When he was demoted to the Connecticut Whale (AHL) Mats Zuccarello said that he was disappointed that he wasn’t given a shot to stick on one of the New York Rangers top lines saying he would have to prove he was worthy of that shot with his play in the minors. Last night Zuccarello made his season debut with the Whale and certainly made his presence felt with two goals and an assist during the Whale’s 5-0 win over Manchester.
Playing with John Mitchell and Carl Hagelin, Zuccarello showed that his offensive skills are a dominant force at the AHL level. Unfortunately for Zuccarello, despite their offensive woes, there does not appear to be a natural fit for him on the Rangers top three offensive lines. Until there becomes an opening at a skill spot in the lineup or Zuccarello gets traded it will be the Whale that benefits from the 23-year-old winger’s skill level.
The biggest beneficiary might be linemate Carl Hagelin who like Zuccarello is trying to prove he is NHL ready, but the fact that Hagelin has a better mix of skill, grit and penalty killing ability make him a better fit for the Rangers identity. For those who want Hagelin now however, he would be just as wasted on the fourth line as Zuccarello was and is better off playing huge minutes in the AHL and developing.