
On December 7, in a nationally televised game on ESPN, Zegras went over the net with an assist to Milan for a goal against Buffalo that went viral and garnered millions of views on the internet. And on January 27, the young center scored his first lacrosse-style goal in a win over Montreal.
A Calder Trophy contender as the NHL’s top rookie, Zegras is among the top freshman scorers with 20 goals and 55 points.
(Photo: Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)