While Michael Del Zotto's only 20, he's shown flashes of brilliant potential for a young offensive defensive. In his first one and a half seasons, however, he's also looked very out of place at times. There's no doubt in my mind that he can be at the very least a quality NHL offensive specialist in his prime. But with the current Rangers depth along the blueline, is it time for Del Zotto to spend some games in Hartford focusing on his game?
More after the fold...
Many point to the successful development of Marc Staal in the NHL as an argument for keeping MDZ on the big club. At the age of 20 in 2007, Staal debuted for the Rangers and has been a revelation ever since. But Marc Staal is a special case. He was already a defensively sound player and the clear cream of the OHL crop. A thoroughbred from the legendary Staal stable, Marc is blessed with the size, education, coordination and other advantages to support a great NHL career.
But, for every Marc Staal, there are countless other young defensemen who require more development and instruction. Staal was able to make the jump and handle most opponent assignments. Del Zotto has struggled against anything other than opponent fourth lines. Does it make sense to keep throwing Del Zotto out against faster, stronger NHLers? Or could he learn at the AHL pace first and work his way up to the big boys? AHL development time has worked for many. Michael Sauer is a recent, shining example of how polished a defender can look coming up through the system. Could some time in the AHL do Del Zotto, and the Rangers some good in the long term?
Some argue that the Rangers need Del Zotto's offensive presence now. But, so far this season, he's shown to be anything but vital to the Rangers offensively. Each of his blueline teammates [including Sauer, Rozsival and Gilroy each in limited time/PP time] has accumulated a greater offensive GVT (goals versus threshold) than MDZ. And MDZ's development is not about this year. It's about the rest of his contract and RFA years. It's about what he could be and what the Rangers could be when he's closer to his prime. If he's replaceable on the roster now and he could play more against opponents at a level he can handle to develop the positioning and technique he needs to have for the rest of his career, shouldn't he be Whaling?
Update: Quick addendum. Del Zotto does not qualify for waivers yet. The general qualification for a 20 year old requires 3 years after signing a rookie contract or 160 NHL games played. See first google result: General Waiver Guidelines