New Jersey Devils: Does Gusev trade signal the end for Zacha?

Nikita Gusev, Russia. New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
Nikita Gusev, Russia. New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images) /
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New Jersey Devils
Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Crowded Out?

Zacha’s sub-mediocre performance last season was a microcosm of the New Jersey Devils as a whole. After a surprising run to the playoffs the prior season, NJD could not score. They finished tied for 25th in goals scored with 219. Unfortunately, they allowed the sixth-most goals as well, 270. That led them to 72 points and the third-worst record in the league.

It’s different this season. For 2019-20, the New Jersey Devils have assembled a very formidable forward corps. It almost leaves Zacha on the outside looking in. To start, last year’s abysmal performance put them into the Draft Lottery, which the Devs won. For the second time in three years, they had the number one pick and for the second time in three years, they chose a center. This time it was Jack Hughes.

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Described as a generational talent, there is almost no way he doesn’t open this season with the Devils. Hughes joins 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier and team mainstay Travis Zajac as the top three pivots. That pretty much shuffles Zacha out of the center mix.

It’s crowded at left wing as well. Taylor Hall came into the 2018-19 season as the reigning Hart Trophy (MVP) winner. He was off to another great start with 37 points in 33 games before missing the rest of the year with a knee injury. He’ll be back on the top line this fall and has something to prove as he enters his contract season.

As mentioned earlier, on Monday, Shero acquired Russian sniper Nikita Gusev from the Vegas for a pair of future draft picks. Last season with SKA Saint Petersburg, Gusev led the KHL in scoring, putting up 82 points (17G, 65A) in 62 games. He’s going to play on a potentially high scoring second line with Hischier and Kyle Palmieri

That leaves Zacha battling with steady Blake Coleman for a spot on the third line alongside Zajac and recently acquired right wing, Wayne Simmonds.

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With all of the New Jersey Devils talent up front, Pavel Zacha is in a fight or take a flight position going into this year’s training camp. Meanwhile, the team shouldn’t have the same issues of putting the puck in the net as they did last year.