Feb 10, 2020; Boston University Terriers forward Trever Zegras (13) reacts after losing to the Northeastern Huskies at the TD Garden. Credit: Brian Fluharty

Milestones Galore

Arizona was in Anaheim Thursday night for the first of two games versus the Ducks.  They didn’t have to do much to get the lead, because on two shots they had two goals, the second one going in at 7:07. Ryan Miller was in net, as he has been in three of the Ducks’ last four games.

At the other end of the rink, the Coyotes’ third goalie was in net. Adin Hill is 24, and he has been in 34 NHL games coming in to this one. His record this year is 1-3, with a 2.73 GAA and .910 save percentage. Antti Raanta came off IR a couple of games ago and has almost immediately gone back on. On Thursday, Ivan Prosvetov backed up the backup’s backup (trace it out—it makes sense). Prosvetov is 22, and according to the NHL’s website, “does not have any NHL stats.” Heck, they don’t even have a headshot of him there.

But goalies weren’t the story, at least from the Ducks’ point of view. The big news: #34, Jamie Drysdale, made his NHL debut. He is 18 until early April, and his Junior team is the Erie Otters of the OHL. Since that league has not started up, he is free to play for the Ducks’ AHL farm team, which he has been doing. Thus far, he has 14 games with the San Diego Gulls, with 4-6-10 points from his righthanded, right-D position. He was chosen by the  Ducks in the first round last draft, 6th overall.

How’d he do? He was impressive. Here are a few nuggets:

  1. He was on the first power play unit on the first Ducks’ man advantage. Coach Eakins had earlier said that he would use the rookie in that role. The Ducks typically do what other teams do—put a forward on defense on the PP. With Drysdale’s mobility and confidence, that was not needed. He and Kevin Shattenkirk played the points with the extra man. After that, the D reverted to Getzlaf and Fowler on the PP.
  2. He made some interesting early plays. One was a backhand that he zinged at the net, unexpectedly for everyone, it seemed. Another was a zipped pass from inside his own zone to the blueline of Arizona, where a teammate picked it up on the fly.
  3. He is not fearful of handling the puck, and he seems to read what his teammates are doing well enough to take some chances. He found himself rushing up the right side of Arizona’s zone at one point, ending up behind the Coyotes’ net. This is a tactic often used by the most mobile member of the Ducks’ defense, Cam Fowler, and the team is fine with the risk.
  4. He’s working on his game, as when he was pictured on the Anaheim bench talking to Shattenkirk about the shift that they had just had.
  5. His efforts are already getting rewarded. He zinged a wrist shot to the net from inside the blueline in period two, and it hit the Arizona defenseman’s pants and went in with Max Jones also waving at it in front. This was apparently his first goal, though it was later announced in the arena as Jones’s goal. That call was reversed between periods, so Drysdale had a goal in his first NHL game.

What’s to come? If the OHL gets back on track, he would go back there, not San Diego, for the remainder of the season, unless the Ducks play him enough to burn a season of his entry level contract. They’re not going to do that. The team is so bad that it would be a waste. What Drysdale would do in Erie is a puzzle, though. He’s clearly well past the need to play with 16-20 year-olds.

To get back to the game, it was fun to watch the future on display. The game itself, not so much, early. Later, it got better from the home team’s perspective.

After getting behind 2-0 in the first period, the Ducks played a better second, at least twice having the puck practically in the crease of the opponent but not being able to stuff it home. They did get the earlier-described Drysdale-Terry (ultimately Drysdale) goal with 12:01 gone.

And then, at long last, it happened: Trevor Zegras scored, and it was a nice one. He smiled so big after it. The puck went from Drysdale to Terry to Zegras as he crossed right in front of the net. He got the goalie down and shot it up and over him into the top corner. Man, the confidence. And once, again, the smile—he was still grinning and looking around on the bench several minutes later, after a TV break. For Zegras, this also made for his fourth point of the year, most scored more recently, so he’s starting t feel at home.

Between periods, Zegras said, “To see one go into the net actually—what are we, ten games in here?—was a bit of a relief. It was a pretty exciting moment. Obviously out here with Jamie, playing his first game tonight, it was pretty cool seeing him come up the wall and, it was just a pretty special moment.”

The second ended a hopeful 2-2 and with the shots in the Ducks’ favor 20-15. The energy they had, in addition, was unlike what they’ve shown nearly any time this year. Nothing like a little youthful enthusiasm to get the old guys going.

The third period saw the Ducks dominate on possession and on the PK. They survived a Coyotes’ power play midway through the period and didn’t allow a shot. They then shut them down again on a PP with about two minutes left.

The Ducks got the man advantage for themselves on a call on Tyler Pitlick for interference. The power play carried over to OT, and the Ducks won the game one a pass from Shattenkirk down low to Henrique, who scored on a one-timer. Irony alert:  this is the third time in a row that with a game having gone to OT, the  Ducks have had the man advantage, and won the game.

Drysdale had this to say about his night, and his goal, after the game: “It was pretty awesome. I don’t think I could ask for a much better  way to start it off, and the  fact that we got the win was the most important thing. It was definitely a night I’ll remember.”  He said that he was on the bench in the third period when Shattenkirk leaned over and told him he had scored. Zegras, interestingly, didn’t know that Drysdale had scored until a couple of minutes prior to their Zoom interview, well after the game was over.

When asked about sharing these moments with Zegras, Drysdale’s friend and roommate, Drysdale said, “I don’t think you acould have pictured it any better. Really happy for him, happy that he got his first goal also. It’s a good night for our household and for the team.” He had made a solo lap in warmup, and he also said that this was “the  coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life, just skating, no helmet, just around, in my first NHL game.” He said all his teammates were encouraging him to enjoy it and have fun with it. He sure did that.

Coach Eakins was happy about the game and for all four milestone setters—Miller, Getzlaf (see notes  below), Zegras, and Drysdale—each of whom he talked about at various points in his post-game  comments. The funniest was about Drysdale. “It was amazing to me that this kid’s probably been—I don’t  know, has he been driving by himself for a year now—is that when you can drive by yourself, when you’re 17? And here he is in an NHL lineup, and he came in like he had been there for a very long time.” He praised the Dman’s confidence and puck movement. “All the people should be very happy with  that draft pick and the job our scouts and management have put into that young man.”

The two teams face off again on Saturday.  That’s an  unusual 5pm start.

Notes

Ryan Getzlaf got the second assist on the goal eventually credited to Drysdale, marking his 700thcareer assist.

Ryan Miller now holds sole possession of 14thon the all-time goalie wins list with the win, his 390th.

Brian Kennedy is a credentialed NHL media member and a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. He is reporting from his SoCal home during the pandemic with the help of NHL- and team-supplied media materials.