One of the great things about the SBN network is the vast amount of knowledge spread around. We were able to catch up with Ryan Quigley, the managing editor of Hockey Wilderness to drop a little 4-1-1 about the Penguins’ newest acquisition in Jason Zucker.
“This is something Wild fans have seen coming for a long time. It almost happened last May when Paul Fenton came ever so close to landing Phil Kessel for Zucker, but Kessel, of course, was unwilling to take the Wild off his no-trade list. Zucker was also nearly moved to the Calgary Flames at last year’s trade deadline, but those negotiations fell through at the last minute. Zucker’s days were numbered in Minnesota, and it was only a matter of time before he was finally shipped elsewhere. Not so surprisingly, Pittsburgh wound up being the destination after all.
Zucker is just a couple years removed from an impressive 33-goal, 64-point campaign in 2017-18. Unfortunately, he has yet to return to that form, though he does still remain a very good point-producer on the wing. What stands out about Zucker is his speed. He seems to get one or two near-breakaway chances every game, and it’s not uncommon to see him use his quick feet to generate odd-man rush opportunities. However, he hasn’t been quite as electric this season since returning from a fractured fibula in January (just five points in his last 11 games). I don’t believe the injury will have any long-term impact, but Zucker has certainly been a little less noticeable recently.
To interrupt Ryan here, in some ways with a lot of these descriptions (great speed, excellent forechecker, sometimes suspect hands but still a 20ish goal scorer with capability to produce a lot at even strength despite not a lot of power play time), Zucker sounds a LOT like Pascal Dupuis in some of these scouting reports. Dupuis found a lot of success in a role with Sidney Crosby, and the Pens are no doubt hoping to recreate that in a younger type of version with Zucker.
As good as Zucker is, he’s not perfect. You won’t see him making many eye-catching plays in the defensive zone, but as a wing, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Something that has driven Wild fans insane this season has been Zucker’s inability to finish on high-danger scoring chances. Those breakaway opportunities he has a knack of creating? They don’t often result in goals — at least based on what we’ve seen this season. Ironically, his shooting percentage this season is the highest of his career (18.7%), but he probably should have far more than just 14 goals based on the quality of his scoring chances.
Overall, though, Zucker is a good player more than capable of filling in for Jake Guentzel as he nurses his shoulder injury. He’s worth the money he’s being paid and, frankly, will probably be relieved to not hear his name in trade talks anymore. Penguins fans will enjoy him.”
Thanks again to Ryan! Be sure to check out Hockey Wilderness for the Minnesota perspective on this trade.