Mats Zuccarello In The Driver’s Seat
Mats Zuccarello is enjoying his summer. An offseason made better knowing that he is line for a hefty pay raise. Last season, he endeared himself to the Garden Faithful, his teammates and the Rangers’ brass. Zucc accomplished that with a never give up attitude and 59 points. Big stuff from the little guy.
— Glenn Jensen (@GJensen31) July 15, 2014
His days of one year deals for NHL minimum wage are done. By next Friday (7/25), Zuccarello will be given a 3.5 to 4M arbitration award or sign a deal upwards to 5 years for about 4.5 million per. Bottom line, he’s earned it.
From his early days of hockey in Oslo, Norway – the little engine that could has had a passion for sticks, pucks and ice.
THE UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
I guess every “hobbit” has his journey. For Mats Zuccarello that adventure started when he was just 5 years old playing in the suburbs of Oslo. He is of Sicilian and Norwegian decent. Maybe that hot Italian blood is what makes him so tenacious in the face of NHL giants? He stands in at 5’7″ and 175 pounds. Those numbers are well below the current league average, but don’t tell Mats that because he doesn’t care.
He made his debut more than 3 years ago (12/23/10) versus Tampa. Mats became just the 7th Norwegian player in the NHL (the 2nd undrafted). Zucc made an impression by scoring in the shootout and even though the Rangers would eventually lose, his debut was a “small” success.
Coach Tortorella didn’t want him sitting around the Christmas break so he sent him to the AHL. Zucc was recalled on 12/27 verse the Isles where he recorded his first NHL point on an assist in a win. Zuccarello’s first goal game in his 6th game against Cam Ward of the Hurricanes in OT. Then he began to struggle.
As expected, he had a hard time adjusting to the smaller ice rink and faster pace in North America. It led to his reassignment back to the AHL. Of course outside forces like the NHL lockout caused Mats to sign a two year deal with the KHL.
Still, his desire was always to play in the NHL and to be in NY. In March of 2013 he came back to the Rangers and it may just be one of Glen Sather’s better moves.
REACHING NEW HEIGHTS
Now at 26, it looks like Zuccarello isn’t just earning his roster spot but challenging the top dogs for more ice time. Mats was easily one of the Rangers most consistent offensive forces. He was also the team’s spark plug and a big reason the Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup Final.
“The Little Ranger That Could” has set a career high in points (59) that he should easily break next season. Mats smile is infectious and his teammates love him. It’s time for the rest of Rangers management to make sure he’s in Rangers Blue for the next few seasons.
— JC Graphic Designs (@JCGraphicDesign) July 18, 2014