Minnesota Wild: What’s in store for Mats Zuccarello this season?

Mats Zuccarello was on pace for a career-year if the NHL would have had an 82-game season. Numbers indicate he will be as productive this season (David Berding-USA TODAY Sports)
Mats Zuccarello was on pace for a career-year if the NHL would have had an 82-game season. Numbers indicate he will be as productive this season (David Berding-USA TODAY Sports) /

Continuing the installment of Minnesota Wild analytics. This series will preview each Wild player’s roles for the upcoming season and explain what analytics suggest for their 2021-22 season. Today we will cover Mats Zuccarello.

Previously at Gone Puck Wild, we discussed the 2021-22 season for the Minnesota Wild and how the team would rank in the NHL based on analytics. In the first three posts of this series, we have looked at the projected numbers for Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, and Joel Eriksson Ek.

Now we look at Mats Zuccarello,

The native of Norway put together a very strong 2020 season. If Zuccarello and the NHL would’ve played an 82 game season, you may have seen him post a career year. He was on  pace for a 68 point season which would’ve surpassed his 61 point season he put up with the New York Rangers in 2016.

Minnesota Wild: Mats Zuccarello’s Role

The 5-foot, 7-inch winger played 42 games for the Wild after missing the first 14 games due to an arm injury. As soon as Zuccarello came into the lineup, most of the players around them starting elevating their games.

Coming off of the injury that involved surgery, it was expected that it would take a few games for Zuccarello to get back into the swing of things.  Yet, it took Zuccarello one game to get into midseason form as the Wild rolled off six wins in their next seven. Zuccarello totaled two goals and nine assists for eleven points in that span.

The 34-year old winger played just a bit over 700 minutes on the year in 42 games for the Wild. Averaging 16 and a half minutes a night, Zuccarello put up 11 goals and 24 assists for 35 points. Most of the time Zuccarello played with Kaprizov and Victor Rask.

The Wild were 20-2-1 when Zuccarello recorded a point.

Despite his age at 34, I don’t see Zuccarello on the decline. He would’ve posted a career year if it was an 82 game season. In terms of this season, Zuccarello will most likely be in the Top 6 to start the year. If for whatever reason Kaprizov decides to pull a William Nylander and signs on December 1st, which is the last day any RFA can resign with a team, I would expect Zuccarello to get some big time minutes.

Regardless of who signs and who doesn’t, I still see Zuccarello averaging 15 to 16 minutes a night for the 2021 season.


What Do Analytics Say

It was a surprising season for Zuccarello, he showed his injury was nothing to be worried about. In terms of next season, I’d expect something similar. Zuccarello is a pass first guy and playing with Kaprizov certainly helps.

Zuccarello posted 4 goals, 14 assists, and 18 points in 15 games since his first game of the season on Feb. 16. His 18 points trailed only Connor McDavid (8G, 14A, & 22P in 13GP), Leon Draisaitl (8G, 11A, & 19P in 13 GP), and Patrick Kane (4G, 15A, & 19P in 12 GP) for the most during that span.

With what we got on Zuccarello,  I’d expect a pretty solid season for the Top 6 winger. In a 82 game season, Zuccarello would hold a 15.01 ixGF. Which in a sense means, individually based, Zuccarello would hold a 15 xGF.

With that in mind, we can imagine Zuccarello to score 16 goals and tally 51 assists for a total of 67 points in the 2021-2022 season.

Final Thoughts

I think if Zuccarello can stay healthy and play an 82 game season or something north of 75 games, a point total of 60 is doable. Zuccarello has a chance to be a leader in that Wild locker room.

The Wild’s Top 6 is surrounded by youth, especially if 19-year old, soon to be 20-year-old Marco Rossi or 20-year-old Matt Boldy find their way into the Top 6. Zuccarello will be a huge veteran leader and mentor for the two of them. Zuccarello sees the game a different way, he is always thinking ahead and always looking to set someone up to score.

With the flurry of young talented guys coming in, Zuccarello has a chance to put up a big season for the Wild and establish himself even in the later years of his career.

All stats courtesy of evolving hockey and hockey reference.