Mats Zuccarello has proven he belongs in the NHL, but does his future lie in New York?

Proved us wrong.

Proved us wrong.

Mats Zuccarello has yet to net his first goal of the season, but the diminutive Norwegian has already left his mark in six games since returning to the Blueshirts.

Zuccarello has averaged a healthy 16:49 and has earned high praise from coach John Tortorella for his conditioning, quickness and creativity.  Zuccarello has had an immediate impact on the power play, where the Rangers are five-of-15 since his arrival.  Zuccarello has just one assist on the man advantage, but he’s been very effective in gaining entry into the offensive zone and setting up the attack.

The stats confirm that Zuccarello has also added a bit more jam to his game – he has 13 hits in six matches, a significant increase over the eight hits he had in 10 games last year and the 56 hits Zuccarello recorded in 42 games as a rookie.  Perhaps most importantly, Zuccarello has helped jumpstart Brad Richards and the duo has formed an effective line with fellow newcomer Ryane Clowe.

Clowe, Derick Brassard and John Moore may get more of the credit in the long run as they were part of more splashy moves, but it’s not a coincidence that the Rangers have begun playing better with Zuccarello on board.

Yes, it seems that Zuccarello has finally carved out his niche in the NHL after three years, but it’s uncertain whether Zuccarello will remain on Broadway past this season despite showing that he belongs in the league.  As has been the problem with many pure offensive forwards – taking nothing away from Zuccarello, who has been surprisingly effective on the backcheck so far – Zuccarello may have difficulty securing a long-term spot in the Rangers lineup.  New York already has commitments to several expensive top-six forwards going forward and the organization must make room for highly-touted youngsters J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider, Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg, all of whom have a serious chance of being with New York full-time beginning next season.

Zuccarello has been instrumental in replenishing some of the depth the Rangers lost in the offseason, but he may end up being a casualty of the numbers game this summer when he becomes a restricted free agent.

Who knows, Zuccarello may choose to return back to Russia next season, but if he wants to remain in North America there won’t be a shortage of suitors for the creative 25-year-old.  Don’t be surprised if Zuccarello goes on to have a similar career arc to P.A. Parenteau, another undersized winger that has blossomed into a near point-per-game producer this season with the Avalanche after spending two seasons on John Tavares’ flank with the Islanders.

9 Responses to “Mats Zuccarello has proven he belongs in the NHL, but does his future lie in New York?”

  1. Walt says:

    Zucc should be offered a contract, so that we maintain his rights. After the draft, and camp, if he doesn’t make the team, trade him off for some assits. Would I like him on the team, not too sure, but I don’t want him to just walk away, that’s the reason for a contract offer!

  2. Bloomer says:

    His is not scoring at the moment but is playing well defensively and not hurting the team. I don’t think he needs to be moved anywhere unless someone in the organization can step up and prove they are better.

  3. Mikeyyy says:

    He has only played six games….lets see how he does the rest of the season.

    He has been playing much better.

    Guys like that can learn how to hit hard and low.

    Force = mass * acceleration

    If he can get his center low enough and get a good two steps , he could drop the biggest of players.

    I also noticed he is much better at avoiding checks as well as he rolls off them pretty good.

  4. Dave says:

    I wasn’t sold on Zucc at first, but he’s making a believer out of me. He has tremendous leg strength, which we saw on that drive to the net the other day.

    If he can maintain his elusiveness, he could be something special in the future. Big if though.

  5. Chris F says:

    Zuccarello will stay in the NHL (if he so desires). He has the skill, the vision, the speed, the skating ability. Marty St Louis is proof that can be enough to be an NHL calibre player.

    Unfortunately, I’m not sure that Zuke will find a place on the Rangers roster next year. Tortorella’s praise notwithstanding, I’m not sure Zuke’s diminutive stature can hold up in a Tortorella system.

    He’s shown a willingness to hit, which is a great sign. But, can he stay healthy while playing that style of game? I’m not sure. He’d do well on a Detroit type of team.

  6. The Suit says:

    For me it’s all about consistency. He has definitely shown some a little more escapability with the puck this year and I like the way he’s been hounding the puck carriers in the neutral zone. Little things like that go a long way and I can see why Torts has praised him. Hopefully he can keep it up.

  7. Seahorse says:

    quick question is he still a restricted free agent at the end of this year