Michael Del Zotto, 19 year old Ontario native was a first round pick (20th overall) by the New York Rangers in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He signed his first pro contract on May 26, 2009 with the Rangers and made his NHL debut on October 2, 2009 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He became the youngest defenceman in Rangers history to play opening night. His first NHL goal came the very next night at the Rangers home opener against the Ottawa Senators.
Del Zotto was then awarded NHL's Rookie of the Month for October for tallying 12 points in 14 professional games.
"There is a lot of pressure on us to contribute offensively; we know that.” said Del Zotto. “They didn't have a good power play last year so we've come in and are trying to do the best job we can. It brings a lot of pressure on us as young guys to control the power play but it shows they have faith in us and hopefully we can continue doing well."
On January 8th 2009, Del Zotto was involved in one of the biggest trades in major-junior history. He was traded from the Oshawa Generals along with teammates John Tavares and Daryl Borden to the powerhouse London Knights in exchange for three players and six draft picks. He went on to compete for an OHL Championship and a chance to play for the Memorial Cup. They didn't quite make it into the Memorial Cup as the Windsor Spitfires claimed the OHL Championship and snatched the 2009 Memorial Cup but Del Zotto says that he is happy about the trade and for the great experience.
"I think the trade was the best thing for me," said Del Zotto. "Going to London I had the opportunity to try to win a Memorial Cup and an OHL Championship and we took it far. We had a great team and it was the best thing for my career." "In the off season going from playoffs I think I played well. I had a lot of confidence in myself. I wanted to come into camp thinking I could make the team and that’s what I came with, that mind set, and it worked for me. “ he said.
As many other 19 year old players would know, going from major-junior into a full NHL contract is a massive jump and a really big adjustment. Del Zotto is playing with some of the strongest veteran defencemen in the league such as Wade Redden and had to learn quickly to keep up.
“We obviously have a few young guys which is nice because they’ve gone through the same experiences I’m going through right now so you get some feedback from them. But having veterans like ‘Reds’ [Wade Redden] and ‘Rosy’ [Michal Rozsival] as my defence partners, it’s awesome. They’ve been around the league for a while and in New York. It’s been awesome so far, I’m having a blast.”
There is no one way to adjust to the life as an NHL player. Each individual has a different way and a different answer but for Del Zotto, he’s just along for the ride.
"I think taking it one day at a time, everyday. There are no days off, whether it's practices or games. Every day I'm learning something new. This is my first Western Canada road swing and I'm just enjoying every experience every day."