New Jersey Devils forward, Pavel Zacha, has had a troubled start to his young NHL career scoring only seven points in 35 games this season. Zacha, who made his NHL debut in the last game of the 2015-16 season, seemed like a seasoned veteran picking up two points and making Devils legend, Patrik Elias feel like a kid again.
So when this season came around, the Devils were counting on Zacha to be a key cog and help them overcome their scoring woes from a season ago. Unfortunately for Zacha, Elias isn’t around, and he hasn’t been able to find consistency this season. A big reason for that, is that the Devils young center does not shoot the puck enough. It is something that his coaching staff has been harping on the youngster.
“He’s got to shoot the puck more. He has to play harder on the puck in the offensive area. He’s got to skate. He’s not putting himself in positions to score goals either.
“So instead of wondering why the goals aren’t going in, let’s continue to work on how we’re going to create more scoring (and) use his assets. … When he’s in opportunities to shoot the puck, shoot it. He needs to get more competitive.”
That may not be entirely fair to the 19 year old from Brno Czech Republic. The Devils lack many options outside of Taylor Hall who are creative with the puck and can get it to Zacha to unleash that lethal shot that he possesses. Coming into the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Zacha possessed one of the best shots in his draft class, but he has not been able to showcase that with Hall being blanketed at every turn. The other teams in the league have basically told the Devils to beat them with someone other than Hall, and the Devils have not figured out a way to do so.
The Devils need to find out a way to squeeze the most out of Zacha, and he will have to take it upon himself to get open for those shooting chances. The Devils have tried in the past two games by putting Zacha on the point during their power plays and hoping he’ll find space to shoot and get pucks through to the net from the point. He almost rewarded the Devils in the game against Florida, but was stymied by the crossbar. After Monday night’s game, Zacha has only 33 shots in 35 games. With his talent, he needs a lot more than that.
In an effort to find his game, Zacha has been in constant contact with his agent, Patrik Stefan. When asked about what Stefan has to offer, Zacha offered the following.
“It depends how I play,” said Zacha, the sixth overall pick of the 2015 draft. “He’s watching every game, so he tells me what I should get better at. He’s always telling me to shoot more because I never shoot that many pucks. I’m more pass than shoot, so he’s telling me shoot.”
A positive for Zacha to hang his hat on, is that he has been very good defensively for a first year pro. It usually takes a lot of time for young players to figure out the defensive side of the puck. When looking at Zacha’s stats, his -12 this season may not scream defensive stalwart, but really, it isn’t his fault. He is usually paired with linemates who struggle on the defensive side of the coin. There are also many defensive breakdowns in coverage by the defenseman which leads to goals against.
It may be beneficial for the Devils to send Zacha down to the American Hockey League during their league mandated bye-week and during the all-star weekend, January 28th-29th. It would do wonders for Zacha’s development to join a winning environment which has been cultivated by Albany head coach, Rick Kowalsky.
Either way, Zacha should not be too hard on himself, as there are many more problems in New Jersey at this point, outside of the lack of scoring of a 19 year old kid.