The Devils Draft Prospect Series continues today with a pair of 2015 draft picks; for the rest of the 2017 and 2016 draft picks, check out the “Draft Prospect Series” tag on the blog.
I know, it sounds weird to be doing a prospect profile on Pavel Zacha but he’s still technically a Devils prospect despite playing most of the season with New Jersey. He was selected sixth overall by the Devils in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry-Level Draft. The 20-year old Czech center/left wing is 6′ 3″ and 214 pounds; he was ranked #8 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He’s played in the Czech developmental system his entire life before playing two years with the Sarnia Sting (OHL) and then transitioning to the AHL/NHL. The 2016-17 was his rookie season with the Devils; he played 70 games.
Here are some of his stats (warning: there’s a lot):
In his two years with the Sting, he had 98 regular season points (88 games), averaging 1.11 points per game, and 16 playoff points (12 games) (1.33 points per game). He had a much better 2015-16 campaign than 2014-15. Both years were marred by injuries and he has a bit of a concussion history (he suffered one this season with the Devils as well). He was named to the OHL’s First All-Rookie team in 2014-15 and was named one of Sarnia’s assistant captains the year after.
In 2015-16, Zacha joined the Albany Devils at the end of the season for eight games and picked up six points. He was called up by New Jersey to make his NHL debut in the last game of the season; he had two assists on the night. He did not join Albany’s postseason run this year.
The following year (this past season), Zacha made his official, more-than-just-one game Devils debut and picked up 24 points in 70 games played. He did suffer a concussion in the spring and missed a few games. He got off to a very slow start but picked up the pace as the year went on and had a very good second half of the season. Here’s an article from nj.com about how Zacha turned his season around.
Zacha had eight goals and 16 assists, and 13 of those 24 points were on the power play. He found some chemistry on a line with Jacob Josefson and Stefan Noesen; Josefson joined the Sabres and Noesen hasn’t re-signed with the team but Zacha could find success on another line.
Curtis Joe of EliteProspects said this about Zacha in 2015: “Pavel Zacha is an offensively dynamic center with the size, speed, and skill to make a significant impact on the game. He can play physical, but is at his best when using his high-end offensive abilities, such as his shot, stickhandling, and footspeed, to generate numbers in the opposition’s end of the ice. All-in-all, Zacha is a lethal weapon that can be depended upon to create, and finish, dangerous scoring chances whenever he is on the ice.”
Here’s Hockey’sFuture’s talent analysis: “Zacha is an offensively dynamic forward who can make a significant impact on the game with his combination of size, speed, and skill. The centerman can beat defenders one-on-one when he is on the rush with the stick on his blade where he can overpower most opponents to generate scoring chances. Zacha also puts a lot of power into his wrist and slap shots. The physical challenges of hockey do not seem to bother him but he would prefer to create scoring chances rather than get into shoving matches. Personality-wise, Zacha is coachable, has a workmanlike attitude in the gym, and a positive charisma.”
His future potential? He should make the Devils lineup straight out of training camp; I don’t see him starting the year in Binghamton. I’m expecting him to have a breakout NHL year, especially offensively. With the Devils’ abundance of centers, I could see him moving over to left wing. I liked what I saw when he played with Taylor Hall but Hall is likely going to stick on a line with Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac.
I’d like to see Zacha continue to play at the NHL level. Some more development in the AHL would benefit him; he could “overcook” like Joe Blandisi and John Quenneville have. He’ll be better for it but after spending all season in New Jersey, I don’t think he’ll go back to the AHL for any significant amount of time. He is attending development camp next week so that should be fun!