What Cole Caufield and Trevor Zegras Reuniting At Men's World Championship Means For A Potential Trade

Let's examine what Cole Caufield and Trevor Zegras' playing on a line at the World Championship means for a possible reunion in Montreal.
United States v Finland: Semifinals - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship
United States v Finland: Semifinals - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship / Codie McLachlan/GettyImages

The Trevor Zegras-to-Montreal rumors will explode if the pair stays together for the Men's World Championship and generates any success. It isn't the first time they've been linemates, as Zegras and Caufield grew up playing with USA Hockey.

The pair won a gold medal with the United States in the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship, defeating Team Canada in the championship game. Zegras was the MVP of that tournament, while Caufield's performance left some things to be desired. It's been a mixed bag of results when these two players join forces, so let's see if acquiring Zegras to play with his long-time friend is worth the risk.

The Good

The duo led the way with Jack Hughes on the National Team Development Program, as Caufield had 100 points and Zegras had 87 in the final season before college. They went on to win a bronze medal at the U-18's, with Zegras chipping in nine assists and Caufield leading the way with 14 goals and four assists.

Their connection was evident at a young age. Caufield was a pure goalscorer, and Zegras an elite playmaker, which made them a natural fit against opponents in the USHL and U-18s. Their connection set them both up for future success, with Zegras drafted ninth overall to the Anaheim Ducks, and Caufield drafted 15th to the Canadiens.

The pair are obviously best friends, as is evident by the content that comes out with them together during the offseason. Kent Hughes has to be careful not to rush into a decision without reviewing the facts, as they may not be the dynamic duo on the ice that we remember from the NTDP.

The Bad

USA Hockey was excited to get going at the 2020 World Juniors, as they had plenty of talent on the team that could lead them to a gold medal. However, the pair never quite got the chemistry going again after spending a season apart. After the NTDP, Caufield went to Wisconsin, and Zegras went to Boston University.

Zegras managed nine assists in the tournament, but Caufield had just a goal and an assist. The players needed to make more of an impact to lead their team to the medal round, as Finland defeated them 1-0 in the quarterfinals.

Going into the 2021 tournament, USA knew they needed a change, so they split up the pair. The move put Zegras on the first line with Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev. They demoted Caufield to the fourth line.

It wasn't an easy situation for Caufield, but unsurprisingly, he had just two goals and three assists on the fourth line. Zegras took over the tournament, tallying 18 points and becoming a national hero in the gold medal game against Canada.

The blueprint was laid for Zegras and Caufield to stay apart on future national teams. However, at the 2024 World Championships, they are back together again on the first line with Brady Tkachuk. Their reunion didn't start well in the first game against Sweden. Zegras took a lazy penalty in the defensive zone, and then they took the minus on a Joel Eriksson-Ek goal on the delayed penalty.

Caufield improved his 200-foot game this season, but it was everything that worries people about the pair playing on a line together. They dominated opponents when they were younger, but do they have enough defense and compete in their game to not be a liability against pros?

The Verdict

There's an argument to be made that putting Nick Suzuki in the middle of Zegras and Caufield could help to mitigate some of the defensive concerns. However, you may not want Suzuki anchored into this as a strictly defensive forward.

The comparisons will be to the Bruins' former line of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand, but Marchand did alot to help out Bergeron at the defensive end. Caufield could get to that level, but it is a risk.

Acquiring Zegras would also break up the Caufield-Suzuki-Juraj Slafkovsky line that looked so good during the 2023-24 season. You could put Zegras on another line, but that eliminates the point of acquiring him to play with Caufield.

The idea of acquiring Zegras is good in theory, and the Caufield-Zegras pair could end up lighting up the World Hockey Championship and make this point moot. The recent results are too poor to ignore, and we've seen teams thrive when the pair splits. 

Some better dynamic offensive players will be available to the Habs, who aren't as big of a liability at the defensive end. The better action for Kent Hughes is to keep Slafkovsky with Caufield and Suzuki and look for a better fit on the second line.

Don't be surprised if the Zegras-Caufield connection is broken up again after the USA's tournament-opening loss to Sweden. Shane Pinto was already starting to take shifts on the wing with Caufield and Tkachuk as the Americans pushed for a tying goal at the end of the game. The game ended in a 5-2 loss for the United States.