Leafs among teams interested in diminutive Norwegian

Damien Cox

So far, the Maple Leafs haven’t made the same splash among NCAA free agents as they did last year, other than signing Lake Superior State defenceman Simon Gysbers.

In general, while the collegians are signing with various teams, there’s a general sense the crop isn’t as good this year.

Europe, however, may be a different matter.

The player coveted by six or more teams is Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, who many will remember as the diminutive forward who skated for Norway at the Vancouver Olympics wearing No. 48 and using an unusually long hockey stick.

The 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.

Some have nicknamed him MZA or the Norwegian Hobbit, and this week he was named the winner of the Yellow Helmet in the Swedish Elite League as MVP in voting by the players, a Swedish version of the Lester B. Pearson Award.

Zuccarello-Aasen, 22, plays for Modo along with former NHLers Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, Niklas Sundstrom and Dan Hinote. The 5-foot-7, 160-pound centre/left winger led the league in scoring.


42 Responses to Leafs among teams interested in diminutive Norwegian

  1. ChyldProdigy says:

    PASS…I can't fit that on a jersey 🙂
    Who needs this year's version of Fabian Brunnstrom when you can have the two years ago version for a bag of pucks if you want?  My point is that the hype machine will blow this one away and turn it into something more than it is. 
    I'm all for the Leafs throwing darts at a board and seeing if any stick, but I'm not gonna jump out of my chair if we get him.

  2. b_devils says:

    I watched him in the Olympics, and I must say he reminded me a lot of Grabosky (however you spell it). He might be better…but the leafs do not need another Grabo. If we somehow manage to get rid of grabo, then i would make a pitch for him, but no team can succeed with two grabos! 

    plus…he is WAY to small….170lbs…common! he will get rocked in the smaller ice surface. He was only good in the olympics because no one knew him/his style of play. Same as grabo, when he came in everyone was like :O. SKILL! but now, he just comes in flying, never passes, and takes too long to shoot. Defenders know what to expect.
  3. leafy says:

    Yea I agree. Unless he's Theo Fleury's distant relative, the odds are against tiny dudes in the NHL. Well, Steve Sullivan was pretty good too.

    But we have enough perimeter players. Let's get some beef to crash the net.

  4. hockey_lover says:

    Id put Marty St. Louis in that category. 5'9" and 175lbs and is fairly consistant in point totals for a wee lad.

  5. blaze says:

    Ryane Clowe? With all SJS re-signs he could be a potential cap casualty. Adds some serious muscle to the top 6.

  6. bbruins37 says:

    Generously listed at 5'9 too. I seriously doubt he's half an inch over 5'7.

  7. mojo19 says:

    Well……. Since it wouldnt cost any picks or anything to sign the guy, we might as well make a pitch for him. If it doesn't work out we send him down or maybe he just leaves for Europe.

    I don't remember this particular player being anything special at the Olympics.

  8. reinjosh says:

    size is very ovverrated in the NHL (in the sense that someone can be too small). Martin St. Louis is a top 15 player in this game and he is only 7 pounds heavier. So size really isn't an issue. I would be all for getting him. Its likely he would be nothing more than an AHL player but in the small chance he would make the NHL, bonus. It cannot hurt to add another prospect to our team. Its not like we are overflowing with them.

  9. nordiques100 says:

    right now the smallest guy is Gionta. he is pretty darn good. if Zuccarello Aasen has the will to go to the net, that is key.

    the smallest next year may not be him though. it will be nathan gerbe of the Sabres. 5'5 munchkin. but he is quick!

  10. nordiques100 says:

    norway isnt much of a world power on the hockey stage.

    they had some exciting games though vs the swiss and in the qualifiers.

  11. nordiques100 says:

    anybody get a chance to watch the Rangers/Isles tilt in 3D last night?
    Just wanted to know how that worked out.
    i think NFL would be neat in 3D.

    Mr Cox also reported the Leafs interest in a couple of goalies, Jussi Rynnas who plays in the finnish league and Ben Scrivens from the NCAA. Both are big goalies like the monster.

