While many of the Wild’s young players took a step forward last season, Jason Zucker’s career stalled. A handful of circumstances, including a quadriceps injury that sidelined him late in the year, left Zucker to watch while his teammates made a run to the second round of the playoffs. The Wild is set to open on Friday what will be an important training camp for the 22-year-old forward. In advance of that, Zucker chatted with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand.
Q Going into camp, what is your outlook after the way last year ended?
A I just have to go in and perform. That’s all it comes down to. I had a long offseason with a lot of time to prepare, and I’m ready for this year. Now it comes down to putting that preparation to work and performing.
Q This is a team that has prided itself on the development of young players. You’re part of that core. Was it at all frustrating to have to watch as last year unfolded?
A Yeah, it’s always frustrating no matter who you are or who you are playing with. You want to be out there. I definitely wanted to be out there helping the team as much as I could. It was definitely disappointing not being able to do that, but sometimes that’s the way it goes. Like I said, it gave me a lot of time to prepare.
Q How do you feel now?
A I’m great. 100 percent, ready to go.
Q How long has it been since you were 100 percent?
A I couldn’t even tell you. But I’m definitely ready and excited now.
Q Where do you fit into this team now that you’ve seen the identity the Wild started to carve out last year?
A You know, I think that’s a tough question. There’s a lot of different moving parts right now, and nobody really knows. It’s one of those things we’re going to have to figure out once we jump into camp.
Q Teamwise, how hard will it be to take another step after what the Wild accomplished last season?
A It’s terribly hard to make that next step, but that’s what we’re working for. Like you said, the team has done a lot of great things the last couple of years. It’s awesome to see that and be a part of that, but at the same time, we want more. You want to win a Stanley Cup. That’s what you come here for. I think Coach [Mike] Yeo and the rest of the staff have done a great job preparing us every year to get that done, but there is a lot more work left.
Q When you look around the division at how good the rest of the teams are, is it daunting, exciting, or how does it make you feel?
A We know there are a lot of good teams in the division, but we know we’re a pretty good team as well. We believe we can play with any team in the league. We just have to come out and perform and be ready to play each and every game.
Q Generally speaking, how excited are you for the start of camp?
A I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a season to start. It’s a lot because I haven’t been able to play since February. Now that it’s over, I’m super excited to get back and play.