Speedy Wild winger hopes to stay away from 'Zucker Expressway'

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 18, 2014 - 12:48 AM

The forward wants to get off the Zucker Expressway.

 

Wild fans have dubbed the 235-mile stretch between Des Moines and Minneapolis the “Zucker Expressway,” “I-35Z,” and “I-16.”

Even Jason Zucker, who wears No. 16, gets a kick out of that. But the young forward doesn’t mince words either.

Every time Zucker has been called into coach Mike Yeo’s office or pulled aside by General Manager Chuck Fletcher after a plane ride with the news that he’s heading back to Iowa, “I’m ticked off.”

“It’s always disappointing. If it’s not disappointing, then there’s a problem,” Zucker said. “I’m ticked off … always, every time, doesn’t matter. It’s got to fuel you. It’s got to help you, it’s got to make you want to get better down there because ultimately, this is where I want to be.”

So far, five’s a charm.

Zucker has been recalled five times this season, including four times between Nov. 20 and Jan. 1. In eight games since the most recent drive up Zucker Expressway, the 22-year-old has four goals, including a game-winner against Washington, and the fastest goal to start a period (eight seconds into the third) Thursday against Edmonton.

In Saturday night’s Hockey Day Minnesota meeting with the Dallas Stars, Zucker again will be on a surging line with Charlie Coyle and Dany Heatley. In the past four games, the trio has five goals and 12 points.

Iowa Wild GM Jim Mill, who goes back and forth himself, gets to see Zucker on both sides of his I-16 shuffle, both when he’s told he’s being sent down and after he arrives in Iowa.

“I’m there the next day with [Iowa coach] Kurt [Kleinendorst] to prop him back up again,” Mill said. “He does not pout, this kid. He shows anger. But he doesn’t feel sorry for himself. A lot of guys historically get sent down, pout for a week and feel bad for themselves, like, ‘It’s them, not me.’

“Jason’s not that way. He’s angry, he’s disappointed in himself, angry at the situation, not always understanding of the process, but he is always, every single time, determined to prove he should be in the NHL and to work his way back.”

 

All-around skills wanted

Zucker has great speed and scoring ability. But the Wild has made clear to him that unless he gets harder on the puck, buys into the system and plays well defensively, he won’t be able to succeed in the NHL.

Zucker has worked at those aspects of his game. As impressive as his four goals since his most recent trip up I-35Z is his play away from the puck. He has read plays better, been more aware in the neutral zone, created turnovers and often been first in on the forecheck.

“I know — and I’ve had many talks with Coach Yeo — that unless I’m playing a complete game, I’m not going to be here,” Zucker said. “I want to buy into that fact. I want to be here, so I’ll do whatever it takes.

“The thing I always tell myself is I’m not the only guy that’s ever been sent down five times in a year. I’m not. You just have to battle through and work hard.”

And that is the truth. Most teams want their young 20-somethings developing in the minors, to, as Yeo likes to say, “pay your dues.”

  • related content

  • Darcy Kuemper earns fourth consecutive start Saturday vs. Dallas

    Friday January 17, 2014

    The Wild will be looking for its seventh win in nine games with the help of its rookie netminder

  • Gameday preview: Dallas at Wild

    Friday January 17, 2014

    wild gameday8 P.M. VS. DALLAS • XCEL ENERGY CENTER • FSN, 100.3 FMPreview: The Wild has won six of eight...

  • Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker, right, takes a shot on-goal with Anaheim Ducks defenseman Alex Grant (51) defending in the first period of an NHL hockey game on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • The Wild’s Jason Zucker hit Ottawa’s Chris Phillips in the face with a slap shot during the third period at the Xcel Energy Center in St Paul Tuesday, January 14, 2014. Wild lose to the Senators 3-0. ] (KYNDELL HARKNESS/STAR TRIBUNE) kyndell.harkness@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 4 FINAL
St. Louis 5
Pittsburgh 4 FINAL
Minnesota 2
St. Louis 1 FINAL
Washington 1
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 2 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 4
NY Yankees 10 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
Tampa Bay 0 Cancelled
Baltimore 0
Detroit 1 FINAL
Toronto 4
Chicago WSox 3 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 6
Texas 6 FINAL
Oakland 7
Cleveland 2 FINAL
Arizona 3
Arizona 7 FINAL
LA Angels 2
Miami 0 Cancelled
Houston 0
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 5
San Francisco 8 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Colorado 5 FINAL
San Diego 7
Milwaukee 8 FINAL
Cincinnati 6
Detroit 111 FINAL
Orlando 97
LA Clippers 119 FINAL
Philadelphia 98
Charlotte 107 FINAL
Washington 110
Boston 96 FINAL
New York 92
Cleveland 98 FINAL
Brooklyn 106
LA Lakers 83 FINAL
Toronto 94
Miami 86 FINAL
Atlanta 99
Golden State 107 FINAL
Memphis 84
Sacramento 88 FINAL
New Orleans 102
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Houston 120
Dallas 76 FINAL
San Antonio 94
Utah 91 FINAL
Denver 107
Portland 87 FINAL
Phoenix 81
Calgary 2 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 5 FINAL
Chicago 2
Dallas 0 FINAL
Edmonton 4
UCLA 62 FINAL
Gonzaga 74
NC State 65 FINAL
Louisville 75
Utah 57 FINAL
Duke 63
Kent State 73 FINAL
Northern Ariz 74
Michigan State 62 FINAL
Oklahoma 58
(15) North Carolina 65 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 67
(18) Iowa 66 FINAL
(5) Baylor 81
(9) Arizona State 65 FINAL
(7) Florida State 66
(14) Stanford 60 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 81

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will Major League Soccer be successful in Minnesota?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close