October 31, 2015

Quick Draw Jason Zucker

Nobody can accuse Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild of not being ready right from the start of the game this season.

Zucker opened the scoring just 18 seconds into the Wild's 5-4 win over Chicago on Friday night.

Earlier this week Zucker also scored 10 seconds after the opening face-off on Oct. 25 vs. Winnipeg, establishing a record for the fastest goal from the start of a game in franchise history.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us Zucker also became the first player in franchise history to score a goal in the first 20 seconds of a game multiple times in a season. He is the first player in the NHL to score a goal in the first 20 seconds of two games in a calendar month since Joe Sakic (COL) in March 2001 (0:14 on March 17 vs. DET and 0:09 on March 24 at BOS).

Coming off of a 21 goal season (in just 51 games) last year, the Wild are gambling that Zucker, the only player in NHL history from Las Vegas, can take on a bigger role this season. He is a versatile forward, who can use his speed to get in on the forecheck or to loose pucks. He can be a good swing winger, playing on 3rd or 4th line checking units or moving up to the top six to use his shot to create offense.

So how does a hockey player go from Sin City to the Twin Cities?

He was actually born in Newport Beach, California, and his family moved to Vegas when he was just two months old. He and his brothers grew up playing roller hockey, as you might expect in the desert, but soon found ice time at a couple of local rinks. It was evident he was pretty good, especially as an elite skater with speed, but it was also evident he would never get discovered playing hockey at the Fiesto Ranch hotel in southern Nevada.

The family tried relocating to Los Angeles when he was about eleven, but that was not much better. So the family made the decision to move to Michigan when Jason was 15 years old. He was quickly noticed and became one of the youngest players ever invited to participate with the United States national development team. He would be a part of USA's 2009 and 2010 gold medal winning U18 world championships team. He also helped USA win gold (2010) and bronze (2011) at the U20 World Juniors.

Zucker was drafted 59th overall by the Wild in 2010. A few weeks later he joined the University of Denver. He would play two years with the Pioneers, winning WCHA Rookie of the Year his first year, before turning pro in 2012.

With the NHL lockout claiming the first half of the 2012-13 season, Zucker was forced to report to the minor leagues. It turned out to be the best thing for him.

“I learned a ton. It was a whole different experience of hockey,” said Zucker, who had 50 points in 55 games with the Houston Aeros last season.

“You have to learn a different way to play, a different way to better your game. So it was good to be down there and learn those things to help build my game.”

Since then Zucker has been up and down between the Wild and the farm team, still trying to establish himself as a full time NHL player. Scoring goals early in games will definitely help him stay in the big leagues.

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