From now until the beginning of training camp, Boston Hockey Now is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2022-23 Boston Bruins. Today’s player: Pavel Zacha.
Social Media Handles: Twitter (@Pavel_Zacha)
What Happened Last Year: From the outside, it appears that the 25-year-old Zacha had been making strides with the New Jersey Devils even if the big breakout season hadn’t happened yet for the center. Zacha had 15 goals and a career-high 36 points in 70 games and the last two seasons he’s established himself as a top-9 forward at the very least, though his past as a 2015 lottery pick indicates there’s more there.
On the other side of the token, Zacha finished a career-worst minus-21 last season and has been a minus player in each of his six full NHL seasons in New Jersey while pretty clearly needing a Patrice Bergeron tutorial on two-way play.
Instead of sticking around New Jersey, the Devils shipped him to Boston in exchange for Erik Haula and then Zacha signed a short term “show me” deal with the Bruins prior to his first season in Boston.
Questions To Be Answered This Season: Zacha is very clearly at a crossroads in his NHL career after underachieving in New Jersey. He probably won’t get a better chance to change that trend than in Boston where one of his lifelong best friends (Jakub Zboril) plays and where the Bruins have loaded up on players from the Czech Republic for this season.
The big-bodied forward needs to shoot the puck more, he needs to be better defensively, and he needs to live up to the considerable potential he showed when he was drafted sixth overall in the loaded 2015 NHL Draft. The question is whether he can do all of those things, whether he got mired in the New Jersey muck that’s turned into a talent-sucking quagmire for a lot of players and whether it’s going to be possible for him to put things together in Boston. It looks like Zacha is going to get a chance to play on Patrice. Bergeron’s left side in Brad Marchand’s spot to begin this coming season, so that’s not a bad place to start while looking to establish himself in Black and Gold.
In Their Words: “Just being around him, seeing his work ethic…what he’s done already and still having the motivation he has, it’s impressive. I think it just pushes everyone around him to work a little bit harder.” –Pavel Zacha on being around Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron as captain’s practices get going.
Overall Outlook: Zacha finds himself in a pretty great situation with the Boston Bruins after arriving in a trade this summer. Even some of his old New Jersey coaches, like former Boston Bruins Cup winner Mark Recchi, think that Zacha could really become something with the Boston Bruins provided he puts in the necessary work.
But at this point it’s about Zacha finding that next level to his game and showing the Boston Bruins that he can be part of the center picture in Boston for the long term, as a young guy playing the middle when both of their top-6 centers – Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci – are much closer to the end of their careers than the beginning.
One other piece of advice for Zacha: He should probably change the twitter account that still has him all decked in New Jersey Devils stuff.