With the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft, the New Jersey Devils have selected center Pavel Zacha of the Sarnia Sting. Zacha, 18 had a productive but hindered season with the Sting. The Czech native had 16 goals and 34 points in 37 games, missing a large portion of the season due to injuries and two suspensions. Zacha represented the Czech Republic in both the U-18 and U-20 world junior championships the past two years in a row. In 17 games played over the past three seasons on the Czech U-18 team, Zacha tallied 8 goals and 16 points. He had one goal and two points in 11 games played for the Czech U-20 team over the past two seasons.
The 6’3” 212-lbs center has been ranked anywhere from 6-15 overall by scouting outlets going into tonight’s draft. For a center of his size and Zacha is fast and possesses a slick pair of hands, rendered as one of the class’ best stick handlers. Zacha is lethal in the offensive zone and is pegged as someone who can both create and finish plays. He has a strong shot and is is reliable in his own end. One of his biggest attributes is his physicality and mean streak the Czech-born center possesses, an attribute that as previously indicated, has sometimes gotten the best of him, based on his two suspensions.
Regardless, this should be a welcomed selection by the Devils faithful. Zacha is the personification of what the Devils’ prospect pool has sorely lacked over the past few seasons and selecting Zacha automatically makes him the top prospect in the organization. He’s made a solid transition to the North American style of play when he came over from Europe. It remains to be seen whether Zacha is NHL-ready. He’ll definitely be at the Devils prospect camp this summer and is expected to attend training camp in the fall.
It’s been quite some time since the Devils have had a prospect of Zacha’s quality in their organization. Forwards like Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau are still trying to establish themselves as NHL regulars on the Devils’ roster, but Zacha is in an entirely different class, which will show when we see him take the ice in the near future. If there’s any doubt about Zacha’s readiness to make the jump to the NHL, the Devils would be wise to take their time with his development, when you look at former prospects that didn’t quite work out like Mattias Tedenby, Matt Halischuk, Vladimir Zharkov, and Petr Vrana (just to mention a few). Unless anything unexpected happens between now and the No. 30 pick, the New Jersey Devils start off tomorrow (when rounds 2-7 take place) with two early picks in the second round.