    He also mentioned Brayden (Brady) Irwin, another college player. He is a 6'5 forward. He is from Toronto and maybe could be another Hanson type of find.

    I am sure burke would like to land someone to make up for the missing 2nd rounder. doubt he gets anyone as good as a top 3 pick to make up for his lost first.

  12. bbruins37 says:

    I've always rooted for this guy. 5'5 in the NHL is crazy. He's put together a nice little career for himself too. He's a legend at BC, has looked very good in the AHL, and has impressed in his short time in the NHL.

  13. nordiques100 says:

    i hope they give him a chance. they have lots of smallish forwards as is but i think he could be a real impact guy with his speed and high skill level.  

    my only concern is tyler myers stepping on him by accident lol.

  14. reinjosh says:

    apparently the fight and close up hits on the boards were spectacular to watch

  15. reinjosh says:

    If the Leafs move up to the 3rd last spot and the Bruins get the 3rd overall pick and pick Fowler, they should go after Filatov.

    Something like a Wideman for Filatov swap could quite beneficial to both teams.

  16. bbruins37 says:

    Should we get Fowler a puck-mover will be expendable, but Filatov is not the way to go. Bruins don't go Russian.

  17. leafit2me says:
    I wonder if the Leafs can trade Jonas Frogren back for this guy?

    The Leafs should also go after Nate Robinson of the Boston Celtics!! Picture Kaberle feeding him alley-oop passes blueline-to-blueline.

    If the Leafs really want to go after hockey players not currently playing in the NHL I really think they should give strong consideration to players like ROman Cervenka & Alexander Radulov, 
  18. leafit2me says:

    I also think that the Leafs should really try to sign this Stempniak guy in the off season. There doesn't seem to be a goalie in the West that can stop him. 10 goals in 10 games. I wish the Leafs played more Western Conference teams this season…. oh what could have been!

  19. bbruins37 says:

    Yeah and he's really exciting to watch.

    The best example of a diminutive player in proffesional sports has to be Muggsy Bogues at 5'3 in the NBA and Earl Boykins currently in the NBA at 5'5 133 pounds.


    They play against players sometimes over two feet taller lol.

  20. reinjosh says:

    Who else are you going to get?

    Horton is a possibility but the Panther might not want Wideman. Penner could be available but he doesn't really have the natural scoring talent you want. Boyes could be available but he is a couple season removed from 40. Still he could be a good option. Malone might be available and good do well on a line with Savard and Lucic.

    The thing is all of them are either the same price as Wideman or more. You wouldn't help your cap position at all. Getting Filatov would not only alleviate the cap, but he would have the natural sniping talent that only Boyes seems to have of the above group.

    Just a thought. But hey, the almighty Bruins don't need to get a scoring winger. In fact, they don't really need one at all. They are to good for a guy like Filatov.

  21. bbruins37 says:

    Boyes for Wideman again? lol

  22. reinjosh says:

    that would actually be really funny

  23. nordiques100 says:

    yes back when they were the bullets, bogues played with manute bol, the tallest ever in the NBA.

    and you cant forget spud webb. he was awesome too!

  24. Kramer says:

    I went to the Sony store today to check out this new 3D TV they got. Wow this is big stuff. Now hockey games are gonna be broadcast in 3D.

    Alien technology was used to make this. I knew this was gonna happen.

  25. cam7777 says:

    I agree with bbruins that they won't chase a Russian.  if they did chase one, i think they'd go after radulov, who is also going to come at a bargain giving his situation, but has already proven he can play in the nhl at a very high level.  but your point is well made, that depending on who they draft, makes someone expendable.

