One of the brightest stars during the Olympic tournament in Vancouver last month was Norway’s Mats Zuccarello Aasen. At 5′7″ and 160 lbs., the diminutive winger was one of the Norwegian team’s biggest offensive weapons, using his speed and soft hands to deke his way around some of the best hockey players in the world.
Well, recent reports out of Sweden (where the Norwegian plays professionally for Modo of the Swedish Elite League) indicate that the 22 year old’s impressive performance in Vancouver has created a lot of interest around the National Hockey League. One report in particular names the Rangers as one of the teams in pursuit of Zuccarello Aasen, whose family tree also features a branch from Italy.
As attractive as his offensive skills may be, there are of course many doubts about Zuccarello Aasen’s size. While some of the NHL’s better offensive players, such as Patrick Kane, Steve Sullivan, and Mike Cammalleri, are also among the league’s smallest players, for every Martin St. Louis, there are dozens of highly skilled players that simply aren’t big enough or strong enough to compete.
With the Rangers' immense lack of offensive talent, however, taking a chance on a player with such impressive skills might be a move worth making. The reward certainly outweighs the risk.
The question for the Rangers, however, is why Zuccarello Aasen (who has 23 goals and 64 points in 55 games this season for Modo, the team where NHL stars Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund, among others, honed their skills) would choose them over the other teams around the league that are looking to bring him aboard.
The Rangers have brought over several European players over the last few years, most recently Illkka Heikkinen, and have ended up burying them in the minors without giving them much of a shot at showing what they can do in the NHL. Heikkinen has already come out and said that he’s pretty much a lock to return to Europe next season, disappointed by being given just one seven-game stint with the Rangers to show what he can do.
What do you think? Is Zuccarello Aasen worth pursuing from a Rangers perspective?