The Friday Four: Trevor Zegras and searching for the next lacrosse goal

Trevor Zegras reacts after a shootout attempt in the pre-season. (Kyusung Gong/AP)

The Friday Four, a collection of thoughts and information on some intriguing player performances, continues this week with some notes on:

Evgeny Kuznetsov's quick start, following a summer where, perhaps, he could have been had through trade.

Igor Shesterkin, his importance to a NY Rangers playoff push, and if the Vezina is a realistic outlook for the 25-year-old.

• Why Timo Meier is the X-Factor for the Sharks, who are off to a 3-0 start.

• And the special talent of Trevor Zegras, how he's helping change the Ducks into a fun team to watch, and the search for the NHL's next lacrosse-style goal.

All numbers from Natural Stat Trick unless otherwise indicated.


It's only a matter of time until we see the next lacrosse-style goal, and rookie Trevor Zegras is one of the better bets to do it.

We've seen three of them in the NHL: Andrei Svechnikov broke the ice, then did it a second time. Filip Forsberg scored one against the Edmonton Oilers in the 2019-20 season.

This is a thing to watch now, as more players are both capable of pulling off the skillful move and having the confidence to try it during a game.

Zegras has not been shy to make the attempt. Last January he tried to pull out a lacrosse goal inside the first five minutes of a WJC semifinal game against Finland, but couldn't finish it. A couple of months later he was an NHLer and in his fourth game he tried one out -- had it gone in Zegras' first NHL goal would have been an all-timer.

Just three games into this season Zegras made another attempt, a smooth and quick all-in-one-motion streak around the back of the net early in the first period against Calgary.

We've seen a few lacrosse attempts early this season and it seems only a matter of time before the next one goes in. The list of candidates who will try it and may pull it off is growing, so who will be next? Zegras? Nils Hoglander? Filip Forsberg? Auston Matthews? Or will the only two-time lacrosse goal scorer in NHL history, Svechnikov, make it a hat trick? He's already tried it again this season.

Zegras is part of the changing face and style of a Ducks team pivoting towards a group of young players to take them into a brighter future. It's a wonder what new energy and skill can do for a franchise.

Last season Kirill Kaprizov took the NHL by storm and changed our perception of the Wild. For so long that team was associated with the neutral zone trap, defensive play and a generally bland style. No one heard the name "Minnesota Wild" and identified it as appointment viewing. The excitement Kaprizov brings to a game, and the other young core players with him, gave us a new outlook on the Wild.

Something similar may be happening right now with the Ducks on a smaller scale.

This is still a team trying to transition out of a rebuild and more likely to have favourable lottery odds again than not. But they're making a turn towards being watchable again. Zegras hasn't potted a goal yet, but he did record his first assist Tuesday and his time on ice has already seen a boost -- he's been over 18 minutes three games in a row. Sam Steel, Mason McTavish, Isac Lundestrom, Jamie Drysdale -- all of these young players are giving reason to tune in now.


The New York Rangers were something of a darling pre-season pick to come out of a rebuild and make the playoffs. A lot of that has to do with the great talent they've kept from the past and also added to their forward and defence units. Artemi Panarin could be a Hart candidate most years, and Adam Fox won the Norris in 2021. Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko and K'Andre Miller, among others, provide the youthful upside still to be tapped.

But for any of it to work this season, 25-year-old goalie Igor Shesterkin needs to have a great season.

So far, so good. If you're a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs you had a front row seat this week to how special this player can be.

It's early of course (feel I need to repeat that), but Shesterkin's .953 save percentage ranks in a tie for sixth in the league, facing 128 total shots so far (fourth-most). His 5.08 Goals Saved Above Average leads the league so far.

"When I watch him play, I don't know how much is anticipation and he clearly has a good mind for it -- when I watch him play the edge work, the skating, and the fact it's very rarely out of control, never completely lost," Kevin Woodley, the goalie whisperer, said on The Jeff Marek Show this week. "Ya he'll have goalie 911 moments when you gotta go desperation and he does as well as anyone. But the point in a play, no matter how dynamic or how many chances, where he needs to go goalie 911 is so much later than everyone else because of the way he moves, not just on his skates but on his knees.

