Boston Bruins Head Coach Jim Montgomery has described forward Pavel Zacha as a “glue guy,” a player with high hockey IQ and does the little things to help the team win. After seven somewhat underachieving seasons in New Jersey, Zacha has flourished in his first season with the Bruins by totaling career highs in goals (18), assists (35), and points (53). This is the first season of Zacha’s career that the 25-year-old has had a plus rating (+26). The Bruins thought highly enough of the Czech native to acquire him this past offseason for veteran center Erik Haula, but Zacha has exceeded even management’s expectations.
Zacha has played primarily wing for Boston, mostly with fellow Czech teammates David Krejci and David Pastrnak. The 6-foot-4 forward has been particularly effective in 5-on-5 play with 45 points. Zacha is a natural center, however, and the Bruins will have a good at the center position once Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retire, which could be at the end of this season. Losing their top two centers will be challenging, but the emergence of Zacha could ease the transition some.
If either Bergeron or Krejci decides to retire, Zacha can potentially step in and take on a top-six center role. It remains to be seen if Zacha will be as effective as Bergeron or fellow centers Tomas Nosek and Charlie Coyle at the face-off dot. Zacha is winning 44 percent of his draws this season (99/244) but was over 50 percent the last two seasons.
Also, the workload of being a top center would create a challenge. Zacha has averaged 16:01 of ice time this season and would need to take on a bigger role with more time on ice. Zacha is also second on the team in assists per 60 minutes with 1.66 and points per 60 minutes with 2.46. Taking on a top-line center position would also mean more power play time than Zacha has received this season which is 126 minutes, well below Bergeron and Krejci.
But Zacha is just 25 years old and has signed a four-year extension to remain in Boston through his prime years. He has played just five career postseason games, so the upcoming g playoffs will be a true indicator of what can be expected from Zacha in big games. The former first-round draft pick was a slight disappointment in Nee Jersey but has now found his stride in Boston and could end up being just what the Bruins organization needs when the roster faces significant changes soon.