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

Tampa Bay - WP: J. McGee 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: B. Morrow 5
Cleveland - LP: B. Shaw 4 FINAL
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 6
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: J. Niese 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: E. Volquez 7
Miami - WP: A. DeSclafani 5 FINAL
Philadelphia - LP: J. Papelbon 4
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 2 FINAL
Milwaukee - WP: M. Garza 9
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 8 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 4
Minnesota - WP: T. May 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 4
Colorado - LP: J. Lyles 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales 4
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 3 FINAL
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 10
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 6 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 1
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 4 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2
San Diego - LP: O. Despaigne 6 FINAL
Arizona - WP: Z. Spruill 8
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 4 FINAL
Seattle - LP: C. Young 0
NY Yankees - LP: D. Robertson 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: D. O`Day 3
Miami 10 FINAL
Buffalo 29
Jacksonville 10 FINAL
Washington 41
Dallas 26 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Arizona 25 FINAL
NY Giants 14
New England 30 FINAL
Minnesota 7
New Orleans 24 FINAL
Cleveland 26
Atlanta 10 FINAL
Cincinnati 24
Detroit 7 FINAL
Carolina 24
St. Louis 19 FINAL
Tampa Bay 17
Seattle 21 FINAL
San Diego 30
NY Jets 24 FINAL
Green Bay 31
Kansas City 17 FINAL
Denver 24
Houston 30 FINAL
Oakland 14
Chicago 28 FINAL
San Francisco 20
Philadelphia 7:30 PM
Indianapolis
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
Boise State 38 FINAL
Connecticut 21
Indiana 42 FINAL
Bowling Green 45
Ga Southern 38 FINAL
Georgia Tech 42
Syracuse 40 FINAL
Central Mich 3
UCF 10 FINAL
(18) Missouri 38
Massachusetts 31 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
Ohio U 14 FINAL
Marshall 44
West Virginia 40 FINAL
Maryland 37
Kent State 0 FINAL
(23) Ohio State 66
Pittsburgh 42 FINAL
FIU 25
East Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia Tech 21
Louisville 21 FINAL
Virginia 23
Wyoming 14 FINAL
(2) Oregon 48
Air Force 48 FINAL
Georgia State 38
(13) Georgia 35 FINAL
(14) So Carolina 38
Arkansas 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 28
Iowa State 20 FINAL
Iowa 17
Miami-Ohio 10 FINAL
Michigan 34
Kansas 3 FINAL
Duke 41
NC State 49 FINAL
So Florida 17
Arkansas State 20 FINAL
Miami-Florida 41
Miss State 35 FINAL
South Alabama 3
Louisiana 15 FINAL
(10) Ole Miss 56
Minnesota 7 FINAL
TCU 30
Illinois 19 FINAL
Washington 44
Army 0 FINAL
(16) Stanford 35
Western Mich 45 FINAL
Idaho 33
Eastern Mich 3 FINAL
Old Dominion 17
Southern Miss 12 FINAL
(3) Alabama 52
Northern Ill 48 FINAL
UNLV 34
Tulsa 21 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 50
ULM 0 FINAL
(8) LSU 31
Wake Forest 24 FINAL
Utah State 36
Western Ky 47 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 50
TX-San Antonio 13 FINAL
(25) Oklahoma State 43
Purdue 14 FINAL
(9) Notre Dame 30
Kentucky 30 FINAL
Florida 36
New Mexico St 24 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 42
Tennessee 10 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 34
(17) USC 31 FINAL
Boston College 37
Navy 35 FINAL
Texas State 21
(12) UCLA 20 FINAL
Texas 17
Penn State 13 FINAL
Rutgers 10
Rice 10 FINAL
(6) Texas A&M 38
(15) Arizona State 38 FINAL
Colorado 24
(24) Nebraska 55 FINAL
Fresno State 19
Nevada 28 FINAL
Arizona 35
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
San Jose 1
Montreal 16 FINAL
Edmonton 33
Toronto 33 FINAL
Calgary 40
Winnipeg 9 FINAL
Brt Columbia 26
Saskatchewan 3 FINAL
Hamilton 28
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close