"There's down into a butterfly and there's no open and close in the recovery. It's a forward skull with his left skate to gain angle to his right side instantly into a push over there...Even when he's on his knees he's able to take his whole body, his whole torso, balanced over his knees on his pad and put it in that next spot, with his hands still active, and his torso upright and in complete control."

Each of the three Vezina Trophy finalists were within the top six in Goals Saved Above Average last season. Two years ago they were all in the top eight. If Shesterkin takes a step up, the Rangers will probably meet or exceed expectations. And if the Rangers meet or exceed expectations, there is a path for Shesterkin towards the Vezina.


Are the San Jose Sharks for real? There's still an intriguing collection of talent throughout the lineup, and a brand new goalie tandem aimed at addressing a multi-year weakness. They are without their top scorer from last season, though, as Evander Kane is suspended 21 games and faces an uncertain future with the team once that ends. If they are going to surprise us to any meaningful degree, a few players are going to have to step up.

None may be more important to that than Timo Meier, a one-time 30-goal scorer three years removed from the feat and with declining goal and points rates ever since. At 25 years old and still RFA age when his contract expires after next season, Meier is key to a Sharks turnaround in the present and possibly to their long-term outlook as well. He's been an offence generating machine in three games, which has translated to five points so far, but only a single goal (on the power play) of his own.

Here's a look at Meier's totals in shots, individual scoring chances, and high danger opportunities from the slot, at 5-on-5.

Meier's line, shared with Jonathan Dahlen and Logan Couture, has controlled over 60 per cent of the shots when they've been on the ice so far and Meier has been leading the way in taking those shots. Creating this many opportunities in prime areas should eventually lead to a hot stretch of them going in.

He's always been a shot creator, but the question is if he'll keep up this level of impact. Meier has been guilty of inconsistent play since scoring 30 goals in 2018-19 and has at times been demoted to the bottom-six, and, yes, being uninvested in defence has played a role in that. But his drive to get the best chances is a factor, too. He's finished top 15 in shots every year since that 2018-19 breakout, but the percentage of those shots that qualified as high danger has fallen year over year.

Meier's shooting percentage has tumbled with the rate of quality opportunities, as you might expect.

It's early, but so far this season 54 per cent of Meier's shots at 5-on-5 have been from the slot -- with a shooting percentage of zero.

"I think Timo has just found a different gear. He looked like a man amongst boys out there tonight," Sharks coach Bob Boughner said after Meier's three-point night against Montreal. "There's power in his game, he's taking pucks to the net. That line is really clicking."


If there was a window, however small, where other NHL teams could have pried Evgeny Kuznetsov out of Washington, it's all but slammed shut now.

It's been four years since Kuznetsov was a point per game, top 20 NHL scorer and his name began popping up in the rumour mill during the off-season. The GM may have had something to do with that.

"I think we're always open to trading people if it makes sense for what's going on," Caps GM Brian MacLellan said in May. "If it's going to make our team better I think we're open to it. I don't think anybody's off the table. We're not going to trade Ovie or Backy, those types of people, but I think you have to be open on anything, so we'd talk to anybody about any player."

That followed a playoff exit in which Kuznetsov was held without a single point and his third straight season of decline.

So far this season, the old Kuznetsov has been back. With eight points through four games, he's tied for second in NHL scoring. When he's been on the ice at 5-on-5, the Caps have outscored their opponents 5-0, though he was at fault for a J.T. Compher shorthanded goal against this week.

The Caps roared back in that game and Kuznetsov scored twice, one of which was the game-winner.

"I feel like I have a great relationship with the coaches and teammates and that always gives you a lot of confidence when you can be creative," he said after the 6-3 win over the Avs. "That mistake I made on the power play not even one guy said anything to me because there is a trust. I appreciate it. I felt bad until we got that [Jensen go-ahead] goal and then when I scored that second one that's when I was like OK I get that mistake back. That's how we build the trust between each other and that's how individually we can grow up and play better. We know when we make mistakes and when you come to the bench that's the worst part. You want to go under the ground."

Some looked at the Caps in the pre-season as a potential fall-off team, ageing out of contention. But they're 3-0-1 to start without Nicklas Backstrom in the lineup. Alex Ovechkin's continuing run up the all-time goals chart deservedly gets most of the attention, but Kuznetsov's early-season surge and potential turnaround would be a massive development for the Caps' hopes of contending once again.

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