Both Michael Del Zotto and Mats Zuccarello walked into training camp this year with their eyes set on a starting role with the New York Rangers in 2011. Well if these past two games in Europe have been any indication, both will get their wish.
Let's start with Del Zotto, who recorded an assist in the win over HC Sparta Thursday and then exploded for a goal and an assist in Friday's victory over Frolunda. Del Zotto not only put up points, but took good shots, created chances and was solid in his own zone.
Does he have more work to do? Of course he does. But the Del Zotto we have seen the past two games is not the same defenseman who got sent down to the AHL last year, or the defenseman who's first few days in camp were less than memorable. This Del Zotto is playing with confidence, controlling the power play and becoming a difference maker. All attributes he brought to the table his rookie year with the Rangers.
Join me after the jump for more.While Del Zotto did make a few mistakes in the offense zone, don't forget that he's playing on the bigger ice surfaces for one of the first times in his career. For a defenseman, this transition is incredibly difficult. Remember that Del Zotto's transition is different than Tim Erixon's; who is making the transition from a bigger rink to the smaller one. So to see a few mistakes defensively from Del Zotto is expected.
Del Zotto isn't the only player fighting for a spot who has impressed though.
Zuccarello is also impressing, putting in a two assist performance Friday against Frolunda. Zuccarello was probably the best Ranger on the ice Friday, making something happen almost every time he touched the ice. Zuccarello's primary assist on the Del Zotto goal was a thing of beauty, and his ability to create space was top-flight.
Granted, Zucarello has played a significant amount of time with the bigger ice surface, so you would expect him to be comfortable out there. But, unlike Del Zotto, he hasn't just been doing well in Europe. Zuccarello has ben impressing since the first day of camp, and he's truly seeming like a lock to make this team out of camp.
I know Erik Christensen scored a goal yesterday (really the first time he's made a difference this camp), but Zuccarello is simply a better option than either him or Sean Avery.
Tim Erixon has also made strides, playing an astounding amount of ice time in the win over Frolunda Friday. Erixon has been on and off since Traverse City, but I still think he's going to make this team this year, especially since Marc Staal will need some time to adjust.
Anyway, thoughts on all this guys?