Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Zuccarello-Aasen to sign with Rangers

It looks like Norway's invading Broadway this Fall. While it may not be a great Spring for the Rangers, they seem to have landed Mats Zuccarello-Aasen. The 22 year-old diminutive winger who's listed at 5-7, 161 pounds was a standout for Modo of the Swedish Elite League the past two seasons. He followed up a 40-point (12-28-40 in 35 GP) debut with 23 goals and 41 assists totaling 64 points over 55 games in 2009-10. 

Not only did Zuccarello-Aasen lead the SEL in scoring, but he also represented his country at the Vancouver Winter Games- tallying a goal and two helpers in four contests. His incredible wheels and skills were on display against the world's best, impressing scouts along with veteran Tore Vikingstad. Vikingstad is a former Blues property who's starred in the DEL over the past decade (Deutsche Eishockey Liga) in Germany. Both certainly did their best in representing Norway, proving that they could compete.

For Zuccarello-Aasen, that meant drawing interest from as many as five NHL teams including the Rangers, Red Wings, Maple Leafs, Blackhawks and Oilers. Per Toronto Stars' Damien Cox, he chose the Rangers, who certainly could use a little more skill and scoring to aid Marian Gaborik. The deal won't get announced until the World Championships conclude, due to the International transfer agreement.

The biggest obstacle for the Nord will be how quickly he adjusts to a more physical style in smaller North American rinks. By no means does his smallish frame mean he'll fail. Martin St. Louis and Brian Gionta are primary examples of small players who've succeeded in the NHL by using their speed and wits. Neither is afraid to mix it up. Zuccarello-Aasen might have to beef up to take the pounding. We'll get a better idea when he's in Ranger colors in camp. He'll turn 23 on September 1.

Video: Mats Zuccarello-Aasen practices with Forsberg and Dan Hinote

This seems like a solid move. Especially for an offensively challenged club that could use a spark. How much did they give him? Toronto offered a two-way deal. I'm guessing Glen Sather gave him a one-way contract, meaning they expect Zuccarello-Aasen to be on the roster. While Larry Brooks alluded to Euro failures Andreas Jamtin and Ilkka Heikkinen, who got screwed a la Jarkko Immonen, MZA sounds like the kinda player John Tortorella uses and comes on Markus Naslund's recommendation. It was under Tort's leadership that St. Louis flourished. I'm not expecting a Hart or Art Ross. Based on what I've seen, he's got some skillz.

Why not? It never hurts to try.

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