1. “Pav is going to be a center.” –Lindy Ruff
The quote is talking about former sixth-overall pick Pavel Zacha. He had by far the best season of his career on the score sheet last season. He had 35 points in 50 games including tying a team-high 17 goals. There wasn’t a lot to be excited about on the team last season, but actually getting a good Pavel Zacha season was one of them.
Zacha finished the season on Nico Hischier’s wing with Jesper Bratt. They were starting to build chemistry now that Hischier was somewhat healthy for the first time all season. It made the most sense to have Zacha on the wing last season, and that’s where he’s always done his most damage.
Now, there is a glaring hole on the roster where Travis Zajac used to be. For well over a decade, the Devils knew they had a great defensive center who could matchup with the best players in the league. Sidney Crosby can attest to what it was like to face Zajac every night. Meanwhile, Zacha has all the tools to be that player, but he’s never been able to put them together.
It seems like the Devils are committed to trying Zacha at that third-line center spot behind Hischier and Jack Hughes. While it makes sense on paper, time will tell if it’s the best for Zacha in the long run. He seems like he’s been here forever, but he’s still only 24 years old. There is time to figure out where he fits best.