This is the first of many player report cards to come. Enjoy!
The first-line centerman for the New Jersey Devils, Travis Zajac, has yet again not put up first-line numbers. He is currently on-pace for 43 points (14g, 29a), his lowest production since 2010-11, not including the lockout and injury plagued 2011-12 season.
Zajac has played with some very good players in his career, including Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner, and most recently Jaromir Jagr. ALthough he has been with these highly talented players, his best statistic year came in 2009-10 when he tallied 67-points alongside Parise’s 82-points and 61 from Langenbrunner.
Sure the talent playing alongside Zajac has drastically changed, but he is still having a sub-par year again. Here’s my strength’s and weaknesses along with a grade on Zajac’s 2013-14 season:
Zajac is a very good defensive forward. He is a reliable penalty killer and his defensive play is top-notch.
He has the highest face-off percentage on the team with a 54.2% on the year. This is critical, especially during special teams play and in the defensive zone. Remember, he won that huge face-off that allowed Marek Zidlicky and Devils to defeat the Florida Panthers with 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime.
Zajac has been on an absolute tear since coming off the Olympic Break, notching four goals and six assists in 11 games.
Zajac’s offensive numbers are not the greatest, but his defensive ability makes him a top-six forward. He may not be first-line material, but he is a sold player that the Devils can rely on in certain situations.
Zajac lacks offensive consistency and finish. He gets an extreme amount of offensive chances due to his great positional awareness, but he still cannot finish.
Most recently, in his last game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Zajac had two breakaways and failed on both of them. One of which he shot the puck over the net and off the glass. In his defense the puck did flip up on him, but this happens to often for him.
If Zajac had any sort of finishing skill, he could easily put up 25-goals a season, but he is only on-pace for 14.
My co-editor and I have given grades to Zajac’s play in 2013-14.
Thomas Formoso: B-
David Garrison: B-
One of the main reasons his grade is so low for a 40 point season is because that is not good by Zajac’s standards. Normally, if you register 40+ points that’s worth at least a B. As the Alternate Captain and top-line Center, he needs to be much more productive and have consistent success throughout the season.
Zajac only had 18 of his 39 points through December with splits of 4, 6, and 8 points for each of the first 3 months respectively. In losses, Zajac has a -21 +/- rating. There is plenty of upside to Travis, especially in terms of faceoffs and defense, and doesn’t solely show his worth on the stat sheet. One key to next season will be if he can keep up the pace he has set since the Olympics.