Michael Del Zotto started his NHL career with a bang and looked to be a re-incarnation of Brian Leetch.
In his rookie season, Del Zotto scored nine goals and had 28 assists. He was a disastrous minus-20, however, which underscored his need for improvement in his own end.
His sophomore campaign was a mess, as he played in 47 games, with only two goals and nine assists, before being sent down to the AHL.
Del Zotto's overall game peaked in 2011-12, where he scored 10 goals, had 31 assists, was plus-20 and played over 22 minutes a game.
By all accounts, this season was a bit of a step back for Del Zotto. He was overtaken on the depth chart by Anton Stralman and was outplayed by John Moore.
He had the same number of shots on goal as his rookie season, but scored just three times. To put it another way, in his rookie season, Del Zotto scored on 11.1 percent of his shots. This season, he scored on just 3.7 percent of his shots.
Del Zotto is not physical in his own zone and looked increasingly less confident with the puck as the season went on.
He did have surgery for a sports hernia this offseason, which could have limited his effectiveness. It is also possible that he will be able to start the rush more under new coach Alain Vigneault.
However, time is running out for Del Zotto. There are five defenseman ahead of him on the depth chart—Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Anton Stralman and John Moore. He will have to fend off Dylan McIlrath, as well as any free-agent acquisition, to keep his roster spot. If he loses that battle, he could be traded.
This is a crucial season for Del Zotto. He was selected ahead of such defenseman like John Carlson and Slava Voynov in the 2008 NHL draft. His regression is worrisome. If he can't cut it under Vigneault, he should be considered a disappointment.
For all these reasons, the selection of Del Zotto warrants a grade of C+.