Author: Mike Halford

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Devils send ’15 first-rounder Zacha back to junior


Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.

Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.

The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.

“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”

At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.

The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.

Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.

Raffl converts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Devils acquire AHL MVP O’Neill from Kings


We don’t usually pass along minor-league transactions, but this one’s intriguing — the New Jersey Devils have acquired Brian O’Neill, the reigning American League MVP, from the Los Angeles Kings.

In exchange, L.A. receives a conditional seventh-round pick.

O’Neill, 27, scored 78 points in 69 games for Manchester last season, then another 20 in 19 playoff games as the Monarchs captured the Calder Cup. O’Neill finished third in playoff scoring, losing out on playoff MVP honors to teammate Jordan Weal.

It’ll be interesting to see if O’Neill can parlay the AHL MVP award into NHL success. The ’13-14 winner, Texas’ Travis Morin, got a handful of games with the Dallas Stars the following year and the winner two seasons ago, Tyler Johnson, has gone on to become a star in Tampa Bay.

Whatever the case, O’Neill looks to have a greater shot at NHL minutes in New Jersey than in Los Angeles. The Kings are stacked at forward while the Devils have been adding veterans on the cheap in recent weeks, signing the likes of Jiri Tlusty and Lee Stempniak to one-year deals.