Factor Facts is an inside-the-numbers look at the Minnesota Wild's season that was. Today, Wild.com examines forward Jason Zucker and the impact he had on Minnesota's historic 2016-17 campaign.
When the Minnesota Wild drafted Jason Zucker in the second round of the 2010 NHL Draft, team executives and scouts knew they'd be getting a speedy winger with goal-scoring potential. Zucker proved to be just that in the seasons that followed, but he emerged as one of the Wild's most efficient forwards in 2016-17.
Zucker, who played two seasons with the Denver Pioneers before turning pro, spent his first three seasons with the Wild organization moving from the AHL to the NHL and back again, receiving sparse playing time with the big club. After netting 21 goals in 51 games in 2014-15, his play took a slight downturn in 2015-16 when he recorded 23 points in 71 games.
The 2016-17 campaign was Zucker's chance to prove himself to a new coaching staff, and he took the opportunity in stride, skating alongside Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund to comprise Minnesota's most effective line. He tied defenseman Ryan Suter for the League lead in plus/minus and more than doubled his points total from the previous season.
Here are some more numbers that show Zucker's contribution to the Wild's history-rewriting season:
Along with several other Wild forwards, Zucker toppled his career-best goals total this season, finishing the campaign with 22 tallies. His previous best was 21, set in 2014-15, which he surpassed with a goal in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche in the penultimate game of the season. He had two two-goal games and three separate stretches where he scored in back-to-back games.
When Zucker paired 21 goals with just five helpers in 2014-15, it looked as though he might emerge as more of a goal-scorer than a setup man. In 2016-17, Zucker showed that he could be both by adding 25 assists to his 22 goals, most of them going to Granlund and Koivu, his linemates for much of the season. He had a five-game assist streak spanning from Nov. 23 to Dec. 2, in the middle of which he was added to the Koivu line.
Zucker matched his career-best game-winning goals total from 2014-15, sealing the contest for Minnesota three times during the 2016-17 campaign. He potted the same amount of game winners as his teammate and fellow 2010 draftee Nino Niederreiter, and his longtime linemates Granlund and Koivu each had four.
Along with Ryan Suter, Zucker led the Wild and the League in plus/minus at plus-34. Zucker was a plus player in 36 percent of the games he skated in and a minus player in just 15 percent of his contests, including two instances all season where he was a minus-2.
Zucker has still never played a complete season for Minnesota, but he came close in 2016-17 when he skated in 79 games. Prior to this season, he skated in 6, 20, 21, 51 and 71 games for the Wild, and he had the chance to play in the full 82 in 2016-17 before a late-season lower-body injury kept him out of the lineup for three consecutive games. In addition to the chemistry Zucker developed with Granlund and Koivu, his mostly injury-free season allowed him to be a factor for Minnesota night in and night out.