Monday, August 9, 2010

Getting To Know The Newest Rangers: Mats Zuccarello-Aasen

Who is he? 
He's the 22 year old Norweigan forward that the Rangers signed earlier this summer. He will be competing for a spot during training camp on the Rangers opening night roster and it's possible that he'll be wearing #48. Mats Zuccarello-Aasen is a real mouthful, so get used to reading a lot of about "MZA" instead. I can honestly tell you that I've never seen him play and don't know much about him other than what I have read about him since he signed with the Rangers.

Remember all of the hype about Fabian Brunnström in 2008? Many have compared the Mats Zuccarello-Aasen situation to that of Brunnström. There were a handful of teams (or more), including Detroit, Toronto, Chicago and Dallas all attempting to sign MZA prior to the Rangers finally signing him.

There are many who feel that MZA won't be able to compete at the NHL level because of his size. MZA is listed at 5'7, 160lbs - which as you know is very small for an NHL player. I myself wouldn't be worried about his height but I am a little skeptical seeing that he weighs only 160lbs. Immediately, Marty St.Louis comes to my mind when I think of small players in the NHL that are elite players. But, even Marty St.Louis has 2 inches and about 20lbs on MZA! But, he has played against much bigger players throughout his career and most recently during the Winter Olympic and World Championships, so we'll have to see how he can do on an NHL sized rink against NHL players.


What's his contract?
He signed a two year (two-way) entry level contract. If MZA plays in the AHL he will be paid $67,500 but if he plays for the Rangers he is a cap hit of $1.75M per season because of performance bonuses in his contract. His NHL salary is $900K per season but he can almost double that if he meets certain performance incentives.


What does he bring to the Rangers?
The jury is still out on this one to be honest. From what I have read about Zuccarello-Aasen he is a highly skilled forward who is best suited for playing on the top two lines. The main issue for MZA is whether he will have a good camp and crack the Rangers top six. If MZA shows that he can play on one of the top two lines then he will stay in New York. But, it's highly unlikely that he stays on the roster if it doesn't look like he's going to play a prominent role on the top two lines.

New York has had serious scoring issues the past few seasons. There is hope that the additions of players like Frolov and Zuccarello-Aasen will immediately change the look of the Rangers forward lines.

Earlier this summer one of the Detroit Red Wings scouts basically said that the reason why MZA had signed with the Rangers is because they had promised him a spot on Marian Gaborik's line. But, recently in an interview with a Swedish website, Zuccarello-Aasen said that there were no promises, but that Sather had said the Rangers needed someone to get the puck to Gaborik.

If the Rangers think he can provide scoring then he'll be in New York to start the season. If not, he'll head down to Hartford and get a chance to prove that he can compete in North America and is worthy of a roster spot in the NHL.

What other bloggers are saying:

Scotty Hockey
It is definitely nice to see the deal done as it is low risk/high reward, but - as I said a while back - let's just wait and see how quickly makes the transition this fall before we get all giddy.

Andrew Gross of Rangers Rants in recent interview on Rangers Tribune
The Norwegian Hobbit was not at the prospect camp so my first chance to see him in person will come in September. He comes advertised as a speedy skater with a great scoring touch, a person who knows how to get to the net. The biggest adjustment will be in adapting to the North American game. Playing in smaller rinks than in Europe, Zuccarello-Aasen will be facing much more physical opponents. If he quickly shows he can handle that, he stands a very good chance of making the team out of training camp. Otherwise, he’ll need some seasoning at Hartford.

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