Minnesota Wild: 2018-19 Season Preview of Jason Zucker

ST PAUL, MN - APRIL 2: Darnell Nurse #25 of the Edmonton Oilers shoves Jason Zucker #16 of the Minnesota Wild as they skate after the puck during the first period of the game on April 2, 2018 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. The Wild defeated the Oilers 3-0. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
ST PAUL, MN - APRIL 2: Darnell Nurse #25 of the Edmonton Oilers shoves Jason Zucker #16 of the Minnesota Wild as they skate after the puck during the first period of the game on April 2, 2018 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. The Wild defeated the Oilers 3-0. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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With the ink just recently dried on his new contract, Jason Zucker is ready to get the Minnesota Wild season started. There’s only 16 days until puck drop!

Jason Zucker is hoping to follow up his career year from 2017-18 with a repeat performance in 2018-19. Following a 64 point season on the top line of the Minnesota Wild, let’s take a look if he can realistically follow it up with another career year or if he will see a recession with a new contract signed.

History

Zucker was the 59th overall choice in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, selected in the 2nd round by the Minnesota Wild. Prior to being drafted, Zucker led Team USA to a Gold Medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships, where he stood out as a weapon worthy of a draft look.

Zucker was already committed to the University of Denver, where he spent 2 years, and continued to develop the offensive side of his game, scoring 91 points (45 Goals, 46 Assists) over 78 games in those 2 seasons.

At the completion of his second season in Denver, Zucker decided to turn pro and appeared in 6 games to finish the 2011-12 season in Minnesota. He recorded 2 assists and drew the attention of the Minnesota Wild fanbase with his quick style and offense-first style.

Minnesota Wild
Minnesota Wild /

Minnesota Wild

The following season, Zucker was forced to begin the year in Houston of the AHL due to the NHL Lockout. When the lockout was lifted, Zucker was left in Houston (to the surprise of some) even though he had 38 points through 43 games to start the AHL season.

He got the call eventually, finishing with 4 goals through 20 games in the NHL year. Most notably, though, he led the Minnesota Wild to their only playoff win that year, scoring the game winning goal in Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Following that year, Zucker was expected to be a regular in the Minnesota lineup as soon as the next season, but for reasons undisclosed former coach Mike Yeo had consistent reason to either return Zucker to the AHL, or leave him a healthy scratch in the press box.

Zucker would only play 21 games in 2013-14, recording 4 goals, before a quad injury and surgery took him out in March. 2014-15 saw Zucker break his NHL scoring slump, registering 21 goals and 26 points in only 51 games as March again struck Jason with injury costing him the entire month.

Jason Zucker would see a brief setback in 2015-16, as he struggled during his first full season in the NHL. A leg injury and a concussion each cost him short amounts of time, but when he was in the lineup he was getting a consistent 15+ minutes per night. When coach Mike Yeo was let go, Zucker struggled mightily under coach Torchetti, only recording 3 points to end the year with the new coach.

With the arrival of coach Bruce Boudreau, Zucker’s game has sky-rocketed and he has earned a ton of trust from his new coaches. In 2016-17, Zucker increased his career bests to 22 Goals and 47 points (a 22 point increase), and then last season again to 33 Goals and 64 points (a 17 point increase).

Season Preview

Jason Zucker enters 2018-19 coming off not just a single career season, but back-to-back career seasons. These numbers are even more incredible, when you realize that he did it while taking more defensive zone starts than he ever did in his previous 5 seasons.

Jason Zucker has been a constant during his time under coach Boudreau, and I would look for that to continue as he appears to be one of the most trusted weapons for his coach. Another 30 Goal season should not be unlikely, though there is a potential catch which could derail his year.

My concern for Zucker stems mostly from the years had by Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle last season. Both of those 2 players were coming off 50+ point seasons, with high expectations, and both of them missed approximately 20 games due to injury while seeing a major regression to their production.

Clearly, my reasoning is largely unfounded, it is more a pessimistic hunch I am feeling. Zucker has been healthy for nearly 3 years now, ever since his concussion in 2016, and is building quite the resume for himself. To this point, there is no reason to believe that should end.

A large number of fans questioned if Zucker should be rewarded for a single season, as he was this summer, so he does have reason to prove his doubters wrong. Another year spent on the top line with the rejuvenated Eric Staal and a healthy Niederreiter should actually see an uptick in production for the Las Vegas native.

Zucker and Staal have shown over the past 2 years that they have uncanny on-ice chemistry and that is to the short-term benefit of the Minnesota Wild. Zucker and Nino were part of the same draft class, and will likely remain on the Wild’s top line long after Eric Staal retires.

Related Story. 2018-19 Season Preview of Nino Niederreiter. light

The only change I could see to Zucker’s production on the year, would be should Staal see a regression. This could mean a shift to his overall production for the year, but could also allow the Wild to find a long term answer to their top line. Regardless, expect 30 goals and 50+ points from the star forward and another full year of producing at an all-star rate.