Player: Jason Zucker
Born: January 16, 1992 (29 years old)
Weight: 192 pounds
Hometown: Newport Beach, California
Draft: 2010, Minnesota Wild— second round, 29th pick (59th overall)
2020-21 Statistics: 38 games, nine goals, nine assists, 18 points, -8 plus/minus
Contract Status: Acquired from the Wild on Feb. 10, 2020, Zucker is signed at $5.5mil/year for the next two seasons before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2023-24.
Zucker recorded two points in the 2021 postseason. He scored a goal in the Penguins’ Game 3 win on May 20 before setting up the opening tally and notching a second-period go-ahead marker in Game 6 on May 26.
Story of the Season
Zucker has not been the driver of offense in Pittsburgh that he was in Minnesota, something that’s been reflected in his ice time, or lack thereof (he averaged 17:40 with the Penguins in 2019-20, which dropped by two minutes per game in 2020-21.) Nevertheless, his 11 goals through the regular and postseason reflected that his deft maneuvers at the netfront can still make a difference. In February, he suffered a lower-body injury that kept him sidelined for 14 games of the shortened campaign.
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
Data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of 16 forwards on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes.
Corsi For%: 51.42 (8th)
Goals For%: 42.22 (15th)
xGF%: 45.93 (14th)
Scoring Chance %: 48.48 (12th)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 40.12 (16th)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 7.63 (12th)
On-ice save%: .895 (16th)
Goals/60: 0.92 (4th)
Assists/60: 0.57 (15th)
Points/60: 1.49 (13th)
Penguins fans have yet to experience the Zucker that racked up 33 goals with the Wild back in 2017-18. In these shortened past two seasons, the winger has struggled to control scoring chances, which has decreased his projected wins above replacement.
Zucker may not have been a driver of offense these past few seasons, as seen in the plummeting blue line in the bottom right corner, but he still can finish plays. The winger ranked fourth among Pittsburgh’s 16 qualifying forwards with 0.92 goals per 60 minutes.
Zucker often found himself playing alongside Evgeni Malkin this season when both were healthy, a role that comes a heavy dose of offensive-minded usage.
The winger saw minimal special-team usage in 2020-21, a season bisected by his lower-body injury in February, as reflected in the gap on the charts below.
Zucker is capable of spraying the net with shots from all over the offensive zone. Like most players, the majority of his goals (seen below, marked by red dots) tend to come from in tight to the net. His 13.4 shooting percentage in 2020-21 hovered just around his NHL career average of 12.8%.
Before Zucker’s midseason injury, the winger averaged 16:30 per contest; after he returned on March 29, his average game usage fell to just 15:02 of ice time.
On April 1, Zucker showed off his wheels as he powered down the right side to turn Evan Rodrigues’ zone entry into a two-on-one rush for the Penguins.
During the Penguins’ 5-4 victory over the host Islanders in Game 3 of the first round on May 26, Zucker dodged around an Islanders defender to whip a lightning-fast shot into twine.
Zucker will hope to stay healthy throughout the next campaign as he looks to regain his scoring touch— and the Penguins will hope to see something close to another 20-goal season from the former Wild scorer.
Questions To Ponder
Zucker’s $5.5 million price tag takes up 6.7% of the Pittsburgh cap and makes him the fourth-most expensive forward on the Penguins, trailing just Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. Is that too big a chunk of cap space? If so, what should the Penguins do with his contract?
You’ve seen the data; now it’s time for your input!
How would you grade Jason Zucker’s 2020-21 season?
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