Zach Trotman has found his confidence with Penguins
Zach Trotman is a patient man.
After all, he waited as 209 other names were announced before his was called upon as the last overall selection at the 2010 NHL draft.
“I was one pick away from being a free agent,” he joked. “It’s cool to happen and I took a lot of pride in being one of those guys that was able to be drafted. But at the same time, something I’ve always said since since day one is I’ve put a chip on my shoulder being the last overall pick. Because that means I slipped by that many times and no one really had a vote in confidence in me until the last pick. There’s good motivation but at the same time there’s a nice little confidence boost too.”
That patience has been tested often throughout Trotman’s career. Since debuting with the Boston Bruins in 2013-14, he’s largely had a disjointed existence as an NHLer. He has appeared in only 83 games, just one more than a full NHL regular season. He has made 16 of those appearances with the Penguins over the past two seasons.
Despite having a small sample size on the NHL level to examine, the Penguins readily signed Trotman, 29, to a two-year two-way contract this past offseason. He had previously been signed to consecutive one-year contracts.
“It’s nice, especially after being with them two years prior,” Trotman said of the contract. “It kind of makes you feel like you’re a little more part of the family, part of the organization. You kind of belong. I always think everyone has pride with who they play for, but the longer you’re there, the more your pride goes with it. I take a lot of pride being in this organization. So it’s exciting to have those two years and not having that thought floating in your head every once in a while of what am I going to do next year. It’s already set in stone. It’s makes it a little easier as an athlete of just having the continual progression over two years (instead) of going one year at a time.
That decision to re-sign Trotman was based largely on the 13 games he played last season from late February through early April. As defensemen Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta and Chad Ruhwedel convalesced from long-term injuries, the Penguins recalled Trotman from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and plugged him into the lineup. During that time, the Penguins went 8-3-2 during a vital stretch which helped them secure a playoff berth for the 13th consecutive season.
“The biggest thing is the time came when those games meant a lot too,” he said. “It was really exciting for me to play in those games and obviously get some experience down the stretch when games matter. It’s do or die in crunch time. It was really exciting to play in those games and for the most part, I thought with good results.”
“When you look at Zach’s game right now, the way he plays, he plays with a certain level of confidence that he knows he belongs, that he has NHL talent,” head coach Mike Sullivan said of Trotman’s play in March. “He wants the puck, he has poise with the puck, he doesn’t just look to get rid of it right away, he has a quiet confidence about his game that I think is helping him be effective.”
When touting his defensive depth, general manager Jim Rutherford has occasionally pointed out the Penguins have nine NHL-caliber defensemen, with Trotman being the ninth.
“I’ve been around a little while now so I understand my role and my game and what I need to do and where I fit in the system right now and what they expect of me,” Trotman said. “As a player, if you can be on the same page as what they’re thinking and do your job every day, it will lead to chances where they trust you. It’s been good so far. To be able to in the same system and be with the a lot of the same players and same staff, you just kind of grow accustomed to every thing and the way the game is played here and what they expect of you.”
At 6-foot-3 and 217 points, Trotman doesn’t exactly look the part of the stereotypical waterbug puck-moving defenseman who is en vogue in the NHL at the moment. But he maintains his style of play is an ideal fit for the aggressive Penguins.
“Getting back on pucks and getting them out clean is a big part of my game and my style,” he said. “For a bigger guy, I’m able to get up the ice and join the rush and throw in some shots here and there. That aspect alone just kind of slides into the playing style they have going here.”
That fit is why Trotman chose to re-sign with the Penguins despite the depth at his position.
“First and foremost, I wanted to stay here,” said Trotman, who has been given a stall in the main dressing room during training camp, as opposed to the auxiliary dressing rooms with other players expected to begin the season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton or elsewhere. “I like it here. I’ve been able to work with the staff up and down and it’s really helped me round my game out and refine my main characteristics and then try to develop some other stuff. They’ve been great in working with me in that and believe that I can throw other stuff in my game. I just feel like I’ve developed a lot as a player since I’ve been here so there’s really no reason to leave.”
Trotman is one of four players chosen last overall in a draft who have played for the Penguins (forwards Andy Brickley, Patric Hornqvist and defenseman Hans Jonsson are the others). It’s a quirky designation Trotman can laugh about but he doesn’t want it to define him as an NHLer.
“There’s (undrafted) free agents, there’s last overall picks, there’s late picks that always turn out to be players,” he said. “I don’t think you can let something like that put a number on you because if you do, then you’re starting you’re starting your career off essentially chopping your ceiling. And there’s no point in doing that. I never doubted myself. I always looked at it as I was just another piece on the way. My career is going to end up being what I decide.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .