Travis Zajac’s Importance to the New Jersey Devils

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 03: New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac (19) celebrates after scoring during the first period of the National Hockey League Game between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers on April 3, 2018, at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 03: New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac (19) celebrates after scoring during the first period of the National Hockey League Game between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers on April 3, 2018, at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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Every team in the NHL has guys who would be considered stars based on talent and production. Every team has guys that are clearly depth guys. The New Jersey Devils have a center ice man that can really be considered both if you look at it from a few different points of view.

Travis Zajac is clearly very important to the New Jersey Devils organization. He is one of the two longest tenured players on the team alongside Devil’s captain Andy Greene. He wears an “A” on his sweater because he is a great leader and mentor to the other guys in the room.

Zajac doesn’t wow every night with his offensive talent. He doesn’t score 30 goals or have 80 points every season. That isn’t to say that he can’t contribute offensively. His career high in goals is 25, and in that same year he chipped in 42 assists for 67 points. Those numbers may never get that high again, which is large in part because of his role on the team these days and his linemates.

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Earlier in his career, he would be the center on lines that have Patrik Elias, Zach Parise, or Ilya Kovalchuk. This season, it is expected that he will play with Miles Wood and John Quenneville on his wings. That line will use their speed and defensive skill to be a shutdown line that is also expected to chip in some offense.

The jury is still out on Quenneville, while Wood had 19 goals last season. This line has a chance to have all three of its members have 15+ goals and be a great defensive line. Zajac is the key since he is so good defensively. He will likely never win a Selke Trophy because he doesn’t score enough points, despite it being a defensive trophy.

What Travis Zajac does for the  Devils defensively, at even strength and on the penalty kill is just as important as the guys who put up lots of goals and points. Zajac doesn’t need to be the top line center anymore because of the Devils drafting Nico Hischier. Now Zajac can be a third line center and he fits his role perfectly. The Devils playoff chances depend on a lot of things going their way, and Zajac playing his role well is one of the main keys.