Zuccarello leads Rangers’ goals
Hockey star Mats Zuccarello Aasen looks forward to another NHL season
Norwegian American Weekly
Norwegian Mats Zuccarello Aasen starts off his fourth season in the National Hockey League as a winger for the New York Rangers, determined to stand up to last season’s success and prove that his career is just beginning.
The star winger hails from the suburbs of Oslo, and started his professional career in Norway. Since his beginning days as an 18-year-old in the Norwegian league GET-ligaen, Zuccarello has played in Swedish, Russian, and American leagues.
Zuccarello was deemed the Most Valuable Player in 2010, earning the Guldhjälmen (Golden Helmet) while playing for Modo Hockey in Sweden. With his short stint on the Russian team Metallurg Magnitogorsk—during the NHL lockout of 2012-2013—Zuccarello became the third Norwegian to ever play for the Russian Kontinental Hockey League. His position on the New York Rangers makes him the seventh hockey player from Norway in the NHL. Plus, Zuccarello continues to represent Norway in national matches, including the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics. Needless to say, Zuccarello is a hero in his home country of Norway.
Although 27-year-old Zuccarello has been no stranger to success throughout his career, most consider the 2013-2014 season to be his breakthrough performance. Zuccarello led the Rangers in scoring with his impressive stats of 19 goals, 40 assists, and 59 points and became the first Norwegian to ever participate in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Prior to this incredible season, the five-foot seven Zuccarello was considered to be a “shoot-out weapon,” but not necessarily the star of the team. But he came in to the 2013-2014 season in great shape, faster and stronger than ever, and performed at his all-time best. His fans recognized his hard work and contribution to the team, awarding him the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award.
On July 22, Zuccarello agreed to a one-year $3.5 million contract with the Rangers, a $2.35 million raise from the previous season. Although he hopes for a longer-term contract, he’s content with the deal.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of deal you have,” claims Zuccarello. “Every season is the same; you want to do the best you can . . . It’s nothing I’m thinking about. Obviously, I’m a little bit more comfortable, but at the same time, everything that happened last year is forgotten. We just have to prove ourselves as a team and as individuals.”
With a new season underway, Zuccarello hopes to keep up his strong performance and leadership for the New York Rangers.
“In terms of points and stuff, that’s something you can’t think about. But I just want to try and be a consistent player every day, and do my best and do whatever I can for the team to win. Hopefully score some goals and be a leader on and off the ice,” commented Zuccarello before the preseason game between New York and Philadelphia on September 29.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault hopes Zuccarello can bring the same level of play this season, to prove that last season was not a peak but a beginning. “Last year was his first full year as far as having an important role and making an important contribution. He was our top scorer, and I expect that he’ll come in this year and want to prove that one year doesn’t make a career. He has to come in here and play the way he did last year, which is a skilled forward who contributed offensively and was dependable defensively. That’s what we’re going to need from him,” says Vigneault.
The Rangers started off their regular season play on Thursday, October 9, and will continue through April 2015. Zuccarello is a great player for Norwegian-American hockey fans to keep an eye on, with both his professional career in the U.S. and his national representation in Norway. Make sure to follow the Ranger’s season to see if this Norwegian hockey star can live up to his fame!
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 10, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.