For the second time in three years Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello has been selected by the fans as the recipient of the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award presented by Lenox Hill Hospital this season. Zuccarello also won the award--which is presented to the Rangers player who goes above and beyond the call of duty--in 2013-14.
It is the second impressive honor for Zuccarello this season. Last week he was selected by the New York chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association as the Rangers nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy, which is awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the sport of hockey.
Zuccarello leads the Rangers this season with a career-high 61 points and is second on the club with a career-best 25 goals--the first time he has reached the 20-goal and 60-point plateaus in his six-year NHL career. His seven power play goals are also second-most on the team. Zuccarello reached 200 career points and 300 career games played this season.
His ball of energy style has also inspired his teammates, frustrated his opponents, and endeared himself to the Blueshirts Faithful--not only at The Garden, but on the road where chants of "Zuuuucc" can be heard loudly in most opposing arenas.
That Zuccarello bounced back from a frightening head injury suffered in last spring's playoffs makes his no-fear style and on-ice success this season all the more impressive. In Game Five of the opening round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs an errant Ryan McDonagh slap shot hit Zuccarello in the side of the head, hospitalizing him and leaving him unable to speak for several days. Zuccarello did not play the rest of the post-season, but came back this season with the best year of his career.
Zuccarello enters play Thursday with four goals, four assists and eight points in his last eight games. He has has 16 multiple-point games this season, recording three points on six separate occasions. Zuccarello registered his first NHL Hat Trick on October 30 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, scoring all three goals in a 3-1 Rangers victory at Madison Square Garden.
The Extra Effort Award was established in 1987-88 and is named after New York City police officer Steven McDonald, a lifelong Rangers fan who was shot and injured in the line of duty on July 12, 1986.
Since then 16 different players have won the award; and Zuccarello is one of seven players to have been voted as the award's recipient on more than one occasion. Adam Graves and Ryan Callahan are both five-time winners, while Zuccarello, Jan Erixon, Mark Messier, Sandy McCarthy, and Jed Ortmeyer all have won the award twice.
Last year's winner was goaltender Cam Talbot. Among current Blueshirts, only Zuccarello and Henrik Lundqvist have won the award.