Going into the season, Mats Zuccarello was expected to be a role player for the New York Rangers. He has exceeded those expectations while taking his game to a whole different level, and through the Olympic break, Zuccarello has been the Rangers’ best forward.
Players like Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan were expected to lead the way for the Rangers this season. For the most part those players have all played decent, but Zuccarello has been the MVP so far. After being a healthy scratch in late October he has flourished and become a fan favorite for the Garden faithful.
Through 58 games, Zuccarello has put up 15 goals and 28 assists for a grand total of 43 points. He leads the team in both assists and points, and he has also found tremendous chemistry with linemates Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot.
But the main reason Zuccarello has been so successful is his approach to every game. Ever since he was scratched he has brought intensity to every game he plays in. He is one of the few players who has consistently showed up for every game over the past two months.
As I mentioned before he has become a fan favorite as well. He is one of the smallest players in the NHL, but he fears no one. He is willing to mix it up with players twice his size, and fans start the “Zucc” chants every time he touches the puck.
Another aspect that Zuccarello is great at is the shootout. That was his calling card for the other years he was on the Rangers, but he has since developed into a better all-around player. He is still the Rangers’ best shootout guy and continually leaves goalies looking foolish after his slick dekes.
The Rangers were playing their best hockey heading into the Olympic break, and Zuccarello was one of the main reasons why. If he can keep his play up he will undoubtedly be the team’s MVP come season’s end.