Minnesota Wild forward Mats Zuccarello is having the best season of his career at the ripe old age of 34. The undersized right wing has quietly piled up career best numbers while playing his first full-season along Kirill Kaprizov.
The elder forward has fit nicely into the role of Robin (think Batman and Robin) as he is the perfect compliment to the dynamic Kaprizov.
I am not sure if fans truly understand the greatness that Zuccarello has shown this season as he could become the third Wild player this year to break Marian Gaborik’s previous single season points record.
But with two games remaining on the schedule, it’s looking like the Wild may sit some of the top players as they get ready for the first round of the playoffs and the St. Louis Blues. It’s possible that Zuccarello may not get the opportunity to finish the regular season and get the chance to move past Gaborik on the single season scoring list.
Zuccarello quietly has piled up 24 goals, 55 assists, and 79 points in only 70 games. Let me repeat that last part — in only 70 games. If not for a few minor injuries that forced him to miss nine games this year, he would have already passed Gaborik’s mark.
So why is this so impressive?
Prior to this season, Gaborik was the team’s only true superstar and only true scoring threat. If you look back at the numbers and the videos from the Gaborik years, no other player in Wild history was as explosive and creative with the puck.
Gaborik truly had the ability to carry the team. If not for his exit to Broadway and a massive payday, who knows how many Wild team records he would have, or how many points he could have scored in a single season.
As it stands he holds quite a few. Thinking about that is fun, but it is also living in fantasyland.
In reality, Gaborik scored 42 goals, 41 assists, and 83 points in 77 games during the 2007-2008 season. A team record that stood strong until this season. Kaprizov has shattered those totals (currently has 45-60-105), while Kevin Fiala has also passed Gaborik (currently has 33-51-84). The later is set to receive a massive payday and could put himself out of the Wild’s price range.
Bill Guerin, please for the love of God find a way to re-sign Fiala.
The team’s success this year rides on the back of multiple players having career seasons, yet somewhere in all of this Zuccarello’s name gets lost.
Is he as handsome or flashy as Fiala?
Is he as polarizing or dominant as Kaprizov? Nope. Is he as gritty and as physical as Marcus Foligno?
So what is it then that many fans overlook?
Sure, pairing with Kaprizov he takes a back seat to the spotlight, but make no mistake about it, one could argue that The Thrill’s success this season is in part due to the play of Zuccarello. Silky smooth hands, impeccable playmaking/vision, and sneaky-quick release on his shot, make him downright lethal to the Wild’s attack.
When Zuccarello signed with the team in 2019 for $30 million over 5 years, his previous single season point totals were 26-35-61 with the Rangers during the 2015-2016 season. Not exactly the numbers of an NHL superstar. When the Wild signed Zuccarello, many fans were confused which direction the team was heading.
Rebuild, retool, business as usual?
Zuccarello is under contract for the next two years and that should bring some comfort to fans as we try to ignore the impending doom this offseason and focus on the excitement that is the NHL playoffs (which start next week). With a cap hit of $6 million per year, his contract looks like a great deal.
I am cheering for Zuccarello to find a way to get five points in the next two games. This would be the crowning touch on what has already been the best regular season in Wild history.
As for Mats, you are a beauty. Congrats on the career season!