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SLY WILLIAMS
09-29-2010, 10:19 AM
Del Zotto enters second season as blue-line stalwart
Tuesday, 09.28.2010 / 3:00 AM / 2010-2011 Season Preview
By Brian Compton - NHL.com Staff Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Twelve months ago, Michael Del Zotto was a shy, 19-year-old kid just trying to make an impression and prove he was ready to play in the National Hockey League.

Fast forward to Friday morning, when Del Zotto showed up to New York Rangers training camp as arguably the club's No. 2 defenseman behind only Marc Staal, who finally signed a five-year deal with the team Thursday.

"It's just a completely different scene," Del Zotto said. "Last year, I really didn't know anyone. I'm a really quiet guy, so I really didn't say much. It's good to see familiar faces and basically catching up with guys. I'm just excited to get the season going."

Not only does Del Zotto have a secure spot on the Rangers' blue line, but the first-round pick (No. 20) from 2008 enters with great expectations -- not only from team brass, but from a fan base that's aching to see the team qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing out a season ago. Del Zotto had 9 goals and 28 assists as a rookie in 2009-10.

"Last year, I was doing everything I could to make the team," he said. "Everyone talks about the sophomore slumps. It was a big summer for me coming in and being ready for this year. I don't want to be one of those guys that falls into that category of the sophomore slump. I'm just coming in ready to learn some more. I'm still young. I've got one year under my belt, but there's still tons more to learn. I'm just trying to get better and better each day."

The long offseason didn't stop Del Zotto from living that philosophy. He spent a large potion of his time in the gym, where he put on some added muscle with hopes of having a better all-round game. The Ontario native told NHL.com he gained five pounds over the summer, raising his weight to 195 pounds.

"It's the strongest I've ever felt, so I'm excited for this year," Del Zotto said. "That's one thing I learned from last year -- you're not playing against kids anymore, you're playing against men. It was a big summer for me."

During his first NHL season, Del Zotto quickly developed friendships not only with players near his age, but with the veterans as well. It helped make the transition from junior hockey to the pros that much smoother.

"There were a lot of guys," Del Zotto said. "Especially on the back end, you had guys going through the same thing like Gillie (Matt Gilroy). Staalsie's (Marc Staal) young, too. Having guys like Redds (Wade Redden) and Rosie (Michal Rozsival), who have been around for a while, they kind of know the ropes and it's definitely good to have them around."

Above everyone else, though, Del Zotto said it was Rangers captain Chris Drury who helped the young defenseman along. It's something Del Zotto won't soon forget.

"He made me feel comfortable ever since I was drafted," Del Zotto said of the Rangers' captain. "He came in and he said, 'You're a part of this team. Welcome.' Ever since then, I've felt comfortable."

Drury, who will once again wear the "C" in New York this season, gushed about Del Zotto's production last season and how the young blueliner carries himself off the ice. He also believes No. 4 hasn't even begun to scratch the surface when it comes to his abilities on the ice.

"I think talent-wise, we would all agree that the sky's the limit," Drury said. "Those things he did on the ice last year as a 19-year-old defenseman, it's a veteran's dream to do. He keeps growing and he keeps learning and he keeps asking all the right questions to the veterans and the coaching staff. He's going to be a special player."

Although he's still just 20 years of age, Del Zotto's production this season will likely play one of the biggest roles in the Rangers' ability to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While some players set personal goals for themselves before a season begins, there is only one thing Del Zotto hopes to accomplish in 2010-11.

"I just want to help the team get to the playoffs," he said. "That's pretty much the only goal I have. I don't want to set expectations for myself as far as points, goals, that kind of stuff. Whatever I can do to help the team get to the playoffs, that's what I'm going to do.

"Everyone feels the same way. We were one point out of it (last season). It basically comes down to one play. You can pick so many moments in the season. One thing I always think about is just the power play and how it needed more consistency. It could have cost us the playoffs. That's just added motivation for me to keep it consistent throughout this whole season because, really, that is my job."http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=538857&cmpid=twt:shr:main

dashripdot
09-29-2010, 10:29 AM
I was pleasantly surprised by the development of the physical part of his game in the second half last year. Unfortunately, he had to deal with the inury where the skate cut him open, otherwise he would have progressed more in that regard. If he's bigger and stronger this year that should advance his game even more.

