Mats Zuccarello has revitalized his career in St. Paul. What was once seen as a potential stinker of a free agent signing, has turned into the perfect veteran presence to have in your forward lineup and a name that is one of the first ones in the lineup sheet for the last two years.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Zuccarello leads the Minnesota Wild in scoring as he has earned 10 points in just five games. Which also happens to be good enough to be tied for fifth in the entire NHL. Not too bad for someone who turned 35 years old last month.
While some might question his longevity and how he’s pulling this performance off late in his career, former teammate and Montreal Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis knew all along that Zuccarello would age like a fine wine.
“I’m not surprised that he’s having the success he’s having,” St. Louis said of his former teammate, via The Athletic’s Michael Russo. “Very smart player, completes. He was a fun teammate to have. He brings some enthusiasm. He’s a funny guy, but he plays the game. I know he’s in his mid-30s, but his biggest asset is his brain and that can last a long time. Speed-wise it’s not like he’s slowing down. He’s never relied on his foot speed because he has so much brain speed.”
Yeah, I mean, all you have to do is watch a couple highlights of his work with best friend and linemate Kirill Kaprizov and understand that Zuccarello’s play-making chops are some of the best. He just is so aware of where his teammates are, will be, and places them in the areas of the ice where he can create scoring chances for them. While his skating might eventually decrease, right now, he’s mobile enough to keep up and just thinks the game so well that, like St. Louis said, it doesn’t really matter.
Time will tell how long Zuccarello can keep this level of play up, but the Wild would be in an even worse position without his contributions and his massive, pulsating brain.
He’ll continue to use his mind on Tuesday night when he faces St. Louis’s Canadiens in Montreal.