I’m beginning to have a tough time deciding where to go with these Rangers profiles. Last week was simple since I wanted to get Drury out of the way, but this week. Tough call. Deciding between Rozsival, Del Zotto, and Brandon Prust, I decided to go with DZ – going back to my personal philosophy about building a team. Also I don’t believe, even though Tortorella certainly does, that Brandon Prust has yet worked himself into what I consider the core of the New York Rangers. However I do believe that despite his struggles this season Del Zotto’s value to the Rangers is great than that of Prust’s and he is definitely part of the Rangers core in my opinion. If I had to highlight the Rangers core I’d say it contained Lundqvist, Gaborik, Staal, Girardi, Dubinsky, Callahan, Anisimov, Stepan (funny how all of these players have player profiles done on them) as well as Del Zotto. The Rangers do have a few emerging stars in Prust, Boyle, and Sauer. They also have a few kids in the pipeline that will certainly fight their way on to that list as well, Kreider, Zuccarello, Grachev (maybe), Hagelin (maybe), Werek and Horak. But I digress, back to Del Zotto!
After a hot start to his career in his rookie season, Del Zotto has come out of the gate, here in his sophomore year at the NHL level in a bit of a slump, but we’ll discuss that later. Here’s everything you need to know about the Rangers sophomore offensive-defenseman, Michael Del Zotto.
Weight: 193 lbs
Drafted: 1st round (20th 0verall) in 2008 by the New York Rangers
NHL Experience: Currently in his sophomore season
Before the NHL:
Before winning his way onto the New York Rangers Michael Del Zotto, the Stouffville Ontario native, was selected 2nd overall in the 2006 OHL draft (behind long time friend Steven Stamkos I believe) to the Oshawa Generals. In Oshawa Del Zotto had the privilege of playing with OHL superstar John Tavares (notice the words “OHL superstar”) where both of these players were able to help the other one in terms of statistics and production. Del Zotto spent 2 and a half seasons at Oshawa when midway through his third season he and John Tavares were traded to the offensive power house the London Knights (coincidentally, Del Zotto was traded for a package including future New York Rangers draft pick Christian Thomas).
Del Zotto’s OHL career was illustrious for a dman as he recorded 39 goals and 154 assists in 190 games. He was also a force in the playoffs with the Knights where he recorded 3 goals and 16 assists in 14 playoff games.
Although in all of his eligible years Del Zotto was questionably left off of the Canadian World Junior roster, Del Zotto was able to crack Canada’s team at the World Championships last season that was GM’d by Messier. Although he only saw action in 5 games, and limited ice time when he was dressed, the experience and the honor I’m sure was enough for a 20 year old kid.
Like I said in the introduction Del Zotto entered the league with an absolute bang. After winning a roster spot in training camp competing straight with Bobby Sanguinetti, Del Zotto was able to win the role of power play quarterback right out of the gate. If you can recall, the Rangers offense and especially their power play got off to a great start in the 09-10 season. In his first 10 career NHL games Del Zotto recorded 4 goals and and 5 assists, 7 of these 9 points came on the power play. After the hot start Del Zotto cooled off along with the rest of the Rangers offense and we all remember how that story goes, although I’m sure none of us want to relive it.
However Del Zotto still managed to put together an incredibly impressive rookie season. He ended up playing in 80 games for the Rangers, missing 2 games after taking a skate to the gut from Evgeni Malkin and receiving a ton of stitches in the wound. In those 80 games DZ was able to put up 9 goals and 28 assists for 37 points. These totals were good for second among NHL rookie defenseman that season only behind Buffalo’s cornerstone Dman Tyler Myers who ended up winning the Calder Memorial trophy that season. Unless you ask Mark Wahlberg, he still thinks Tie Domi won that trophy last season…(watch the first five seconds)
Outlook 2010-2011 and Beyond:
Here’s where things get complicated for the young rookie dman. Del Zotto has gotten off to a very slow start this season and that slow start has continued to haunt him throughout the year. Playing on a team where the coach considers the top 6 dmen to change at a rapid pace, Del Zotto has found himself the odd man out on multiple occasions so far this year.
So far this season Del Zotto has played in 34 of the Rangers 37 games and has recorded only 2 goals and 7 assists thus far. When Del Zotto struggles the Rangers power play tends to struggle and in a league where special teams can win and lose a game for you so easily the Rangers really need to find a way to get Del Zotto going. Tortorella has found himself trying multiple people out on the point of the power play including young rookie Derek Stepan. But in my opinion that is the place for Del Zotto on this team, he just needs to learn that teams have officially scouted him hard because they know how much of a factor he can be. Instead of trying 15-20 up the middle home-run passes a game and forcing it, Del Zotto needs to think the game more and allow it to come to him. If he starts letting the game come to him rather than forcing the action he could more easily see what plays are available and what plays shouldn’t be made.
Now even though Tortorella is down on Del Zotto right now there is no denying this kids talent. He has the ability to be a game changer on the point on the power play and that kind of talent is hard to come by in this league. We also have to try to remember that regardless of his rookie year prowess that he is a 20 year old kid trying to learn the hardest position to learn in hockey. And not only that, but he’s been asked to quarterback and run a power play on Broadway, not an easy task for anyone…just ask Wade Redden.
Learning to be an NHL offensive dman takes time and patience and the ability to continue to learn and adapt to the game. Just ask LA Kings offensive dman powerhouse Drew Doughty. Doughty had a slow rookie season, exploded in his sophomore season and now in his third year in the league has again experienced major ups and downs.
It’s a position where consistency is tough to find and keep, and where confidence plays a major role – just ask Gilroy after that game against the Islanders last night.
It’s tough to get down on Del Zotto. He could be a key cog in the Rangers future as power play quarterback, a position I hope he mans for the Rangers continuing throughout the foreseeable future. Like with any young position player, especially the blueliners, the ups and downs will be there. There’s not a doubt in my mind that if given the opportunity Del Zotto finishes the 2010-2011 year with a bang and goes on to have a successful career manning power plays and playing solid in his own zone.
About the Author
Written by Adam Gavriel