As you probably will have heard by now, Michael Del Zotto is the next Ranger to head over to Europe to get some game time. As Del Zotto laces up for Rapperswil-Jona of the Swiss league he’ll be going to a league that is better than advertised (despite not having the reputation of the Swedish league or the media power of the KHL), and will be joining a league that has evidenced plenty of financial clout to entice NHL stars to the league during the lockout. Of course, he’ll be lacing up against Rick Nash and Joe Thornton. Monitoring how Del Zotto handles Nash in particular could be both entertaining and interesting.
The lockout has been disastrous timing for Del Zotto for multiple reasons. After an up and down first two years as a pro, Del Zotto really came on last year in leaps and bounds and will have been hoping to continue his solid development and establish himself as a premiere young defenseman in the NHL. Those hopes, for now, have been put on hold, the lockout’s timing has been poor for Del Zotto.
Secondly is Del Zotto’s contractual stalemate. Without a CBA agreement in place Del Zotto finds himself without a contract and playing at greater risk than the ‘average’ NHL player heading overseas. Of course, Del Zotto needs hockey to aid his development so the risk is worth it for the young Ranger but it’s still significant risk.
Del Zotto’s main weaknesses are in his own end (even though he has made significant progress in that regard) and the accuracy of his shot. The assumption will be that Del Zotto will see plenty of ice time, get powerplay time and be in situations to work on his shot and develop his ability to quarterback a powerplay. If he develops those areas of his game before heading back to the Rangers then everyone on the Rangers benefits.
Then there is the positional side of his game. While Del Zotto has improved, he could stand to refine his positional sense somewhat and playing on the bigger European ice will test his positional game more. He should receive plenty of opportunity to return to the Rangers a more polished player. Let’s see how MDZ copes the first time Rick Nash bears down on him with open ice…