Since joining the New York Rangers in May of 2010, Mats Zuccarello has become one of the most beloved players on the roster.
Why do we love Zucc?
He’s just Zucc.
Honestly, what more is there to say?
Since you insist, here are a couple reasons to love him that I thought were worthy of mention…
His dedication to hockey and the way he plays it
Mats Zuccarello is an ideal player for any roster. His performances from game-to-game show that he loves to play hockey, and this is the drive behind his success.
At just 5’7”, Zuccarello is a little guy that plays a big game. He will go up against players twice his size along the boards and come out with the puck. When these players go to hit him on open ice, many tend to bounce off him.
Regardless of whether or not he is scoring himself, Zuccarello is a playmaker. His speed and great sense of the game allow for him to step up on the rush and make dangerous passes toward the net. His tenacity in the corners, as well as his willingness to play up front, means that he can win pucks and score off opportunities that he won along the boards.
Zuccarello arguably has more heart than anyone else on the roster. A three-time Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award winner, there is not a game he steps on the ice that you don’t notice him. He constantly strives to play big, he scores when it matters and he ultimately makes the players around him better.
When he was hit in the head by a slapshot off the stick of Ryan McDonagh during the 2014 playoffs Zuccarello’s injury left him unable to speak for four days. Yet, upon his return, this potentially career-ending injury did not stop Zuccarello from playing the type of hockey he is known for playing.
An injury like this could deter any player but not Zuccarello. He has remained the same tenacious, dedicated hockey player that New York has been lucky to have on the roster.
His impact is something that the Rangers would suffer without. Zuccarello without a doubt makes the Rangers a better team.
His character extends beyond his time on the ice
And Zuccarello’s impact extends beyond what he does on the ice.
Zuccarello seems to be a popular player in the locker room and is infamous for his bromances with teammates.
From Halloweens with Carl Hagelin, to Christmases with Derick Brassard, to whatever this moment was with Chris Kreider, Zuccarello loves his teammates and shows it.
(I hate to mention how there is a trend of them get traded though — look out Chris K).
And Zuccarello looks to make an impact off the ice as well.
He started his own foundation, named The Zuccarello Foundation, which helps support grassroots and youth hockey programs in Norway. He is also involved with Right to Play, an international foundation that sends athletes to countries in need to help encourage children’s growth and development through participation in sports and games.
Seven years ago, I don’t think it’s possible that the Rangers management could have known how much one small, Norwegian would change their hockey team.
His abilities on the ice have made him a cornerstone of the Rangers offense. He fights hard every game and steps up in moments when the Rangers need him most.
Despite a slower season scoring-wise for Zuccarello, he has put up huge points this postseason scoring both of the Rangers goals in Game Six to knock Montreal out of the playoffs and started his team off with an early goal in Tuesday’s must-win Game Three win against Ottawa.
Zuccarello is such a positive impact – the heart he shows in his play on the ice to the way he fosters relationships and charity off the ice – that there is not a moment the team should take him for granted.