Amid the Rangers stumbling offense and the awful nine game losing streak the Whale find themselves in down in the AHL, perhaps unnoticed to many, is the pending return of Mats Zuccarello. Many have given up on the small Norwegian and depth has certainly helped pushed him back in to the AHL, but his talent and skill have never been doubted.
It just so happens that the Hobbit’s game doesn’t fit a checking style and he needs to be in a scoring role, but if the Rangers continue to be (at best) inconsistent offensively an opening could appear. So, should the undersized winger make a strong impression in the next week or so, could he become a candidate to help kick start the Rangers offense?
The skilled winger could have some success if paired with a passer like Richards and a hard hustling winger like Callahan, however, Zuccarello may not be able to influence his own future regardless of how impressive his AHL return is. There are players already in New York (Dubinsky, Anisimov, Richards among others) who, if they raise their game, would render the Zuccarello scenario moot. However, so long as the Rangers offense – and power play- remain underwhelming Zuccarello may be able to force himself back in to the equation.
Zuccarello shouldn’t be lacking for motivation. With his all star appearance in the AHL this weekend to look forward to ‘Zuke’ also knows that from the minute he gets back on to the ice, he’s playing for his Rangers and perhaps NHL future. He needs to show progress, desire and above all, production.
Can Zuccarello force himself back in to the equation? If he can show that he can play without the puck yes. If he can control and be effective on the powerplay for the Whale, yes. If Boyle, Dubinsky, Anisimov and (insert underwhelming forward’s name here) continue to shoot blanks, yes. There’s certainly an opportunity there for Zuccarello if he can make a quick impact in the AHL, but it goes without saying he’s running out of time.