Former Devil Pavel Zacha Enjoying New Chapter of His Career in Boston

Boston Bruins center Pavel Zacha (18): Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Bruins center Pavel Zacha (18): Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports /

After 386 games (and five playoff games) with the New Jersey Devils, it was time for Pavel Zacha to move on. It may not have been by his choice, but for both sides, it was the best move. The Devils selected Zacha sixth overall in the 2015 NHL Draft – ahead of names like Timo Meier, Mikko Rantanen, Matthew Barzal, Kyle Connor, and (many) others. Unfortunately for both sides, he never was able to live up to these lofty standards, fair or not.

This off-season, he was traded to the Boston Bruins for Erik Haula (the trade was one-for-one) where each team got what they were looking for. New Jersey wanted a veteran with playoff experience who can play all positions in all situations alongside their young, budding core. Boston wanted to get a bit younger and save more money against their salary cap.

Haula has been a faceoff ace for the Devils and chipped in 17 points (2g-15a) with Jack Hughes mostly on his wing so far this season. On the other side of the deal, the 25-year-old Zacha has posted 23 points (5g-18a) in 37 games for the Bruins, including a season-high four-game point streak (2g-2a) that just ended at the Winter Classic – and two points against his former squad.

“It’s good (to get another win here); we had a really good third period,” the Czech forward told Pucks and Pitchforks after his empty net goal helped to seal a Bruins victory at Prudential Center. “The last game, they outplayed us a bit, out-shot us, and it’s great to come here and win against your old team; it’s always what you want. You wish the players all the best, but you want to win those games.”

I asked Zacha if he was mad, sour, or hurt by the trade from the team that gave him his start, his path to the NHL after he grew up idolizing Devils legend Patrik Elias. But that’s not his style, not his persona. If it is, he does a really good job at hiding it.

“Yeah, there are no hard feelings. It happened during the summer, I basically grew up in the beginning of my NHL career here with these players in Jersey,” he told us. “You wish them the best, but also want to be a little bit better than them and win more games. It’s something that is part of the business, and when you grow up, play on a team for six, seven years, you stay friends for a long time.”

“I wouldn’t say (winning the two games against them gives me) bragging rights, I’m not that kind of person. But, it’s great to win and two wins in Jersey wrapped around Christmas. These are big wins for us.”

New Jersey Devils
Jesper Bratt of the New Jersey Devils and Pavel Zacha of the Boston Bruins. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

He admitted it was a little surreal coming back to and playing in games as a visiting player in an arena, in a state that he called home for six seasons and seven years. That’s all part of sports in the new age, and on his new team, he has teammates who were teammates on his old team.

“It was a little strange, especially the first game, driving in the game roads to the rink. Listening to the anthem singer, it kind of felt like a home game for a second,” he said with a grin. “But everyone I talked to, Hallsy (Taylor Hall) had the same feelings when he came back here. It’s something I’ll get used to, but it will always be fun to play here.”

“Everyone with Boston has been really nice and inviting towards me since the trade. This is a great group with character, and the team has made it really easy for me to feel a part of it. I’m enjoying the season so far.”

Another silver lining for Zacha after the deal in the summer, he gets to work and play alongside two Davids and Czechia legends – David Krejci, and David Pastrnak. “For sure, it helps having Pasta here – who I grew up with, and Krejci, a guy I looked up to when I was growing up. It’s been great to play alongside some Czech players on the team.”

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At the end of the day, he’s a Boston Bruin now, and even when he’s playing against some of his best friends in Devils captain Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt, he wants to beat them.

“When you play against your old team, you want to show that you’re a good player and play your best on those nights.”

“It was really nice (for the Devils to show a video tribute). I’m really happy that I got to play here for a long time to start my NHL career here. New Jersey will always have a special place in my heart. It was very nice getting an ovation from the fans.”

Next. Scott Wedgewood Finds A Home In Dallas. dark

Maybe they’ll meet again down the road in the playoffs. And wouldn’t that be something? Winner-take-all, best-of-7 series between the Devils and Pavel Zacha’s (and Taylor Hall, AJ Greer) Boston Bruins.