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NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Pavel Zacha

Andi Duroux Avatar
May 20, 2015


Get to Know Pavel Zacha

Date of Birth:  4/6/1997
Place of Birth:  Brno, Czech Republic
Ht:  6’3″  Wt:  214 lbs
Shoots: Left
Position:  Center
Team:  Sarnia Sting (OHL)

It’s somewhat rare to see Czechs drafted in the top 10 of a draft – Jakub Voracek 7th Overall placement in 2007 was the last instance – but Pavel Zacha is making a strong case for his name to be added to that list.

After years of turning heads in the Czech leagues, the former teammate and protege of Petr Nedved decided to give up European professional hockey and venture across the Atlantic.  He went to Sarnia with the top overall pick in the 2014 OHL Import Draft, and after his rookie season, the power forward with a toolbox full of skills is likely to turn some heads this June.

What Scouts See

Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects

Pavel Zacha is an offensively dynamic center with the size, speed, and skill to make a significant impact on the game. He can play physical, but is at his best when using his high-end offensive abilities, such as his shot, stickhandling, and footspeed, to generate numbers in the opposition’s end of the ice. All-in-all, Zacha is a lethal weapon that can be depended upon to create, and finish, dangerous scoring chances whenever he is on the ice.

Chris Edwards, Central Scouting

He’s got high-end skill and is an excellent competitor. He plays an excellent two-way game. In the game I saw him play he broke up a few rushes in his own end and transitioned up the ice really well. He’s physical and solid on his skates and can separate guys from the puck.


What BSN Avalanche sees

Pavel Zacha has so many tools his nickname could be Batman.  Offensively, he has great vision and passing skills, even off his backhand.  His skating is smooth with good mobility and a strong high speed, and he’s unafraid to play physically, go to the dirty areas, or drive the net.

His stick handling is pro caliber, and he’s very comfortable on the rush or in the zone with possession of the puck.  The Czech is also very good at dipping his shoulder and using his body to protect the puck as he side-steps around defensemen.

However, it’s his shot that’s the most deadly aspect of his game.  With a quick and surprisingly strong wrister and a whale of a one-timer that he loves to unleash from the right halfwall on the power play, Zacha’s earned his reputation as a “shoot-first” player.  His hands are very silky in tight, so he’s able to put away rebounds smoothly as well.

Defensively, it’s still clear that Zacha is still learning the North American game, but the effort and IQ is there.  He’s adept at poke checks and getting his stick into passing lanes, even as he’s figuring out where to go.  He’ll also hit, but does so effectively and without taking himself too far out of position.

The intelligence, maturity, and leadership of the OHL rookie have earned the respect of his general manager, and his competitiveness and compete level have been praised by scouts.  He’s the type of player that will still make the effort to skate hard during the 3rd period of his 3rd game in 3 days.

So, why might this seemingly well-rounded player slip to double digits?  Let’s just say he could have had a smoother first year in Canada.  He still managed to notch 16 goals and 34 pts in 37 games, but two suspensions (two games for a slewfoot and six games for a check from behind), representing the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championships, and an upper-body injury in mid-January ate away at his season.

His offensive production was also lower than what would be normally expected for a prospect ranked this high, but much of that can be attributed to his piecemeal season and adjustment to the NA game.  He’s clearly still learning how to separate physical play from dirty play, as well as where to go without the puck on the smaller ice surface and how to wait to break out of the defensive zone.

Fortunately, these are all fairly common issues with young players, especially during their first year on this side of the pond.  With some additional coaching and the maturation of his game, they should be fairly easy to overcome.


NHL Potential

Zacha has very obvious Top 6 potential.  While he’s probably not a #1C, his offense and size mean he’ll likely settle in either as a 2nd line center or scoring wing in the NHL.  Despite his left handed shot, he often switches to the right wing on the power play, so it’s not unlikely that he may make the move over to that position full-time at the next level.

If for some reason his offense does fail to translate, he’ll still likely find a niche in the bottom six as a depth scorer.  However, he’ll have to improve his defense if he wishes to stay in an NHL lineup with that role.  He has good defensive instincts, so as long as he can learn the proper system, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Expected Draft Position

Most scouting services have Zacha ranked in the 9 – 14 range.  His shortened season created a bit of a smaller sample size than many of the other prospects, which may drive teams to look for more well-known prospects first.

Of the power forwards expected to be drafted around that spot (Crouse, Rantanen, Meier, Zacha), he brings one of the highest offensive upsides coupled with a physical game, but his defense is not as strong as someone like Crouse’s.  Depending on how the clubs picking in the top 9 prioritize these attributes, it’s likely that Zacha will still be on the board when it’s the Avs’ turn to chose.

How Prospect Fits in Avalanche Organization

Prospect-wise, the Avs are very weak at wing.  Zacha would instantly jump to the head of their depth chart and probably challenge for an NHL spot as early as next year.  His size, physicality, speed, shot, passing, and vision would make him a good candidate for Jarome Iginla’s eventual replacement, and could prove him to be Duchene’s elusive missing winger in the meantime.

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