Although you would think the two shouldn't be linked at all, in some ways they are. Both Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello are AHL players who were called up to the New York Rangers to make an impact. Over the course of their respective NHL careers both have played a similar number of games and both are expected to bring the same things to the team.
In that respect, it makes sense that the more Hagelin flourishes under the bright lights of Broadway, the more you have to wonder if John Tortorella and the coaching staff simply aren't seeing what they want out of Zuccarello, at least in terms of keeping him with the big club this year and potentially through the playoffs.
In the Rangers' 4-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes Hagelin had a career day, notching a goal and two assists in nearly 20 minutes of ice time. Zuccarello had two penalty minutes in just over 12 minutes of ice time.
Join me after the jump for more.
Hagelin now has 13 goals and 20 assists in 51 games. His play has impressed just about everyone this season, and it's been good enough to earn him a spot on the top line. To put it simply, he's blown the doors off those minutes. It's not just the three-point game against the Hurricanes, it's about his speed, his danger, the way the defense always needs to keep an eye on him to make sure he's not streaking down the ice.
That's what Hagelin brings to the table.
I'm not saying Zuccarello played poorly against the Hurricanes. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Zuccarello hit the post on the power play and was effective in moving the puck around the ice all night. He took a dumb penalty that allowed the Hurricanes back into the game, but that's to be expected with a kid who is trying to stay with the big club.
Regardless, it's Hagelin that's making the impressions right now, not Zuccarello. At least not at a level that screams, "this kid definitely needs to stay."
Still, I've seen enough out of Zuccarello in the potential department to keep giving him minutes to see what he can do. I think Tuesday night's game was better than his performance against the New York Islanders, and if that trend continues he might find a home with the Rangers sooner rather than later.
As for Hagelin? He just needs to keep on doing what he's doing. He's already become a main source for secondary scoring, and his speed has made him an invaluable weapon for John Tortorella, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik.
He put that on display again Tuesday night. And he helped the Rangers earn another two points to help keep the Pittsburgh Penguins at bay.
Wouldn't you call that making an impact?