At the start of the 2009-10 NHL season, there wasn’t a brighter spot for the New York Rangers than the one shined on 19-year-old defenseman Michael Del Zotto. He was billed to be the offensive-defenseman who could run the powerplay, a talent the Rangers had lacked since the departure of Brian Leetch.
After storming out of the gate and winning Rookie of the Month honors that October, Del Zotto’s production wained a bit his during his first season with the Blueshirts. The following season, the giveaways and missed opportunities were too much for head coach John Tortorella, and Del Zotto was sent down to the Connecticut Whale (AHL).
There were plenty of question marks for Del Zotto entering this year’s campaign, and so far, he’s excelled. The Stouffville, Ontario-native has shown a much more well-rounded game in his third season on Broadway; the 150-foot passes from just north of his own goal-line have been seldom, as have the giveaways that lead to pucks in the Rangers’ net. With a kid as young as Del Zotto, you have to take the good with the bad, but the bad hasn’t been there.With the absence of Marc Staal to a concussion, Del Zotto has taken his game to another level. He isn’t putting up the points you’d like him to show— especially on the powerplay— but he’s made up for it with a maturation in nearly all aspects of his game. He has gained the trust from Tortorella to kill penalties, and has added a physical side to his game he didn’t show in his first two seasons in New York, a welcome change to a Rangers blueline that hasn’t been especially physical since the lockout.
Many Rangers fans were quick to give up on the 21-year-old after his poor performance last season, but he’s made them eat their words. Del Zotto is a large part of the youth-movement on the back-end with Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer and Staal. Good things come to those who wait.