Zucker's Leadership Will Be On Display For USA

Jason Zucker
by Michael Russo

Even before Dean Blais awarded Jason Zucker the prestigious honor Friday of being the United States' captain for the upcoming World Junior Championships, the University of Denver star proved his leadership to the US coach.

Zucker stood up and addressed the team at the start of training camp.

Two years ago, Zucker was on the American team that upset Canada and won gold in Regina, Saskatchewan. That experience of winning in enemy territory should come in handy this go-round when the tournament takes place in hockey-mad Edmonton and Calgary.

The tournament begins Monday when the Americans take on Denmark.

"Canadian fans are very hostile, and rightfully so -- they're very into the Canadian team," Zucker said. "With that being said, I know what to expect every night. Whether we're playing Canada or not, fans aren't rooting for us.

"They're going to be rooting for Denmark, they're going to be rooting for Finland and everybody else that we play because they don't like us. So we have to be ready for that every night."

This is Zucker's third consecutive world juniors, also medaling last year when the U.S. won bronze. But Zucker is a very different player than the youngster who played on the 2010 gold medal team.

Then, he was a role player -- the youngest player on the squad at age 17. Now he's 19, a college star. Last year at DU, he tied for first in scoring as a freshman with 45 points and was named WCHA Rookie of the Year. This year, he ranks ninth in the nation with 24 points.

In Alberta, Zucker is poised to play on a top scoring line with Minnesota Wild prospect Charlie Coyle and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Brandon Saad.

In a 7-3 exhibition pounding of Switzerland in Camrose, Alberta, on Wednesday, the line combined for three goals and six assists.

"Brandon's going to make plays and help put the puck in the net, and Charlie Coyle, he does everything right," Zucker said. "He blocks shots, he goes into corners, he can hit, he can win faceoffs, he can score.

"I'm ready to lead this team as far as we can go," Zucker said. "I think we have something special in that locker room, and I want to win a gold medal more than anybody knows. I'm going to do everything I can. If I'm doing my best and working my hardest, that will hopefully make guys follow my path."

If you've watched Zucker play, you know he's not lying. He is relentless. His legs always are churning. He's a ferocious forechecker and incredibly fast.

Even in that meaningless exhibition game against Switzerland, Zucker was banging bodies and crashing into the end boards. The evidence was on his face in cuts and bruises.

But Zucker knows only one way. He has a unique passion for the sport considering he was born in California and grew up in Las Vegas. A former stickboy for the now-defunct IHL Las Vegas Thunder, Zucker played for the Las Vegas Outlaws AAA team before moving to Detroit at age 15 to play for distinguished Compuware.

"I give all the credit to my dad and my mom," Zucker said of Scott, the director of construction for 13 Station Casinos in Las Vegas, and his mother, Natalie, a bank teller for Wells Fargo. "They're hard-working people. They taught me when I was really young, 'You may not be the most talented kid ever, but as long as you work hard, you're going to give yourself an opportunity.'

"I really took that to heart, and it's something I carry with me every day. My favorite saying is, 'In pursuit of perfection.' I don't believe perfect can be achieved, but if you work hard to try to achieve that, you'll be great at some point in time."

You can bet the Wild is salivating to sign Zucker after this season.

"They haven't talked to me yet, but I'd be lying if I said it hasn't crossed my mind," Zucker said. "I'm not worrying about it right now, though. I have this tournament ahead of me. This is a huge part of my life and my career, and then I have to get back to Denver and worry about that because my next goal is to win a national championship.

"After that, I'll worry about the Wild."


assdu17 said...

Why would the Wild want him? He's been under achieving all season.

vizoroo said...

Team USA captain three cheers
For JZ at DU three years !

Anonymous said...

Hi, Little Peon Girl. You're glossy photos of the USA team are in the mail. I bet you're SOOOOO excited!

Anonymous said...

Zucker with a goal and two assists and a +3 in Team USA's 11 goal romp over Denmark in Game 1. Finland won't be so easy.

Go Zucker. Go USA.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Magness Man and Assdu17 understand how mean spirited their comments come off. I gather they/he is just a blowhard that thinks he knows everything about everything. Most of us understand that he/they know very little about being part of a team or hockey in general. They/he do some feeble analysis thinking trying to wow us with their perception. All in all, they don't do much damage. The players don't read this. Few if any students ever read this as they use more modern social media. So it's just us old folks who can see right through the bs. Sure it's annoying but really isn't it better to ignore him/them than to reply? All he wants is some attention with his anti-social mean spirited comments. Just send him to the corner and let him talk to old p, swami and co14ers. They can have a gay old time and the rest of us can enjoy the game.

Let's go DU!

Anonymous said...

To be sure, Anonymous, Zucker is an incredible hockey player. I'm sure any of his critics would agree. However, as such, and as a leader at DU, he needs to show up every game and be consistent. Looking at him this year, his stats are hovering and his line is not producing. He needs to step up to his full potential. This is neither mean nor mean-spirited. His under achievement is simply due to his incredible talent. He hasn't stood out all year. Of course, he probably hasn't been at 100% for a while either.

dggoddard said...

Negative comments about other posters will be deleted immediately.

Say what you like about me.

Anonymous said...


Did you even read the original post? The other articles about why the named him as Captain of the USA team? You seem way off base with your “analysis”. Team USA, the Minnesota Wild and Coach Gwozdecky think Jason is a role player and leader even if you don’t.