As New Jersey Devils training camp opens, one player to watch is Pavel Zacha. The young Czech forward is entering his fourth season in the NHL and just signed a new three-year deal to remain with the Devils. The next three seasons are crucial for Zacha in his development with the Devils.
Slow Start, Strong Finish
It was quite a 2018-19 season for Zacha. After going pointless in his first 10 games, he needed help reestablishing his game. During his stint in Binghamton, he was very productive posting four assists in four games. Things appeared they were going in the right direction for Zacha after returning to the lineup. In six games, Zacha had six goals, but he could not sustain that offensive production.
After suffering a concussion in February which cost Zacha a little more than a month of playing time, once he returned to the lineup he caught fire. In 18 games after the All-Star Break, Zacha posted 14 points (six goals and eight assists). During a 12-game stretch to close the season, Zacha had points in 11 of 12 games.
It All Comes Together for Pavel Zacha
Zacha is looking to build off a strong finish to last season as the 2019-20 season begins. One of the big criticisms of Zacha last season is that he needed to be harder on the puck. While Zacha is a player who is big and strong that can skate well. Unfortunately, he needs to work on his competitive edge with the puck. Zacha took that message from head coach John Hynes to heart.
In the final three months during practice, Zacha continued to improve his game. Everything paid off for Zacha in the final game of the season with a highlight-reel goal.
As you can see from the video, Zacha comes out of the penalty box picking up the puck in the neutral zone. He uses his great skating ability to enter the offensive zone. From there he takes the puck to the outside using his big body to protect the puck from Florida Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad. As he approaches Roberto Luongo, Zacha remains strong on the puck avoiding the poke-check. Zacha finishes the play with the goal by roofing the puck over Luongo’s pad.
As the Devils begin training camp, the question will be can Zacha translate all that he has done in the off-season to the ice.
PHILADELPHIA, PA: New Jersey Devils Pavel Zacha attempts to win a faceoff against Philadelphia Flyers Sean Couturier during a game on October 20, 2018 (Kate Frese/ Last Word On Hockey)