Mats Zuccarello hasn't earned any Rookie of the Month awards yet in the NHL but don't knock that against him since he's certainly been in the discussion for the past two months. The speedy Norwegian has been making splashes of his talent in the Big Apple and has a very bright future there. Since he was only called up around Christmas time, your league mates may have forgotten about him from the Pre-season but if you want to make a shot into finishing the year well or making an impact in the playoffs, it's time scoop him up and ride him into the sunset. Check out why after the jump...
First, let's discuss who we're dealing with here. He played with the MODO Hockey team in Sweden for two years from 2008-2010 and simply he tore up the league up. In 2009-2010, he won the Golden Helmet award for league MVP and for also scoring the most points in the league with 64, 23 goals and 41 assists. He was the first foreigner (he's from Norway, remember?) to win the award in 13 years. Considering he was only 22 years old at the time he did this, the was an incredible feat by someone so young. Sure, his size is quite an issue at 5' 9" but he seems to have adapted quite well to being just as physical as any other skater now. Many are comparing his development with the likes of Martin St. Louis and Markus Naslund. In other words, he won't be a sniper like Kovalchuk but he'll certainly contribute somewhere on the scoreboard either by goal or assists and he's quite good at being the playmaker. And this isn't to say that he'll develop to their level right away. He'll likely have his games where he struggles or makes mistakes but that is the case for any NHL rookie. With youth on his side and being a talented team like the Rangers, there's nowhere to look but up for Zuccarello.
The second and most important issue in this is whether he's going to be thrown back and forth between the AHL and NHL. He's not going to do you much good if he keeps getting shipped that way. Worry not. From what's being observed and said by Rangers staff, he's earned the trust of John Tortorella. In an article with NHL.com, Tortorella was even quoted to say "We weren't sure if Zucc was going to be able to play. Now he comes up here and certainly does his thing in the shootouts, but he's probably one of our most creative passers. He sees the ice tremendously." The proof is certainly in the pudding as he's logged almost 16 minutes of ice time per game and almost 3 minutes of Power Play ice time per game. For a 23 year old player, that's excellent time and with the coach's glowing review of Zuccarello, there's no doubt that he's here to stay for the remainder of the year.
Now that the season is rolling down the hill for the next three months before the playoffs start, it's time to start making risks. In my mind, if Zuccarello is in your free agent pool, he most certainly warrants consideration to being on your roster. He won't contribute in PIM's very much and has a decent shot to make some Power Play Points (whether you use Goals or Points) his upside into the level of guys like Naslund and St. Louis is just too good to pass up. Pick him up now before you're kicking yourself when the season is done.