Zuccarello Should Look To Left Wing For Answers

July 18, 2011, by

This September Zuccarello will be under the microscope of Front Office exes and fans alike thanks to potential replacements waiting in the wings (pun intended) like Chris Kreider, Christian Thomas, or Carl Hagelin. With Gaborik, Callahan, and possibly Prust all potentially ahead of Zukes on the right wing depth chart, one has to wonder if the Norwegian’s days are numbered.

To be fair, it doesn’t make much sense to play Zuccarello at RW on the 4th line (his landing spot towards the end of last season). Everyone knows fourth lines on Tortorella teams get virtually zero ice-time. It’s not a place for a young forward who you are trying to mold into a top 6 player.

So what does this mean for his future with the Rangers and the NHL?

While it’s too early to predict his path with the Blueshirts, I do think that he definitely has what it takes to succeed in the NHL. The media and the fans who buy their BS will tell you that he’s too small, or that he needs to gain weight, but that’s a lazy analysis.

Zuccarello isn’t too small for the Show, not for a forward anyway. There are currently around 15-20 players in the NHL that play at or below 5’8 and Zuccarello has better skills than most of them. He may not or ever be as quick as Gionta, Cammalleri, St. Louis, Briere, or Ennis, but he’s not a step behind Gerbe, Connor, Shannon, or Recchi either.

No, Zukes doesn’t need to bulk up or find the Zoltar machine at Rye Playland.


But he may have to switch to the other side of the ice.

To me, Zuccarello’s struggles generally occur along the boards. This is mostly due to the fact that he is a left handed shot playing right wing. While playing the “off-wing” is good for scoring goals (remember the whole Kovy fiasco in NJ last season), it does make board play more difficult.

Zukes is already at a disadvantage coming over from the larger rinks of the Swedish Elite League, where you have a week and a half to decide what to do with the puck. Here on North America rinks, no such luxury exists.

So, not only is Zukes getting used to the pacing and physicality of NHL forechecking, but he also has to get used to receiving pucks along the board on his backhand, which is obviously more difficult than receiving pucks on your forehand. Add a 220-lb defensemen pressed up against you, and you’re talking a whole new skill set to learn.

Passing and cycling along the boards is where he needs to improve. If he wants to speed up the learning process, I say he take a shot at leftwing. Besides, other than Dubinsky, none of our other LW’s are locks for top scoring roles next season.


  1. Walt says:

    I wonder how difficult it is to switch from one wing, to another. Zucc is a very skilled player, and one would love to incorporate theose skills into our offense. One thing is for sure, this little guy has stones, more so than WW, and he should be given a shot at the first line before him.

    • Zen says:

      I don’t necessarily disagree with who should get the first shot, but I feel that WW has WAY more upside in that LW spot on the top line. I was more impressed with WW’s overall offensive game (i.e. mostly scoring), though Zuc is damn good passer.

    • The Suit says:

      I agree. WoWo doesn’t do a whole lot for me. If his offseason powerskating helps him rebound early this season, I’m cool with him getting looks on the top 2 lines. If his effort level remain erratic, then I’d rather see Zukes there. We could have a good balance of skill and will.

  2. Mikeyyyy says:

    Like a good tie. Savvy and sensible.

  3. The Wrage says:

    Zuke showed signs that he could play in the NHL last year. Have him work at the LW position and place him with Richards/Gaborik and there could be some magic there.

  4. Zen says:

    BTW… in general, I’m not sure Zuc even makes the NHL club this season. The roster is crowded and if he doesn’t switch to the other wing, their might not be room for him. If that happens, I would expect him to be intriguing trade bait for teams looking for affordable top 6 offensive forwards.

  5. Agentsmith says:

    suit- in ur opinion is the boyle prust line a 3rd line or 4th line – on a championship caliber team?

    • The Suit says:

      I don’t really look at players in that way. I think guys are either top 6 or bottom six. Whether a guy ends up on the first line or second, or 3rd or 4th generally depends on roster depth, chemistry, trust from coaches, ice time, etc.

      Boyle, Prust, Feds, etc. are bottom 6 players.

  6. Matt J says:

    Switching wings isn’t the hardest thing in the world, it just takes time. It’s good for lefties to be LW because they can shoot blocker side, and do a centering pass a lot easier, because they’re not doing a backhanded one if they are on the RW. I’d be actually interested to see Anisimov more at the LW as well.

    • Zen says:

      Anisimov has trouble enough staying consistent at center, let alone asking him to switch positions to wing. The thought of him being there might be good, but it would never work given AA’s fragility.

  7. Section 121 says:

    Zoltar says give Zuc a fair shake on the top line before you write him off

  8. rw-lw says:

    I believe MZA has played both wings

  9. Richter1994 says:

    Thank you Suit. Wolski is a (talented) stiff. 3 offensively-starved teams and 3 failures. See a pattern? I think should be one of 2 ways:
    MZA-BR-Gaby; Pack Line; Feds-Boyle-Stepan; Avery-Rupp-Prust. OR Stepan-BR-Gaby; Pack Line; MZA-Boyle-Prust; Avery-Rupp-Feds. I think I like the 2nd one better.

    • Zen says:

      You aren’t paying attention to the details. Wolski played great for Avs, but they wanted Mueller more… hence the trade. His last two teams have played painful defensive hockey, which isn’t a good fit for WW. It wasn’t a good fit for Gaborik either this year when Torts made the change. If Torts lets his two studs play on that first line and they throw Wolski with them, things will start to look up for the enigmatic winger.

      • Mr. X says:

        Richter1994: Stepan isn’t moving to the wing. Not a chance really. Tell you what though. Christian Thomas would look like a stud on the top line maybe. Actually if Gabby and Richards are productive anyone on the team can play that line. Maybe even Biron.

        • Agentsmith says:

          finnnnnnnnnnally someone mentions thomas in this post.

          he prob has more pure offensive talent on the team other then richards and gaborik. the issue is for torts you cant not be just a shooter. youve got to be able to play both ends and compete physically. is he ready for that?

          im not sure if he will make the squad this year. but he will def make his move.

          • Richter1994 says:

            I love Thomas. He will pan out better than Kreider. The problem is that next season the Rangers start in Europe and on the road due to the renovations. It will be very tough to give Thomas the 9 game look see under that scenario. I predict he will be our Skinner and eventually score 30 goals.

      • Richter1994 says:

        I don’t know if you go to the games but if you do then you will see the laziness that fans speak of.

      • The Suit says:

        Zen, you’re my boy and all, but damn I’m trying really hard to ignore your comment that Wolski played great for the Avs. He was just as erratic with them as he was for the Coyotes and Rangers.

        Wolski has struggled with three different teams who play remarkably different hockey systems. It’s not an x’s and o’s thing with this guy, it’s the lack of desire to compete for pucks.

        If WoWo ends up continuing his career in NYC, I just hope Richards feeds this guy for breakaways, b/c that’s just about all he can do is play cherry picker.

        • Richter1994 says:

          what Mr. Suit said. Game 4 against the Caps. WW is 20 feet ahead of Caps D to negate an icing late in the game. For reasons unknown to anyone else, WW slows down and the Caps D touches up. Face off deep in Rangers’ zone when the game is tied. This play epitomizes WW. End of story.