Mats Zuccarello's one-year contract this summer didn't come with much fanfare.
In similar quiet fashion, he has proved to be as valuable as any New York Rangers forward so far in 2013-14 -- in fantasy and reality.
His play and effort have done all the talking. With the exception of his size and contract length, nothing about his game is diminutive.
With the exception of his size and contract length, nothing about Mats Zuccarello's game is diminutive. It's about time fantasy hockey owners take notice. (Photo: Scott Levy/NHLI)
Zuccarello, the 5-foot-7 forward who came into the season with 12 power-play points in 67 career regular-season games, has taken his production to new heights with 13 (three power-play goals, 10 power-play assists) in 39 games. The Rangers have had their share of offensive struggles over the first few months of the season, but Zuccarello has been a factor in both zones and all situations as his team continues to shape its identity.
Though Zuccarello didn't have a desirable start to the season (no points, minus-3 in the first seven games), he stands among the NHL leaders in power-play production. He had a goal and two assists Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, marking his second three-point effort of the season.
Zuccarello, slotted among the top 150 overall assets in NHL.com's midseason fantasy rankings, leads the Rangers in points (28), is tied for the lead in power-play points and is second on the team in takeaways (23). He has touched on penalty minutes (16), hits (54) and shots (85) with regularity, helping his cause in multi-category fantasy leagues. In points-only formats, he's even more valuable.
Considering left-wing eligibility is scarce on the waiver wire in Yahoo leagues, Zuccarello becomes more of a commodity as leagues get deeper. His numbers are impressive on paper and his work ethic is even more evident in live game action. Considering Zuccarello is available in over 80 percent of Yahoo leagues, it's about time he gets the ownership he deserves.
Zuccarello has sustained strong play despite ever-changing line combinations under coach Alain Vigneault. Whether playing alongside Rick Nash and Derek Stepan or more recently with Brad Richards and Derick Brassard, the 26-year-old Norway native has rode the waves and is making a name for himself.
He's young enough to have keeper-league value and compelling enough to warrant ownership in the short-term as well. Power-play producers don't come around often on the waiver wire, so don't let Zuccarello pass you by.