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Updated: March 27th, 2012 3:49pm
Denver standout Jason Zucker agrees to three-year contract with Wild

Denver standout Jason Zucker agrees to three-year contract with Wild

by Judd Zulgad and Jess Myers
1500ESPN.com
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On Thursday, Jason Zucker will be looking for his first professional hockey win on the same ice sheet where he got his final collegiate win less than two weeks earlier.

The Minnesota Wild signed Zucker to a three-year, entry-level contract on Tuesday and he is expected to join the Wild on Thursday before the team plays host to the Florida Panthers at the Xcel Energy Center.

"We thought it would be great for Jason to experience NHL play and to see the pace of the play first-hand, and to familiarize himself with our systems," said Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher. "We thought this would be an important developmental opportunity going into what is going to be an important summer for him."

The Wild selected the 20-year-old Zucker in the second round, 59th overall, of the 2010 draft. Zucker was a sophomore at the University of Denver this season. The Pioneers' final win of the season was a 4-3 double-overtime triumph over Minnesota Duluth at the X on March 16, in the semifinals of the WCHA Final Five.

"After two successful seasons at the University of Denver, Jason, his representation, and Wild management have agreed that it was the right time for Jason to turn pro," Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr told the team's website. "He has achieved great personal success in a short period of time at both the collegiate and national team levels.

"We are very excited to have Jason under contract and look forward to seeing his development within the Wild organization."

A list of the top prospects the Wild have signed in the past year, including Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, Brett Bulmer, Johan Larsson and Zack Phillips.

Many of these players are expected to contribute to the team next season. 

The list of players under contract does not include top prospect Mikael Granlund, who was the ninth-overall pick in the 2010 draft. Granlund has remained in Finland to play hockey but indictated he will sign with the Wild. He would go back into the 2012 draft if he is unsigned by June 1.

Zucker, had 46 points, including 22 goals, with a plus-six rating and 38 penalty minutes in 37 games with Denver this season. His goal total ranked second in the WCHA and he tied for second in scoring and he was named to the All-WCHA second team.

"I'm very excited to turn pro and sign with Minnesota," said Zucker, a Las Vegas native, in a statement released by the school. "I loved every second of my two years at Denver and I'm anxious to begin the next chapter of my hockey career."

Zucker had 45 points (23-22=45) in 40 games as a freshman at Denver. He was second in the WCHA in goals and third in points, earning conference Rookie of the Year honors.

Zucker is one of two American players to win three gold medals in one calendar year. He won a gold medal at the 2009 and 2010 World Under-18 Championships, as well as the 2010 World Junior Championship. Zucker is one of 21 players to appear in three World Junior Championships for Team USA.

This has been a busy few days for college players jumping to the pro ranks. Denver also lost junior forward Drew Shore to the Florida Panthers on Monday, and Minnesota Duluth senior forward Travis Oleksuk inked a deal with the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. Perhaps the most sought-after free agent in the college ranks, Minnesota Duluth sophomore forward J.T. Brown, is reportedly considering offers from the Phildelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. Fletcher said it's unlikely the Wild will be pursuing any of the current college free agents, instead focusing on the players they've already drafted.

"We have a lot of young players on entry-level contracts so at this stage, based on what we've seen and based on some decisions that have been made by some individual players, we're most likely going to be quiet," Fletcher said.

Jess Myers covers the Wild and college hockey for 1500ESPN.com. He is a member of the editorial advisory board for USA Hockey Magazine.
Email Jess | @JessRMyers
Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Brett Bulmer
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