Player: Jason Zucker
Born: January 16, 1992 (Age 31)
Height: 5’ 11”
Weight: 192 pounds
Hometown: Newport Beach, California
Draft: 2010 NHL Draft, 2nd round (59th overall) by the Minnesota Wild
2022-23 Statistics: 78 games played. 27 goals, 21 assists, 48 points
Contract Status: Zucker’s five-year contract expired at the end of the season, and he is currently an unrestricted free agent.
Hidden Stat: Per hockey-reference, Zucker led the Penguins with 197 official hits this season.
Story of the Season
Zucker started out the year on a steady production streak (five goals, 10 assists for 15 points in his first 16 games) and had his best stretch of the season in late February, when he racked up nine goals in eight contests. He was relatively quiet through the final month of the season, although he continued to regularly find himself in a high-danger scoring situations.
In the end, it was the best campaign of Zucker’s two and a half seasons with the Penguins, and it wasn’t close. Zucker was finally (mostly) healthy enough to become the bonafide top-six forward Pittsburgh had hoped they were getting when they grabbed him from Minnesota in February 2020. After two injury-plagued seasons spent with single-digit goal totals, Zucker scored 27 times, marking his highest single-season total since his 33-goal 2017-18 campaign.
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
Data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of 15 forwards on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes.
Corsi For%: 55.17% (1st)
Goals For%: 49.09% (8th)
xGF%: 57.06% (3rd)
Scoring Chance %: 54.42% (5th)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 57.80% (2nd)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 7.99% (5th)
On-ice save%: .900% (15th)
Goals/60: 1.34 (1st)
Assist/60: 0.72 (12th)
Points/60: 2.06 (3rd)
- The stat that stands out most here might be the plain old goals per 60 stat, in which he led all forwards.
The most memorable Zucker goal of the season came on the first Reverse Retro night of the season, when he embraced the spirit of the Robo Penguin by embodying Jaromir Jagr:
Love the Jagr salute from Jason Zucker after the one timer in the Jagr era throwbacks pic.twitter.com/s39g8brRB0— BucciOT.Com (@Buccigross) November 2, 2022
Zucker even earned a response from Jagr himself:
Another standout moment came when the St. Louis Blues’ Jordan Binnington laid Zucker out behind the net at PPG Paints on December 3:
You know what they say: goals are the best revenge.
Zucker also put a nice breakaway goal between the legs of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy in the final weeks of the season.
He could also always be counted on to lay at least one bone-rattling hit per game:
Zucker was a solid top-six winger for the Penguins last season. Unfortunately, it was on the final year of his contract, he is turning 32 next year, and his 27-goal campaign might have priced him out of the Penguins’ reach. It also might be telling that Kyle Dubas did not mention Zucker during his introductory press conference Thursday.
The ideal next season (for the Penguins) would be for Zucker to have a repeat of his 2022-23 campaign on a cheap, team-friendly one-year deal. The ideal next season (for Zucker) is to cash in with a multi-year contract— although that might not be in Pittsburgh.
How would you grade Jason Zucker’s 2022-23 season?
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