Del Zotto’s Leetch-Like Goal

November 24, 2009, by

It all started with an innocent clearing of the zone by Columbus. The puck was barely out of the zone by the Columbus bench, and Michael Del Zotto, just 19 years old, picked up the loose puck. Columbus then made a mistake, half the team went for a line change as Del Zotto back skated with the puck, and Del Zotto countered and made them pay.

He carried the puck in the zone, deked out one defender, and used the other as a screen, ripping a shot from the high slot passed the outstretched blocker of goaltender Steve Mason, and the Rangers had a 3-2 lead. Brian Leetch was in the house, and it seems like Del Zotto put on that show just for him.

Ranger fans haven’t seen a defenseman do something like that since, well, Leetch. Del Zotto, in his first 23 games, has shown a poise that most veterans don’t show. As Stas (where art thou?) has seen, I have been raving about this kid since he was drafted (pre-BSB). But even I and my completely biased hyping up of prospects couldn’t have imagined him being this good this early. And how about that ridiculous pass to Ryan Callahan in the first? It was so good that even Cally was stunned.

The Del Zotto effect is seen on the powerplay as well. While Ales Kotalik and his booming shot is getting most of the credit, it’s Del Zotto’s poise with the puck and crisp passing that is making everything click. The last effective powerplay quarterback the Rangers had was, of course, Leetch.

Perhaps the most underrated portion of his game is his defensive abilities. This was something he was doubted on during his days in the OHL. But Del Zotto, while making rookie mistakes, has been a steady defender in his own zone. This was highlighed by those two beautiful plays in the third period to keep the 7-3 (at the time) lead.

We are watching a very special hockey player, who hopefully will become a top-five defenseman in the league as he matures. While it is premature to call him the next Leetch, the comparisons are going to be made for years to come.

Categories : Players


  1. Terry says:

    23 Games does not a Leetch make. Slow down there fella, you’re already comparing him to an Stanley Cup MVP, Calder, and Norris Trophy winner!

    • Angelo says:

      The kid has a lot to learn, and that is what is so scary! He is already very talented; provide him with the right development path and his upside is huge. Very exciting!

      Another aspect of his game that rarely gets mentioned is his hitting! Every game, there is at least one, if not three, very strong hits dished out to opponents in our end or blue line. No other Ranger defenseman is doing this, so perhaps when MDZ does it, it seems magnified to me. But you can tell these hits have an impact….he knows how to line up an opposing player and get leverage from his hips through shoulders. He’s a real pleasure to watch play.

    • Dave says:

      “While it is premature to call him the next Leetch, the comparisons are going to be made for years to come.”

      He’s not Leetch, nor will he ever be. I’m just saying that there will be comparisons, especially after a game like that.

  2. joe says:

    people took umbrage when leetch was compared to bobby orr (especially during the ’94 playoffs), so i guess it’s gone full circle now that del zotto is drawing comparisons to leetch…and in an ironic twist, i’m betting many of the people who did the leetch-orr comparison back in the day are the ones saying “slow down” now when comparing dz to leetch

    • Dave says:

      As Ranger fans, we have had little to get excited over in terms of home grown players, so we are prone to over reacting.

      Just a question, do you think he has a chance down the road to be a 100 point defenseman? We haven’t seen one of those in a long, long time. If not, is there anyone in the NHL that can be a 100 point defenseman?

    • Jeff says:

      Leetch skated on 15 years worth of better technology (sticks & skates) better ice (with the exception of MSG) and different rules then Orr did. DZ is skating on 20 years worth of better technology (sticks & skates) better ice (with the exception of MSG) and far more supportive rules then Leetch did. The point being is that you can’t compare players to anybody that played 15 years before them and be accurate or fair. Leetch and Orr would have scored 175 pts without a center ice line offsides!

  3. joe says:

    dave, we haven’t seen a 100 point d-man in the nhl since….brian leetch in ’91-92!!

    i would say mike green of washington would be the best/next candidate, but in today’s 30+ team nhl, it doesn’t look likely that ANY d-man will ever score 100 points…the year leetch scored 102, there were nine players who scored 100 points or more…last year there were three

    blame expansion, blame the left wing lock/neutral zone trap, blame clutching and grabbing, blame gary bettman, blame bigger goalie pads, etc

    • Dave says:

      I think we are getting closer to seeing a 100 point defenseman though. There are no more Coffey’s or Leetch’s, but sooner or later someone’s going to do it.

  4. becky says:

    DZ is such a pleasure to watch, honestly. His goal last night left my jaw dropped in total awe. It’s so hard to believe he’s only 19 years old.

    • Kevin B says:

      If the rangers had a real veteran leader, (like Prospal might be turning into) on both Offense and D, DZ and the other guys could actually become contenders.

      I am impressed with Torts, but how about if things go south (God forbid) we see a triumvirate of Mess as coach, Leetch and Graves as assistants. What could inspire rookies in blue any better than that..

  5. rob sahm says:

    the sky,s the limit for del zotto he is a bright spot on a team that is trying for a identity it is premature to call him the second coming of leetch or coffey but with him and gilroy manning the blueline everybody should take notice that these kids are the real deal and the future of the rangers …

  6. david says:

    mdz is a freakin beast who when he gets bigger and works on his slap shot will be even a bigger beast!!