The Gulls have always had good, young talent. But this year? They have something a little different.
“Unreal, God-given talent, and now they’ve just got to hone in on it here in the American Hockey League,” says Gulls play-by-play announcer Andy Zilch.
The talent belongs to four teenagers: wingers Brayden Tracey and Jacob Perreault, center Trevor Zegras and defenseman Jamie Drysdale. All of them are ranked in the Hockey Writers Top 100 NHL Prospects, with Zegras as high as 5th.
The youth movement has energized the entire Gulls operation.
“Honestly, with the amount of skill and youthful enthusiasm I think it drives all of us, as coaches and as teammates,” says Gulls head coach Kevin Dineen. “You have the really solid veteran core we have here and when you infuse this kind of highly skilled youth I think it gives us all a little jump.”
That’s why the Ducks organization re-signed a guy like Sam Carrick. The veteran captain could play in the NHL elsewhere but he’s so valuable as a mentor and leader they keep him in San Diego, a selfless role he’s happy to play.
“We’re looking forward to mentoring these younger guys, showing them what pro hockey is all about, and having some fun along the way and trying to be the best team that we can be,” says Carrick.
It already seems to be working. Zegras had a pair of assists in San Diego’s very first preseason game, one of them to Carrick, in a 5-1 blowout of San Jose. The young guns are learning from the vets … and helping each other.
“It’s good to see guys like that. Us four, we’re kind of living together right now so that’s a bonus,” says Tracey. “We learn from each other. They’re obviously great guys to be around, even on the ice. You learn lots. We all have stuff that we can learn from each other and build.”
There will be a learning curve. Playing as a teenager in the AHL is kind of like a young baseball player being drafted out of high school and going straight to AAA. But, the organization would not be pushing them unless they believed they could handle it.
“They’re not used to playing in front of men. They’ve been playing against boys all their lives, guys that have the same body weight and same muscle mass,” says Zilch. “So, once they get a full grasp of the pro ranks I think it’s gonna be lights out for the Gulls.”
San Diego Gulls fans, enjoy these youngsters while you can. They’ll probably be in the NHL soon.
For more Gulls content, NBC 7's Derek Togerson got a full report from training camp from play-by-play announcer Andy Zilch. Watch it here.