Pavel Zacha was the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils, the same draft that produced stars Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, and Mitch Marner. Zacha was the fifth center taken in a deep draft and was projected to be an elite offensive player. Eliteprospects.com viewed the young Czech as “an offensively dynamic center with the size, speed, and skill to significantly impact the game. He can play physically 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”.
But Zacha underachieved in New Jersey. The Devils were waiting for the 6-foot-3, 210-pound center to prove that he was worthy of a high first-round selection, but it never materialized. Zacha totaled 179 points in 386 regular season games with a minus-66 rating and a 46.3 faceoff percentage. The Devils decided to move on from Zacha during the 2022 offseason and traded the young forward to Boston for veteran Erik Haula. The Bruins were in need of center prospects and took a chance on Zacha. It has worked in their favor thus far.
Zacha’s first season with the Bruins was historic for the team and a career-best for the talented center. Zacha played quite a bit of wing for Boston and scored 21 goals with 36 assists while playing all 82 games. The Brno, Czech Republic native developed good chemistry with fellow Czech David Pastrnak as well and signed a four-year contract extension on January 14. The Bruins seem to have their next center of the future.
Now, with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci gone, the Bruins will need Zacha to step up and take a top-six center position. Playing with Pastrnak on his right side seems to be a no-brainer. Zacha will have to improve on his 45.3 percent faceoff success from last year. And on the power play, Zacha will need to be a key figure. Only 51 of his 179 career points are on the man advantage. That will have to improve as well.
But Pavel Zacha is certainly a viable option now, and with his affordable $4.75 million salary cap hit, the Bruins seem to have a good young player who should help ease the burden of the departures of their two all-time centers. The 2023-24 season presents a chance for Zacha to be the center of the next solid core of the Boston Bruins.https://insidetherink.com/bruins-benders/