A month before training camp, Mats Zuccarello has been medically cleared. In a story written by Dan Rosen that appeared on NHL.com, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault revealed the good news.
“I’ve heard he’s 100 percent from our medical staff,” Vigneault told Rosen during a phone interview. “He’s been cleared to skate and have contact. He’s made a full recovery so we’re very pleased about that. He’s a big part of our team.”
Zuccarello sustained a brain contusion after taking a Ryan McDonagh slap shot to the helmet in the first period of Game 5 in the first round against the Penguins. Due to the severity of the injury, he needed the aid of a speech therapist to be able to speak again. He suffered bleeding to the brain and had a hairline fracture. Pretty scary stuff.
Quite honestly, it’s a miracle Zuccarello will be able to return. The Rangers re-signed him before the trade deadline to a four-year $18 million extension. The diminutive Norwegian is a key forward who Vigneault can count on. His combination of speed, skill and grit were missed the rest of the postseason. A very heady player, the 27-year old fan favorite is a strong forechecker who brings a lunch pail work ethic which New Yorkers identify with. Not unlike former Blueshirt Ryan Callahan, “Zucc” brings it every shift and isn’t afraid to mix it up.
His creativity has made him a perfect complement for Derick Brassard and Rick Nash. An unselfish player, Zuccarello sees the whole ice and comes back hard defensively. He’s one of the most likable players in the league. Easy to root for, the 5-7 179-pound right wing is all heart. Hopefully, he’ll still be the same player.