Jason Zucker Has Been a Game Changer for the Pittsburgh Penguins

Jason Zucker
PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 14: Pittsburgh Penguins Left Wing Jason Zucker (16) celebrates his goal with the bench during the second period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens on February 14, 2020, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The experiment is only five games old. However, Jason Zucker being acquired from the Wild has made the Pittsburgh Penguins top line fearful again.

Jason Zucker Addition Needed

When Jake Guentzel went down essentially for the season, the Penguins were down a 40 goal winger. Acquiring that would’ve cost the Penguins an arm and a leg that they don’t have. Instead, they went with a safer, yet still very efficient acquisition. Zucker isn’t the sniper that Guentzel is. However, Zucker’s straight-line speed and above-average goal-scoring ability makes him a more than adequate replacement.

Head coach Mike Sullivan remarked about Zucker’s abilities prior to practice on Thursday. “We try to find a combination of speed and guys who have tight-area skills, who can thrive in traffic,” Sullivan said. “Because that’s where [Crosby] thrives. He’s so good at that give-and-go game down below the goal line or underneath the hash marks.”

The early returns from the line have seen top-notch results. Zucker has potted three goals and an assist. Crosby, on an otherworldly pace right now, has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in five games together.

Zucker Acquisition Game-Changing for Penguins

The Penguins acquired Jason Zucker with this season in mind. However, the thought of being able to role Guentzel and Zucker as the top six left-wingers next season and beyond is very enticing. Zucker is around for four potential playoff runs before his contract expires. Guentzel, who signed a five-year deal last season, is around until 2023-24’.

Zucker is very aware of Crosby’s playmaking prowess. “If I give him that extra second to make a play by pushing the defenseman back, it’d going to make things easier for everyone.” Zucker said. “He makes some unbelievable plays out there, especially when he has that extra second.”

There’s obviously no guarantee the duo stays together. Jared McCann has seen success with Crosby at times. Dominik Simon, seemingly Crosby’s mainstay right-winger, also plays well with the Penguins’ captain. Zucker will likely stick as a left-winger, whether it be with Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

Going Forward

Regardless of what ends up happening, Crosby and Zucker have displayed chemistry. Keeping them paired together and letting it ride come playoff time likely seems like that most opportune option.

Rutherford figures to make another move or two prior to the deadline this coming week. A depth forward would suit the Penguins rather well. If Brian Dumoulin and John Marino can’t come back in time, a defenseman would be ideal as well. No matter the situation, Zucker is the prized possession the Penguins coveted. They got their man and they’ll have him for a handful of seasons beyond this one.

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