From Hobbit to Wizard, Mats Zuccarello is magical this season

Zuccarello's smile is awesome (NHL/Getty)

Zuccarello’s smile is awesome (NHL/Getty)

This is undoubtedly the best stretch of Mats Zuccarello‘s young NHL career. He has 9 G and 18 PTS and is on pace for a 41 G and 82 PTS campaign. Of course that is unlikely to happen, especially considering his shooting percentage is a ridiculous 25% on the year. Still, he’s on an incredible stretch of 12 points in his last 11 games (5G – 7A) and making people smile everywhere.

 

Zucc has been around the team since 2010 in an up and down capacity. His first full season was 2013-14 where he posted 59 points and really came on late in the season with 14 points in the final 13 games heading into the playoffs. That year he shot 11.2%. A number that better reflects his career Shooting% of 11.5.

Last year, Zucc struggled a bit after linemate, Benoit Pouliot was lost to free agency and the Rangers were trying to find new line combos. He took a step backwards to 49 points and scored only 15 times, 4 less than the previous mark of 19. His shooting percentage came in at 9.7%, but he did have an impressive stretch of 9 points in 7 games before the midway point of that year.

His one constant has been Derick Brassard and now that he is finding more chemistry with Rick Nash, that line could be one of the best in the entire league. Nash is shooting a miserable 3.7% this year, for his career he comes in at around 12%. You have to think that Nash is going to come close to that number as the season progresses, which should only mean more points for Zuccarello. While he likely will not finish with 82 points and most certainly won’t sniff 41 goals, a 25 goals with 40 assists campaign is not unrealistic.

[su_quote cite=”CBS SPORTS” url=”http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2015/11/16/mats-zuccarello-new-york-rangers-sean-hartnett-3/”]“There’s no doubt that he’s on top of his game and he’s finding a way to make a difference in the games,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “Again tonight, he comes up at a huge time and gives us a game-winner. There’s no doubt that he’s been playing real well and his enthusiasm is contagious. There’s no doubt that he is well liked and well respected by his teammates and I think everyone is happy that he’s playing so well right now.”[/su_quote]

Capt. Hags and Zucc the Dolphin

Capt. Hags and Zucc the Dolphin

These spurts of offensive magic are a large part of why we love Mats Zuccarello so much in NY. His smile is infectious, his small stature epitomizes the look of an underdog making us cheer him even more. He’s unafraid to make fun of himself as is evident of the dolphin Halloween costume from a few season ago. If Henrik Lundqvist is the backbone of the Rangers, Ryan McDonagh its heart, then Zuccarello is its spirit. Right now, just like their record, the Rangers spirits are soaring.

Zuccarello is also on a collision course with the NHL All-Star game. Can you imagine his big grin and comedic antics in an atmosphere like that? If Zucc makes you smile now, he will make you giddy come All-Star Weekend in Nashville.

This is a special year for Zuccarello after suffering a career threatening brain injury last season. It’s as if that injury has changed his approach to the game. Maybe he realizes that in one instant it can all come to an end, leading him to make the absolute most of this second chance.

It’s funny but the Hobbit seems more like the Wizard now in the fairytale story of his career.