NEWARK, NJ - SEPTEMBER 23: Derek Stepan #21 of the New York Rangers celebrates his first period goal against the New Jersey Devils with Mats Zuccarello #36 at the Prudential Center on September 23, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Coming into this year's training camp as one of the bigger question marks in terms of an opening night roster spot, Mats Zuccarello knew he needed to impress if he wanted a shot at a starting role.
He can probably check that box off his to do list.
Zuccarello has probably been the Rangers best player during this European stint, and is proving he might be poised for a fantastic year this season. Critics might point towards the bigger ice surface as the reason behind his success, but I don't buy it.
His goal Sunday was from the outer slot, putting home a brilliant Brad Richards feed from the point into the back of the net. Both his assists in the win over Frolunda came from in close, highlighted by his behind the net dish to a streaking Michael Del Zotto who put his shot off the post and into the back of the net for a beautiful goal.
Join me after the jump for more analysis on Zuccarello.
Zuccarello probably isn't a candidate to play on the first line. While he might get a few looks here and there, for now that spot is firmly held by Wojtek Wolski.
But Zuccarello will probably be juggled between the second and third lines. He should also see some pretty significant power play time, if this European stint is any indication. And why not?
Zuccarello made a living in the SEL with his vision and quick shot. And despite having to make the transition from the bigger ice surface to the smaller ice surface, he still put up six goals and 17 assists in 42 games. That's better than a .5 points per game average.
Coming into training camp, Zuccarello was more acclimated to the smaller ice surfaces. He's always been quick and shifty, but now he's learned how to use those skills to his advantage without the extra space along the flanks of the rink. Thus far, his hard work has paid off, with John Tortorella admitting that Erik Christensen and Sean Avery were fighting for the 13th forward spot; which would put Zuccarello in the starting lineup October 7th.
If nothing else, he's giving Rangers' fans just another reason to be excited for the start of the season.
Thoughts on him guys?