The 2008 NHL Entry Draft featured a solid group of young defensemen like Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, Luke Schenn, Minnesotan Jake Gardiner, and the 20th overall selection by the New York Rangers, Michael Del Zotto. Del Zotto was heralded as a pure offensive-defenseman before the draft. He was exactly that averaging 0.96 points per game for his career for the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario League. However, he was also considered a defensive liability.
After scoring 31 points in his rookie season with Rangers in ‘09-'10, his defense sent him to a -20 in plus/minus. Since his rookie season, he has taken a turn in his defensive game. While still not being considered a defensive specialist, he has been better - even posting a +20 in the '11-'12 and scoring 41 points.
Problem is that his offensive game from the OHL has not followed him to the NHL. His career season has been that 41 point season, and other than his rookie season, has not come close to consistently matching that offensive output.
The silver lining with Del Zotto is that he's still relatively young. He will turn just 24 years old this June and is on his second team after being traded to the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline last season.
Del Zotto is a guy that gets the benefit of a lot of offensive zone starts because he still possesses the ability to get his shot through to the net. Most defensemen get numbers because of the second assist, but Del Zotto, throughout his career, is able to get the primary assist because he shoots the puck from the blueline and gets it through.
The Rangers were never a dominant puck possession team under John Tortorella and you can see how that affected Del Zotto's advanced stats. It wasn't until he went to Nashville, a much more defensively sound team where he finally jumped over the 50 percentile for Corsi For.
Nashville traded Kevin Klein to New York in exchange for the defenseman from Ontario in hopes that they could rise from the cellar of the league in goal scoring. The Wild could use the same especially from the blue line. The Wild were again one of the lowest scoring teams in offense and the addition of Del Zotto could breed more shooting and scoring from the back end.
How Does He Fit in Minnesota?
Del Zotto played sheltered minutes throughout his career and placing him on the third paring would go a long way to shoring up the defensive corp. Being that he is also a guy that has scored in bunches can hopefully improve the Wild's offensive production from defensemen. Admittedly, Del Zotto had one of his worst years last season and has yet to be tendered by the Predators. Which, in turn, the Wild could buy low on the guy and slot in a line-up that includes Ryan Suter as the leader of that D-Corp. Couple in the fact the overall leadership of the Wild and the fact that there are a number of 20-somethings on the roster all trying to make it in the league, the internal competition could be good for a kid like him.
Lines? But of Course
Suter - Spurgeon
Scandella - Del Zotto
Brodin - Folin
That's not to mention that he'd be coming to a team that has made the playoffs the last two years and there is a need for defensemen on the Wild.
That and Del Zotto would guarantee at least one new fan of the Wild, Liam Traynor. You can read the story about Liam, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy, here. Del Zotto kept in touch with the boy after he was traded to Nashville and continues to keep in contact with him. A really neat story, and Liam and his family will be forever grateful for the time Michael has spent with him.
Would Michael Del Zotto be a savior on for the Wild team? No, of course not. But that is not what the Wild are looking for either. They already have a solid leadership core and talent that all he would need to do is put points up on the board and not be a liability on defense.