April 17th: TSN from a Damien Cox blog in the Star: Cox is reporting that Mats Zuccarello-Aasen will be signing with the New York Rangers. The deal may not be announced until after the World Hockey Championship. The Maple Leafs offered him a 2-year entry-level contract. Other teams interested were the Red Wings, Oilers and Blackhawks.
April 3rd: Hans Abrahamsson of Swedish site Aftonbladet.se: Through translation … 8 teams have expressed some interest in MZA. Rangers GM Glen Sather has talked with the pint sized forward. Detroit are probably the front runners so far. Six teams are list who have reported interest in MZA; the Maple Leafs, Blackhawks, Avalanche, Bruins, Red Wings and Rangers.
April 2nd: Ansar Khan of MLive: The director of European Scouting for the Detroit Red Wings, Hakan Andersson, has met with Mats Zuccarello-Aasen in Sweden.
April 1st: Damien Cox of the Toronto Star: Brian Burke’s remodelling of the Toronto Maple Leafs will continue this off-season, and Cox expects them to keep spending this summer. The Leafs might have another college signing or 2, they’ve already signed 2 who are expected to play for the Marlies next year. There is interest in the Norwegian Hobbit, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, as well as one or two other European free agents.
March 24th: Damien Cox of the Toronto Star: The Maple Leafs are one of at least 6 teams that are interested in signing the Norwegian Hobbit, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen. Other teams who are reportedly interested in MZA are the Red Wings, Thrashers, Stars, Oilers and Blackhawks. The Leafs are more interested in adding size upfront, but are also on the lookout for potential top 6 forwards.
March 23rd: Damien Cox of the Toronto Star: The Toronto Maple Leafs are believed to be one of the teams in hot pursuit along with Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas, Edmonton and Chicago as this begins to turn into this year’s version of the Fabian Brunnstrom Sweepstakes.
March 21st: Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal: MZA’s agent is eyeing the Red Wings. Matheson thinks the Wings are interested, but would sign him to a 2-way deal. If he didn’t make the team, or like playing in the AHL for $100,000 or so, he would head back to Sweden.
March 19th: Ansar Khan of MLive: Mats Zuccarello-Aasen could be on the Detroit Red Wings radar as a potential free agent acquisition. MZA’s agent is saying “Detroit is the ‘hottest choice'”, with Chicago, Atlanta, and Dallas as other suitors. Mats will look at signing with a team this more offensive minded as it suits his playing style more than a defensive system.
March 7th: There’s a lot of buzz about diminutive Norwegian winger Mats Zuccarello Aasen, and it’s likely he’s headed to the NHL next season. But the question is whether he can be successful at his size — 5-foot-7 and 161 pounds.
Mats Zuccarello Aasen
One Swedish hockey writer had this to say (via Aftenposten), “Look at stars like Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane, to name a few. New rule interpretations and attitudes in the NHL are a benefit to players like them and Mats.”
He caught a lot of eyes at the Olympics, including that of Red Wings VP Steve Yzerman. He told Swedish TV stations (via Aftenposten), “I can not remember his name, but No. 48 in Norway has been very good in the Olympics.”
Yup, that’s Aasen, so now there’s speculation that the Red Wings might be interested in the winger. We already knew several NHL teams were eying the 22-year-old, including the Chicago Blackhawks.
While searching out stats on the diminutive left winger for this article, I found that Hockey DB.com had stats as usual (great site for stats), and they have him listed at 5′ 7″ and 154 pounds. Most NHL defencemen could curl about that much weight, but the “New NHL” does offer some opportunity for the smaller, highly skilled players.
Nicknamed “The Norwegian Hobbitt Wizard”, he has a great set of hands and creativity that is always required for a small player to gain as much notoriety has he already has.
Here’s a little sample of his play, courtesy of Youtube.com.
His stats for Modo are impressive too, considering the amount of games played he’s better than a point per game average.
We’ll be keeping an eye on Aasen, along with a variety of other European and U.S. College free agents as the season continues. This is where an NHL team, like the Detroit Red Wings, can really set themselves apart with quality scouting.
Players that can contribute in the NHL, without using draft picks to acquire them, are at a premium for teams trying to re-build in todays salary capped NHL.
Look for a tab in our “Features” section in the near future for more articles like this one, as we compile a list of the best eligible players outside of the NHL, and see where they might fit in in the future.