As we await the beginning of the new NHL season, I’ll be previewing each of the players in the Minnesota Wild system who will be on the roster, or competing for a place this year. My subject for this edition is Jason Zucker.
After receiving a 6 game taste of the NHL at the back-end of the doomed 2011-2012 season, it was expected that Jason Zucker would feature for the Wild again sooner rather than later in 2013. After starting the year in Houston due to the lockout, where he was a star goalscorer, Zucker received an early call-up to the Wild and impressed with his speedy, energetic play. He formed a solid trio with Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi on the 2nd line which was his home whenever he was with the Wild. He was pushed out of the line-up for a while by Pierre Marc-Bouchard, but injuries gave him another chance to impress and he was a part of the team going into the playoffs. He scored an OT winner in front of the Xcel Energy Center crowd in Game 3 against Chicago, which is definitely one of the most memorable moments in Wild history.
-Here are some of his regular season numbers from last year:
|SHOOTING %/SHOTS ATTEMPTED||11.8%/34|
Zucker had a tendency to be invisible for long stretches but then would pop-up and score a memorable goal, such as his goal-of-the-year contender against Detroit. Overall, he didn’t provide that much offence for the Wild, registering only 2 assist in the regular season. I also expected him to have a higher rate of penalties drawn due to his speed.
He played a fairly low amount of minute per night, not getting much use on special teams.
-Here are some more in-depth numbers from last year:
|OFFENSIVE ZONE START %||41.7%|
|OFFENSIVE ZONE FINISH %||47.7%|
|QUALITY OF COMPETITION||-2.756|
|SHOTS FOR/20 MINS||9.938|
|GOALS FOR/20 MINS||0.947|
|SHOTS AGAINST/20 MINS||10.317|
|GOALS AGAINST/20 MINS||0.568|
|5v5 1st ASSIST/60||0.000|
Zucker was used against very soft competition, with average zone starts. He did well to finish a high percentage shifts in the offensive zone. His possession numbers were fairly poor, considering he didn’t face tough competition.
His underlying numbers show the same things that Cullen and Setoguchi’s do; that 2nd line was bad at puck possession against weak competition, but rode unsustainable percentages in a shortened season which made it seem better than it actually was. Zucker didn’t benefit as much as the other two in terms of production, but his high PDO shows that luck was playing a part in his line’s apparent effectiveness.
-Here’s the Player Usage Chart for the Wild forwards who played more than 20 games last year, illustrating the numbers above:
(Click To Enlarge) (Bubble Size=Corsi On Rating. Blue Bubble=Postive. Red Bubble=Negative)
Before he broke into the Wild team, most prospect reports suggested Zucker had the potential to be a future 3rd line winger at best. He was therefore considered to be in the 2nd tier of prospects behind the likes of Coyle and Granlund. He rose to prominence due to his early breakthrough, highlight-reel goals and his starring performances in the AHL. In reality, those early reports might be close to the truth, though I still think Zucker could develop into an effective 2nd line winger.
If quotes by Mike Yeo are to believed, then Zucker is probably going to start the year in the AHL. His usage in pre-season certainly suggests it. This might be good for him in the long-run. He needs to see if he can tear-up that league again and then he will be one of the first players, if not the first, called-up when there is an injury in Minnesota. He’ll certainly get a chance to prove himself in the NHL again, probably before Christmas.
In terms of what he needs to work on, he definitely needs to become a better possession player, being effective shift-after-shift rather than just in spurts. His speed could be a deadly weapon for the Wild in the future, and he certainly has some goalscoring instincts. He just needs to find a way to impose himself on the game more and be responsible defensively.
His Season Is A Success If…
His Season Is A Disappointment If…
….he stays in the AHL and can’t earn a permanent spot in Minnesota.
Okay, that’s it for Jay-Z. Next, I’ll be taking a look at Clayton Stoner and previewing his 2013/2014 campaign.
Hit me up on Twitter for more hockey views/analysis. Yelling at me is encouraged.
Previous articles in this series:
*Numbers in this article courtesy of: