(Photo: Rena Laverty/ USA Hockey)
By JACK LeGWIN
Not many get the chance to represent their country playing the sport they love at the age of 16, and Trevor Zegras is not taking the opportunity lightly.
“It puts you into a different light than an average hockey player I think,” Zegras told BTS Sports on Tuesday. “It’s a tremendous honor and something that I’m super grateful for.”
Getting a chance to compete in some of the world’s best hockey tournaments, Zegras said one achievement in particular has stood out for him over the course of his time wearing the Stars and Stripes.
“This year we went to Dawson’s Creek, Canada and we won the U17 Challenge,” Zegras said. “That was the first tournament that really was special because of everything we had gone through with the guys, that really stood out for sure.”
The Team USA NTDP (National Team Development Program) has had countless players come through the program who are now playing in the NHL and in the upper echelon of the sport. Zegras says he watches some of the most talented forwards in the game hoping to achieve what they have accomplished.
“Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, Clayton Keller, guys who have come through the program,” Zegras said. “It’s hard not to watch those guys because they’re so talented. Watching the stuff they do, how they play the game and how they see the ice, it’s really fun to watch. I definitely model my game after those guys.”
The transition of moving from a high school program at Avon Old Farms (Conn.), where you’re a top player to joining Team USA, where everyone is at the top of the sport, can be a challenge, but Zegras said he embraces the opportunity to get better every day.
“Personally, I really enjoy that,” Zegras said. “In practice you get pushed every day, looking at these guys, seeing what they do and trying to incorporate some of the stuff they do into your game. I think there’s a sense of motivation to keep going and keep getting better.”
Committed to Boston University, Zegras said the decision to commit to the Terriers was an easy one after he went on his visit.
“Once I got on campus it was pretty much a no-brainer for me,” Zegras said. “The rink was spectacular. The guys they had there too at the time, with (Patrick) Harper who went to Avon and now (Brady) Tkachuk is there this year. It’s a great environment for hockey and it was really a no brainer for me.”
The adjustment of playing in Plymouth isn’t easy, but Zegras says he does have guys in the U18 program who he can go to who provide support on the ice or off when it’s needed.
“A couple guys that are committed to Boston U. for sure,” Zegras said. “Tyler Weiss, Jake Wise and Joel Farabee are guys that I’m good buddies with, that I knew before. They played on the U17 team last year so they know how hard it is as well as the struggle that we go through.”
Looking towards the future, Zegras said that he wants to take things one step at a time, but that he does have things he wants to accomplish.
“I want to have a good rest of my time here at the NTDP,” Zegras said. “Then have a good career at BU and make it to the NHL one day. It’s in the back of my head, but it’s not something that I’m focused on. I’m just trying to get into the rink every day to get better.”