New Jersey Devils: Make or break year for Pavel Zacha

Pavel Zacha, New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Pavel Zacha, New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils selected Pavel Zacha with the sixth overall draft pick in 2015. He came in with much fanfare but has greatly underperformed since. Entering his fifth year with the organization, the 22-year-old may be down to his last chance with the team.

When the New Jersey Devils selected Pavel Zacha with the sixth overall pick of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the expectations were very high. To say that he has been a disappointment after three full seasons with the team is an understatement. Zacha has not excelled in any area of the game other than not excelling.

It always takes a few years to get the full measure of any draft class. Enough time has gone by however to pass a verdict on the class of 2015. It was a pretty good one. Of course, Connor McDavid was the crown jewel. He may go on to be one of the best players in NHL history. McJesus is not the only star of the class.

Jack Eichel picked second behind McDavid has been a multi-time all-star. Additionally, he has 259 points in 286 NHL games. Right wing Mitch Marner and defenseman Noah Hanifan the fourth and fifth picks appear to be coming into their own as well. Only third pick Dylan Strome has struggled more than Zacha out of the top-10 selections.

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Behind Zacha, Mikko Rantanen (10), Matt Barzal (16), Thomas Chabot (18), and Sebastian Aho (35) are becoming stars in the league. Additionally, Zach Werenski (8), Timo Meier (9), Jake DeBrusk (14), and Brock Boeser (23) are mainstays of their respective teams. Then there is Zacha.

The Brno, Czech Republic native hasn’t produced anywhere near the players mentioned above. Zacha has participated in 201 NHL games and tallied only 29 goals and 47 assists. Over the three full seasons Zacha was up with the club, he has scored 24 points in 2016-17, 25 in 2017-18, and 25 in 2018-19. Consistent, yes. Good, no.

The New Jersey Devils haven’t had a bevy of stars to join Zacha on the ice, with the exception of Taylor Hall (who only played in 33 games last year), and 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier. Still, a player drafted as high as Zacha should be able to create opportunities for himself. Something he hasn’t been able to do so far in his career.

This season is a different story. Picking first overall for the second time in three years, the New Jersey Devils selected center Jack Hughes, a player many experts believe will be a “generational talent.” Also, GM Ray Shero traded for one of the two or three best offensive defensemen in the game, P.K. Subban earlier this month. The excuse of Zacha not playing enough surrounding talent is now gone.

Next. Devils are building quickly for next season. dark

Zacha is a restricted free agent this summer coming off his entry-level contract. He’s not likely to get a big payday from Jersey, and likely in a prove it or lose it situation for the 2019-20 season. If Zacha can’t prove he belongs by the trade deadline, he’s likely headed out.