Mats Zuccarello’s Make-It-Or-Break-It Year

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Mats Zuccarello, 35, has played for the Minnesota Wild for the past four seasons. Once Kirill Kaprizov came over from Russia for the 2020-2021 season, it was quickly apparent that he and Zuccarello clicked on the ice. The past two seasons have been the best of Zuccarello’s career. During the 2021-2022 season, he scored a career-high 79 points. So how will next season go?

Last Season

In 2022-2023, Zuccarello had 67 points, with 22 goals and 45 assists. 29 of those points were from power plays, showing his strength on special teams. During the middle of the season, though, Zuccarello seemed to struggle. The partnership between Zuccarello and Kaprizov wasn’t clicking like it once had. There was speculation about Zuccarello’s age playing a factor, but that wasn’t the only thing impeding his season. Kaprizov’s month-long recovery from injury left Zuccarello without his usual partner. While Zuccarello did perk up at times, the end of the season seemed very hit-or-miss.

Strengths

The on-ice partnership between Zuccarello and Kaprizov is amazing to watch. It almost seems like they can read each other’s minds. Their playmaking is on another level. Zuccarello scores plenty of goals but consistently has more assists each season. This isn’t a surprise since Zuccarello’s best on-ice skill is his passing.

Weaknesses

While the partnership with Kaprizov can be amazing, it can also be limiting. Sometimes the eye test shows that instead of looking to make a play, Kaprizov and Zuccarello only look for each other. At times, coach Dean Evason has even split them onto separate lines so that they will stop looking only for each other.

Next Season

Mats Zuccarello will be on the last year of his contract next season. Between his periodic struggles last season and his age, it seems like it will be a make-it-or-break-it year for Zuccarello. If Zuccarello can continue to put up points as he has during the past two seasons, it is possible that the Wild could re-sign him to a short-term contract. The likelihood of that increases if he and Kaprizov can make their partnership work again next season.

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