    -select Cam Fowler

    to phi: tim thomas, 1st in 2010 (BOS)
    to bos: simon gagne, brian boucher

    to nsh: dennis wideman, brad marchand, 2nd in 2011 (MIN)
    to bos: alexander radulov, joel ward

    -resign Dennis Seidenberg, 3 years, 9.75 million (3.25 cap hit)

    -bury Michael Ryder

    Simon Gagne (5.25) – Marc Savard (4.0) – Alex Radulov (0.9) 
    Marco Sturm (3.5) – Patrice Bergeron (4.75) – Milan Lucic (4.0)
    Blake Wheeler (3.0) – David Krejci (3.75) – Joel Ward (1.5)
    Daniel Paille (1.25) – Vladimir Sobotka (1.0) – Shawn Thornton (0.75)

    Zdeno Chara (7.5) – Dennis Seidenberg (3.25)
    Cam Fowler (3.15) – Marc Stuart (2.25)
    Matt Hunwick (1.45) – Andrew Ference (2.25)

    Tuuka Rask (1.3) – Brian Boucher (0.925)

    Buyouts – 0.725

    CAP HIT – 56.425 million

    Thanks to Fowler's bonusable contract, there's even room to buy Ryder out if need be.  Honestly though, I would just throw him in the minors to start the season, and use him as an injury call up (which would probably put him in the lineup for 90% of the games anyways).

  26. bbruins37 says:

    Not bad, but the Radulov thing will never happen. Seriously, the Bruins just don't go Russian, and especially wouldn't go after one that has already screwed his team over to go to the KHL. The only Russians on the Bruins in the last 10-15 years that I can think of are Zinoviev, Chistov, Gonchar, and Samsonov. Only Samsonov lasted more than one year. And now Alexandrov's future with the Bruins is up in the air so that doesn't help.

    I heard that the Flyers were going after him at the deadline, but it didn't work out. I'm sure Timmy would waive his NTC given how competitive he is. The Bruins know they won't get full value for Thomas with the situation they're in but that's fine because of Rask.

    Other than that I think you're underestimating what Seidenberg will be getting, and definitely underestimating what Stuart will be getting. 1.25 for Paille is iffy, but he really hasn't looked as good as of late so maybe.

    As for Ryder, I don't think he's untradeable. He only has one year left at $4 million, and although still bad, he's at least looked a step above useless since his name was put on the block. I'm sure something can be worked out with a team with a low cap hit like the Islanders.

    I also wouldn't count out Recchi for coming back another year. I feared he was done early in the season when he looked bad, but he's somehow continually gotten better as the season's gone along. He doesn't have his legs as much anymore but it's tough to find someone with his knowledge of the game and his ability to play in front of the net. I know he loves playing with Bergeron, so the Bruins might be able to coax him into coming back for another year, and get him for cheap again.

  27. cam7777 says:

    If I were Mark Recchi, I would look at the Bruins and say "well, i thought we were true stanley cup contenders – that's why i signed for a million bucks – but now we are full of question marks.  given the way the game is today, i'm risking my well being for an extra million; i think it's time to retire".  I think he's done.  Not because he can't play anymore, but because it's just pointless for him, unless he is on a team sure to be going deep. 

    I know you don't want to hear this, but Savard's injury could be quite debilitating.  One could make the argument that Bergeron still isn't quite the same player.  Booth also has been a shadow of his former self (and now he's quite possibly seen his hockey days ended, or significantly shortened).  So I think you especially can't count on Marc Savard next year.  That will factor into Recchi's decision.  If I were him though, I would just sign with a strong team in January, get my legs under me, and try to win another cup.  No point risking life and limb for question marks.

    As for Seidenberg, remember, he tried to hit one out the park last year in contract negotiations.  I think he could be willing to sign for a lower dollar amount, if someone will commit to him for more than 2 years (maybe even throw in a limited NTC).  I listened to him talk about that at the start of the season, and he said he was really looking for a home.  Seems like a good guy to me.  He could probably get 4 elsewhere,but who wouldn't want to play with Chara? 

    That said, if he was going to be affordable, Florida could have just locked him up themselves, and yet they traded him away.  Was that just because they feel they are far away from competing and need picks and young assets?  Or was it because Seidenberg was asking too much.  We'll find out, but something tells me I'm not far off here.  He seemed pretty down to earth and honest about wanting to find a home at the start of the year.

    Ryder is tradeable, but only if salary is coming back in return.  The Islanders are all about speed and youth right now, and there's no way they take Ryder.  With the injury luck the Bruins have, he'll probably end up playing the whole season next year anyways, even if he is waived.  No one is going to take that contract point blank though. 

