Has Michael Del Zotto Made the Jump?

Updated: December 15, 2011 at 10:56 am by Ryan Campbell

In October 2009, New York Rangers rookie Michael Del Zotto set the fantasy world on fire by recording 13 points in his first 12 NHL games.  Unfortunately, it was just a mirage, and Del Zotto ended up having a fairly disappointing campaign, finishing with 37 points and a -20 rating in 80 games.  The 2010-11 season saw much of the same as Del Zotto recorded only 11 points in 47 games while even spending some time in the AHL.  This season, his counting stats say he is again a useful fantasy defenceman.  He has put up 14 points in 27 games, and is tied for 3rd among blueliners with a +15 rating.  Is this improvement for real, or has Del Zotto been the beneficiary of some favourable bounces and stand-out goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist?  Let’s find out.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the +/- rating.  At times it seems that Del Zotto thinks he is a 4th forward out there, although he isn’t as bad as during his rookie season.  While they do put up a decent number of points, these guys usually suffer in the +/- department.  The advanced statistics seem to point in this direction for Del Zotto.  He currently owns a -7.91 Corsi rating, which ranks him 127th out of the 156 defenceman with at least 20 games played.  That is a far cry from +15.

His +/- is currently driven by a very favourable on-ice save percentage of .944, which is very difficult to replicate over an 82 game schedule.  +/- is much more likely to regress to the Corsi number than it is to remain in line with save percentage.  If it were Nicklas Lidstrom or Zdeno Chara playing in front of Lundqvist you could probably convince me that this rate of goal prevention is sustainable, but not Del Zotto.

On the goal scoring side, he has been just as lucky.  He currently owns an on-ice shooting percentage of 13.41%, which is second to only Theo Peckham among defenceman.  Due to his offensive nature, I will give Del Zotto the benefit of the doubt and agree that he can be on the ice for an above average number of goals for, but 13.41% is pushing it.  By comparison, he sat at 8.22% each of the last two seasons.

Over the next 50 games, I would project Del Zotto to have around 20 points and at best at even +/- rating.  This certainly isn’t rosterable in anything but the deepest of leagues considering he doesn’t contribute in the PIM department.  If you currently own Del Zotto, start shopping him around for an undervalued commodity like Brent Burns, or a solid veteran like Dan Hamhuis.

Brent Burns, Dan Hamhuis, Henrik Lundqvist, Michael Del Zotto, New York Rangers