The Pavel Zacha trade keeps looking better and better for the Boston Bruins, and on Thursday, the Bruins forward was recognized for a terrific first season in Black and Gold.
Just before his team’s regular-season home finale against the Washington Capitals, Zacha was presented NESN’s 7th Player Award for the 2022-23 season. The award is voted on by the fans and presented ‘to the Bruin who exceeded the expectations of Bruins fans during the season.’
In his first season with the Boston Bruins, Pavel Zacha has established career highs in goals (21), assists (36), and points with 57. The 26-year-old, 6-foot-4, 199-pound forward has also become a viable option for head coach Jim Montgomery at every forward position. Zacha, a natural center, has played both wings in the middle six forward group numerous times, and recently, he has filled in as the second-line center while veteran center David Krejci (lower-body) rests up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
After trading forward Erik Haula to the New Jersey Devils for Zacha last summer, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney signed the 6th overall pick from the 2015 NHL Entry Draft to a four-year, $19 million contract ($4.75M AAV), on Jan. 16.
“I think that his versatility has shown through,” Sweeney said then. “Plays in all situations in a hockey game and has been a big part of our group. Fit in very well. Comfortable with several of his countrymen. But overall, a very well-liked young man that we’re happy to have going forward and addresses a positional need in the future.”
That positional need, of course, is at the center position with the potential retirement of captain Patrice Bergeron and Krejci looming. According to Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery, so far, so good with Zacha’s recent audition as the potential future second-line center.
“It’s been very encouraging,” Montgomery said recently of Zacha’s re-assimilation to the middle. “I think the Carolina game (March 26), was probably the best 200-foot game he’s had. He’s had a lot of games where he’s helped us at the center. It’s pretty amazing to see how seamlessly he’s gone from left wing to right wing to center, and he just keeps building our team game.
I think he’s getting more comfortable with quickly taking away time and space better. It’s a lot of work, the D-zone coverage for the centers, and he seems to be playing a lot faster there. His ability to make high-end plays through the middle of the ice is incredible; backhand, sauce plays, forehand. So, his ability to penetrate middle ice has always been something that we’ve liked about his game.”