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Mats Zuccarello: an expert on beating improbable odds

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"A lot of people said, ‘He’s a good player, but he’s not going to make it because he’s too short, he’s too small. Back home in Norway, from juniors to when I played on an elite team, people said I wasn’t going to make it. Got a chance to go play in Sweden: not gonna make it. From Sweden to here, the NHL? The same thing. All my life it’s been that way. Ever since I was little."

After a beat, those last words sink in. "Well, I’m still little," he says, smirking. "Ever since I was young."

Mats Zuccarello, via Ben Reiter and Sports Illustrated, on his size - before getting into the consequences of the slapshot he took to the head a year ago.

The rest of the piece is an emotional journey through the aftermath of that time. It's one thing to say that Zuccarello lost his speech; it's another entirely to be standing in the shoes of someone witnessing that firsthand, with no idea if he would be able to recover or not.

But he did. So if there's anyone who knows anything about improbable comebacks, it's definitely Mats Zuccarello.