Bleeds MSG
09-29-2010, 01:16 PM
His vision and passing ability at 19 were already some of the best I have ever seen...hopefully he will mature this season and know when to make that pass and not force the puck.

I feel like a 12-34 season out of him is what we can expect if he makes the logical progressions in his game...especially if we can get any type of power play going.

As a side note I was able to scoop him up in like the 19th round of my fantasy draft last night lol and hes gonna be a crazy steal if he can improve on last seasons numbers.

Garden Faithful
09-29-2010, 03:42 PM
MDZ has great offensive potential as good if not better than most defensmen I have seen but he needs to learn how to play real defense. As good as his offense can be his defense needs to be better because he is just not there yet defensively. I understand he needs to put on more weight and he is young and I am very willing to watch him struggle on D if he is going to get better over the next few years which I am sure he is . My biggest problem is that everyone overlooks his poor defensive play simply because he can dazzle offensively. He is a DEFENSEMEN not a forward and being such he needs to play better defense which I think he will eventually.

dashripdot
09-29-2010, 08:41 PM
He was kept on last year because he had a relatively complete game for a 19-year old defenseman. In other words, his all-around game was impressive enough without having had any meaningful experience that he was expected to improve in all facets while not being overly deficient in any one aspect of his game. To say that he played poor defense last year is inaccurate. To expect him to improve vastly this season is unrealistic. Give him some time. Staal and Girardi have had 3 and 4 years of experience and they are still far from being mature NHL defenders. Think about it, MDZ didn't get benched last season because of lackluster defensive play. Redden did (different circumstances, but nevertheless). Gilroy did and that was after he got demoted for it. I've said this before, but I think it bears repeating: Gilroy is already behind the learning curve when compared to MDZ and Gilroy's a full six years older than him.

bsi
09-29-2010, 11:36 PM
MDZ has the skill and ice vision to become one of the best in the league, keep in mind he was really good last year as a 19 year old, and that's almost unheard of to have a defenseman be that good that young. He's gonna be our best defenseman in the years to come IMO. Usually d-men don't get to DelZotto's level until they are 24-25, they just somehow take longer to mature, he's way ahead of schedule and his future looks bright, that's not to say he's perfect but he has plenty of time to learn the defensive aspect of the game.

Garden Faithful
09-30-2010, 03:07 AM
Listen guys, I'm not saying he is bad and I'm not saying I don't want him all I am saying is that IMO everyone needs to just calm down with how great he was because he was better than any 19 year old I've seen but he still has a long way to go. I am all in favor of letting take the time to grow because he can and should be a great player so don't take my criticism of his defensive play as an attack on him. I think he is a very good all around player who needs to work on his physicality and defense. By physicality I don't just mean hitting I mean getting in the weight room and putting on another 10 pounds. He will get better I believe that and he will better his defensive game because it does need a lot of improvement. I mean I am not a huge proponent of being stictly a stat guy but the kid had a -20 last year which even if you take luck into account is something that needs improvements. But like I said I like him a lot and hope he is with us for a long time to come.

Bleeds MSG
09-30-2010, 10:07 AM
Listen guys, I'm not saying he is bad and I'm not saying I don't want him all I am saying is that IMO everyone needs to just calm down with how great he was because he was better than any 19 year old I've seen but he still has a long way to go. I am all in favor of letting take the time to grow because he can and should be a great player so don't take my criticism of his defensive play as an attack on him. I think he is a very good all around player who needs to work on his physicality and defense. By physicality I don't just mean hitting I mean getting in the weight room and putting on another 10 pounds. He will get better I believe that and he will better his defensive game because it does need a lot of improvement. I mean I am not a huge proponent of being stictly a stat guy but the kid had a -20 last year which even if you take luck into account is something that needs improvements. But like I said I like him a lot and hope he is with us for a long time to come.

The above article states that he basically spent the summer in the weight room and has already put on 5 lbs. His play so far in the preseason looks much more physical and that was an area he had improved on last season until his injury and fatigue set in. Im not expecting some giant leap forward in progress this year but I definitely expect a solid step in the right direction.