One of three Minnesota 2nd round picks in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Jason Zucker showed just why he’s one of the Wild’s top prospects as he represented the Houston Aeros in last night’s AHL All Star game in Providence, Rhode Island. Zucker, who scored the first goal of the game on a break-a-way opportunity that saw him pot it right under the crossbar with a beauty of a backhander, was all over the ice, generating scoring chances and playing a style of game eerily similar to recent Wild acquisition Zach Parise.
Officially, Zucker scored a goal, added an assist, was a plus-2 on the night and fired five shots on net to help his Western Conference team win by a score of 7-6, but it was his competition level that really stood out on the ice. In fact, last night, there were times where he looked like he belonged in the NHL All Star game. One of the fun things to see was how focused and determined he was in a game that started out with the pace of a senior recreational league. That competitiveness rubbed off on everyone else and, while they were still joking and laughing and having a good time on the ice, the pace and intensity of the game kept building until, in the third period, it was a full-fledged NHL pace.
The interesting question is: after an impressive performance, could Zucker go straight from Providence to St. Paul? The young man from Newport Beach, California leads Minnesota’s farm team this season with 17 goals and 19 assists for 36 points and a negative-10 rating in 39 games. Minnesota needs secondary scoring and young Mr. Zucker could certainly provide it. The problem is that, while he would definitely be a welcome addition, Minnesota really needs more of a big power forward than a playmaking, goal-scoring dangler like Zucker. However, he would be a tantalizing scoring option on the third line with Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck. For most of the time, he wouldn’t be out against top defensive pairings and would wreak havoc on opposing defenses while the physical play of Clutterbuck and Brodziak would give him room to work. It’s the perfect combination of elite skill and physicality that Minnesota has yet to find with their second line, as there is no one to protect top rookie Mikael Granlund on the line.
One thing is for sure, Zucker’s play, especially as a rookie, has certainly been worthy of the All Star selection. However, this was likely his first and only stint in an AHL ASG sweater as he will almost inevitably end the season with the big club. Oh well, there’s always the NHL ASG, right?