    As for Radulov and Thomas – Maybe Alex isn't the answer, but the trade remains the same; just sub in any cheap right winger prospect you can think of (Jamie Benn, Oscar Moller, Patric Hornqvist, Jordan Schroeder, etc…).  And with Thomas, yea, you're not getting full value, which is why it makes so much sense to deal with Philly, who are so desperate to have a legitimate number one guy locked up so they can end the constant shuffle between their pipes.  Throwing away a mid 1st to fill a hole, while also dumping an enormous contract, is actually excellent value.

  28. cam7777 says:

    Actually, I just got a pretty good idea for Ryder:

    To OTT: Michael Ryder
    To BOS: Jonathan Cheechoo, 2nd round pick 2011

    -bury Jonathan Cheechoo

    Now, the organization can feel a lot better about burying a guy that legitimately won't make the team out of camp, than burying Ryder, who, despite a fall off, is still a good player.  Cheechoo is still good enough to be a solid call-up.  You get an extra 2nd next year out of the deal.  Chia loves picks.

    Ottawa replaces a useless contract, with another scoring winger.  The system they are playing now is pretty similar to Julien's, so Ryder would fit right in.  For an extra million bucks, and a pick in a weak draft, they dump 3 million dollars worth of useless, and take a bit of a gamble on Ryder.  If he scores 15 goals, they break even.

  29. jpmac says:

    Hey mojo, funny the list of most overrated players on a poll, conducted by players no less, doesn't include Brad Richards. But it does include Dion Phanuef.  

    By no means am I saying that Phanuef is over rated. But it puts things in perspective.
  30. leafy says:

    I was about to believe the poll…then I read Kerry Fraser was voted best referee.

    That red-hair mini-Elvis little prick ruined by life.

    May 29, 1993.


  31. leafy says:

    Yea I forgot St. Louis.

    Actually the greatest short player of all-time was Marcel Dionne (only 5'8"). But strong as a bull, like Fleury.

    Mats Naslund also had a good career.

  32. cam7777 says:

    I don't want to sound like I'm defending it just because of the mention of Phaneuf, but come on. that means two guys out of the fifty surveyed thought Phaneuf, Bouwmeester, Lecavalier, and Avery (how is it possible to over-rate this guy?  does anyone think highly of him to begin with?), while three guys thought Luongo was over-rated.  So what?  That means 39 other players were selected individually as most over-rated.  It's safe to say that there's hardly any consensus about who is over-rated.

    Now, when you get 30 out of 50 guys say they think Detroit is the best franchise in the league, that's proof of some consensus.  I wouldn't take the rest of it for any value though.

  33. leafy says:

    Yea the votes are so dispersed, they begin to lose their significance.

    But in the last 20 years, Kerry Fraser has killed the Leafs more than Sakic, Yzerman and Jagr combined.

  34. cam7777 says:

    this is true.  he is a douche bag.

  35. leafshockey says:

    Is tonight the first time Phaneuf will face Avery since Avery made that remark?

  36. 93killer93 says:

    No he played against Avery when he was still with Calgary.

  37. leafy says:

    Anybody know this kid Brady Irwin the Leafs signed?

  38. dumbassdoorman says:

    All I read was that he is some 6'5" monster of a kid played with Stalberg at vermont. HERE IS HOPING

  39. bbruins37 says:

    Sports Illustrated did a poll of 272 NHL players and 20.6% picked Phaneuf as the most overrated. That's 56 players. Better?


  40. mojo19 says:

    Phaneuf was top 3 in the Sun media poll a couple years ago as well, for most overrated. That same poll had Nik Antropov listed as top 3 most underrated too which made me happy.

    Oh, and I hate Brad Richards.

  41. nordiques100 says:

    a slightly bigger, more willing physically player than christian hanson.

    has some scoring ability but will likely make his mark as a big grinding winger who'll get lots of garbage goals.

    i'd like to know what kind of skating ability he has. wilson's leafs have really stressed speed. hope this kid can keep up.

    love to see him excel, maybe on a line with hanson and orr.

    and if he can drop the gloves, all the better.

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