Monday, January 27, 2014

Is There A Place For Jason Zucker?

It has been a up and down two seasons for Jason Zucker. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
Yesterday in the post on "whether or not the Wild should go get Ryan Miller", a guess was ventured as to the prospect the Wild would send back to Buffalo in a potential deal for Miller. The prospect was Jason Zucker.

Zucker was a second round pick by the Wild in 2010. He was signed to an entry level contract following the Denver University 2011-12 season ended, and got to play in the Wild's final six games that year. Since the beginning of the 2012-13 season, Zucker has been back and forth between the Wild and their AHL affiliate playing 43 games for the Wild and 77 games for the AHL team (Houston/Iowa) during that time.

Several times during that stretch, Zucker has found himself in the doghouse of head coach Mike Yeo for his lack of play in the defensive zone. Just this year alone, Zucker is on his fifth different stint with the Wild. He has been called up and sent back down four different times, and was recalled for the fifth time on January 1st. To date, Zucker has scored just four goals in 18 games for the Wild this season.

But a closer look in those 18 games, and you see that Zucker has not been getting a whole lot of ice time. He is just averaging 12:56 of TOI this year and has played a majority of his games on the fourth line. He did get bumped up to the top six at the beginning of January, but still was only averaging around 14 and a half minutes during that time.

Earlier in the year, Yeo commented on Zucker saying "We need him to score". Ok, fair enough. But give him the chance to score then. When you you need a guy to score and he is only getting 13 minutes of ice time, that just doesn't add up well.

Zucker has not been given the same chances that other players have this year. At times, he has been scratched over noted fourth line players Dany Heatley, Stephane Veilleux, and Mike Rupp. All of them have given awfully inconsistent efforts this season.

If the team really feels that those players are worth putting in over Zucker, then it needs to be asked if there is even a place for him here?

The Wild's top six in the foreseeable future already has four spots spoken for. They belong to Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, and Mikael Granlund. Then there's youngsters Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, and Justin Fontaine who all have played far more significant ice time this year than Zucker and will get big time consideration to be in the top six next year.

That's also assuming  the Wild do not pursue a top free agent this summer (HINT: his name rhymes with shomas hanek) leaving those two spots to the youngsters.

We have all seen what Jason Zucker can do. He has speed that seperates him from most other players in this league, and fires shots on net from just about any angle. Everyone thought he would do just fine here with the Wild. But it has been far from fine.

So if the Wild do make a deal involving Zucker sometime in the year 2014, it would not be surprising. He just feels like the odd man out here. He hardly plays now and the future for him getting more time here looks bleak.

Lets just  hope that it is the wrong assumption.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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