Everyone has an idea of how the typical professional hockey player got his start. He grew up in Canada or somewhere in the US that had a lot of snow. Then he played in one of the three big Canadian junior hockey leagues or for a powerhouse college before getting his first professional contract. It is far less common to hear about a hockey player that was born in Southern California and raised in Las Vegas. However, that is exactly where rookie forward Jason Zucker got his start. After having played two seasons with the University of Denver, Zucker left college and signed his first contract with the Minnesota Wild, even suiting up for them at the end of the 2011-2012 season.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s something I cherished,” Zucker says of his first taste of the NHL. “It was a big opportunity for me and I’m very thankful to the Wild. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Zucker seems to be doing everything he can this season to get the call up to the Wild. He currently leads the Houston Aeros, the Wild’s AHL affiliate, in goals with 17 and overall points with 35. Although the transition from college to professional hockey can be a difficult one, Zucker seems to be making it look easy. However, he does understand that there is a huge difference, especially in the level of skill.
“Turnovers didn’t always end up as goals in college. But here, if you turn the puck over it’s in the back of your net,” Zucker said seriously. “You have to play solid defensively and do all the little things that you might have been able to get away with not doing in college.”
Working daily on becoming a smart defensive player will surely help Zucker catch the eye of the Minnesota Wild organization. That work ethic and his season so far have also gained him notice from the AHL. Zucker is currently tied among the rookies currently on AHL rosters for the lead in overall scoring. For that reason, and as a result of his play overall, Zucker will be representing the Houston Aeros at the upcoming AHL All-Star Classic. He and the other All-Stars from the Western Conference will take on the Eastern Conference All-Stars this weekend.
“It’s an honor to be selected to that team and play it that game,” Zucker said. “A lot of good players have played in that game and then have been able to excel later in their careers.”
Despite his clear talent, Zucker refuses to take all the credit for his success for himself. He mentions he and his family have a joke, that a watch given to Zucker by his grandfather a few years back has been the secret to success. He has worn it every game day since he got it. But on a more serious note, Zucker gives a lot of credit to the guys he plays with every night. He understands the value of good people playing around him that allow him to be better.
“A lot of it is the linemates that I have and the teammates I have who set me up with passes and things like that,” Zucker says of his success through his career. “It’s playing with guys like Charlie Coyle and Johan Larsson. They’re pretty easy to play with.”
No matter what the secret, it’s hard to deny that Jason Zucker is a successful player with big things ahead of him. After having gotten his first taste of the NHL at the end of last season, Zucker is willing to do whatever it takes to get back there as soon as possible. Between his skill, his work ethic, and his dedication to the game, Zucker is definitely a player to watch going forward.