In what comes as no surprise, the Minnesota Wild has recalled forward Jason Zucker from Iowa of the American Hockey League.
The last of Minnesota’s three 2010 second round selections (the others being Brett Bulmer and Johan Larsson), Zucker has played the biggest role of the three, notching four goals and three assists for seven points and a plus-1 rating in 32 career regular season NHL games. In five games during the Wild’s short-lived playoff run last season, Zucker would notch an assist and one of the biggest goals in franchise history for two points and a plus-1 rating.
While he has yet to replicate last season’s success, he has tremendous upside and elite scoring ability. At the top of his game, it’s easy to think of him as a sort of “Zach Parise Jr.”
With that in mind, it appears Wild head coach Mike Yeo isn’t satisfied with his current second line of Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Dany Heatley. The third year bench boss wants more from the trio, particularly less turnovers (here’s looking at you, Heatley). Heatley has played his best hockey of the season on Minnesota’s fourth line this year. With Zucker recalled, Heatley likely moves back down, leaving Zucker and Niederreiter on Coyle’s wings.
For Zucker, this is the perfect opportunity to reestablish himself in Minnesota with Mikael Granlund sidelined with a concussion. There are a lot of really talented young players in St. Paul, and Zucker is in for a treat playing alongside talented 2010 first round picks Niederreiter and Coyle. With Haula also receiving call-ups from the big club, and Zack Phillips and Brett Bulmer likely not far behind, this is Zucker’s big chance to stick with the club and prove he can play in the NHL fulltime. Considering Minnesota’s next few games are against Anaheim, San Jose, Colorado, Vancouver and Pittsburgh, if he can stay afloat and not be a liability, that itself may make a strong case for his permanent promotion.
In his absence, the Iowa Wild lose a big piece of their offensive production. In 16 games this season, Zucker has notched seven goals and five assists for 12 points and a negative-4 rating. He leads the team with four power play goals, ranks second in goals scored and third in team scoring. In 71 career AHL games, Zucker has scored 31 goals and 31 assists for 62 points and a negative-10 rating.