Jason Zucker Awaits NHL Draft Today

(above) DU recruit Jason Zucker (#16) will be in Los Angeles this weekend for the NHL Draft

From: Las Vegas Review-Journal
by Todd Dewey

Backstage at the NHL Awards at the Palms on Wednesday, Las Vegas resident and University of Denver recruit Jason Zucker had a chance to check out hockey's most treasured trophies.

But in keeping with the sport's tradition, the 18-year-old left wing didn't dare touch any of them, let alone the sacred Stanley Cup.

Projected to be taken in one of the first two rounds of the NHL Entry Draft, which takes place today and Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Zucker hopes one day to win an award or hoist the Cup himself.

At the least, he is expected to become the first player from Nevada ever drafted by the NHL. The 5-foot-10-inch, 175-pound forward was born in Newport Beach, Calif., but his family moved to Las Vegas when he was 2 months old.

"It means a lot just being from Las Vegas. It's such a small hockey market, and I can help try to put it on the map a little bit," said Zucker, who attended Bonanza High as a freshman before moving to Michigan to play for the prestigious Detroit Compuware Under-16 squad and U.S. National Team Development Program.

"I didn't really have a huge role model right in my backyard like a lot of kids do," he said. "That's why I'm hoping I can do that for some other kids."

Zucker is ranked 51st among North American nongoaltenders by NHL Central Scouting. A mock draft on NHL.com this week had Zucker going with the 29th pick of the first round to the Anaheim Ducks.

"He plays the game with a lot of energy," said Norm McIver, director of player development for the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, who have the 24th and 30th picks.

"He's a real competitive kid. You really notice Jason when he's on the ice. He's a very good offensive player and a strong skater."

Zucker, who worked out for the New Jersey Devils on Thursday in Los Angeles, said he'll be grateful just to be drafted.

"As long as I get better after the draft, it doesn't really matter," he said. "It's a dream come true, but really the road only starts here."

Zucker will attend the draft with his family, including four siblings and his parents, and former local coaches Larry Sanford and Rob Pallin.

Regardless of where Zucker is selected, though, he plans to play college hockey this fall for Denver University.

"Do I think Jason is going to play in the NHL? Absolutely," Denver assistant Steve Miller said. "We feel in our heart, as a staff, he's going to play in the NHL one day."

Zucker's impressive resume clearly points in that direction.

At 17, he was the youngest player on the U.S. Under-20 team that won the World Junior Championships in January over host Canada, and Zucker also helped carry the U-18 team to consecutive world titles. He scored 29 goals and 53 points in 60 games for the U-18 team.

Introduced to hockey by talented older brothers Evan and Adam, Jason started skating at age 2 and played roller hockey at the Crystal Palace skating rink on Rancho Drive before turning to ice hockey at 8.

He began playing for the Los Angeles Hockey Club at 10, boarding a flight from Las Vegas each Thursday, and two years later returned home to play for the Las Vegas Outlaws.

Recruited by Compuware, Zucker moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., for his sophomore year of high school and scored 102 points in 68 games. Last year he earned a spot in the National Team Development Program.

His father, Scott Zucker, who works in construction for Station Casinos, said watching Jason get drafted will be surreal.

"You watch the NHL on TV, and now all of a sudden you're part of it. It's hard to comprehend," he said. "But the kid's pretty grounded. With what he's done on the world stage, he's not cocky. He's a down-to-earth, good kid.

"I tell him don't ever forget where you came from, and he hasn't, which is great."

1 comment:

vizoroo said...

New Jersey has the #38 pick, round 2.